Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Revelation found in an attic — Seattle's Admiral Theatre, 1-23-42

From last night's West Seattle Blog, my top source for all things within walking distance.

From the blog entry:

Heike shared that Admiral Theater ad from the January 23, 1942, “Seattle Daily Times.” We asked how the old paper was found. Reply: “We put a few can lights into the ceiling, and had to go up into the attic for rewiring. Pretty amazing that it’s been there all this time!”

The "Inaugural Program" feature: Weekend in Havana with Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda, John Payne, and Cesar Romero (also Sheldon Leonard as "Boris"). Admission was 30¢, children 10¢ "(plus tax)." I'd love to know what the selected shorts were.

Moviegoers stepping out on that cold Seattle night to catch Carmen Miranda's fruit hat might have chosen it over Woman of the Year, starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, which opened four days earlier. Also released that January were The Man Who Came to Dinner (starring Monty Woolley, Bette Davis, and Ann Sheridan) and Lady for a Night (John Wayne, Joan Blondell; not one of either star's better titles). 

Johnny Eager with Robert Taylor and Lana Turner premiered in L.A. in December, then opened wide January 17. Similarly, the great Preston Sturges' great Sullivan's Travels saw its official release in December, though its New York City premiere didn't occur until January 28.

January 29 marked the release of Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake, starring Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, George Sanders, and Frances Farmer, the self-described "freak from West Seattle High" who once lived just a few blocks from the Admiral Theatre site.

Disney's Fantasia, from 1940, was back in wide release again. King's Row (Ann Sheridan, Robert Cummings, Ronald Reagan) was just ten days away.

Probably still playing locally were such December releases as The Wolf Man with Lon Chaney, the musical Hellzapoppin', and Tarzan's Secret Treasure, the fifth in the series to star Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan. They Died with Their Boots On (Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland) had been around since November, though since it became 1941's second-highest grossing film after Sergeant York, it must have been still packing them in through that January.

John Huston's The Maltese Falcon, starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor (of course), had been on screens less than four months, and Citizen Kane was just eight months old.

In January '42 Casablanca was in an early production phase to premiere the following November. (Shooting began on May 25 and was completed on August 3.) Also in various stages of production at the time were Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur, which premiered in April, as did Jungle Book with Sabu; Tortilla Flat (Spencer Tracy, Hedy Lamarr, John Garfield) in May; come June film buffs got both Mrs. Miniver (1942's box office champ and Best Picture Oscar) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (Cagney's Best Actor Oscar), followed in July by Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons (sort of) and Pride of the Yankees with Gary Cooper and Babe Ruth.

Bambi opened in August alongside Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Finally in December the Admiral could screen the Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur Cat People and Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be, the last film to star Carole Lombard, who was among those killed in a plane crash near Las Vegas on January 16.

Moviegoers on that January 23 probably extra-appreciated Weekend in Havana's bubbly nonsense six weeks after the Pearl Harbor bombing. Three days after this ad ran, on January 26, the first American forces arrived in Europe, landing in Northern Ireland.

Now a second-run house, the Admiral is still there, just a mile from where I'm sitting. Its ongoing existence — 70 years next January, apparently — has been precarious at times, so it's always a pleasure to walk in and catch the vintage vibe that remains of "Seattle's Newest Theatre."

Music: Carmen McRae & Betty Carter, Duets: Live
Near at hand: A faceted glass heart, chipped, found at our front yard entrance gate. Curious.