Carole plays Syracuse, 1930-1931   Leave a comment

Posted by [info]vp19 on 2012.01.26 at 03:57

Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

That image of Carole Lombard, looking chic in a French-inspired hat, could be found in the Syracuse Herald of Dec. 8, 1930. As stated several times in the past, I’m a proud native of the Salt City (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/288148.html), and in today’s entry, I thought I’d examine advertising for Lombard films that ran in Syracuse in 1930 and 1931 through the Newspaper Archive. I was curious what movies of hers ran in which theaters, what the marketing for them looked like, and how they made the rounds from the big downtown houses to neighborhood theaters.

Syracuse was a medium-sized city of the time, with a bustling downtown district and its own “theater row” on South Salina Street, dating back to vaudeville days. (Incidentally, the person who designed that 1930 postcard must have been from out of town; any Syracusan worth his or her salt knows it’s Onondaga Street, not “Onondago.”)

The Newspaper Archive must have many friends and contacts in Syracuse, because that city has more than 4 million pages listed, more than the rest of the state combined. (Take that, New York City!) However, the only newspaper in its files from this period is the Herald, an evening daily that would merge with Hearst’s Syracuse Journal in 1939 to form the Herald-Journal, an evening paper that printed its final edition on Sept. 29, 2001.

We’ll begin with Carole’s transitional film between Pathe and Paramount, “The Arizona Kid” at Fox. It played the Eckel on East Fayette Street on May 7:

The Eckel, which in the early ’30s showed primarily Fox product, existed from 1913 to 1973. It was retrofitted for Cinerama in the late 1950s, and in 1968 it carried the Stanley Kubrick’s epic “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

There are no Lombard references in ads for her Paramount debut, “Safety In Numbers,” no surprise since it was marketed as a Buddy Rogers vehicle. Neither did she garner attention in advertisements for her other 1930 film, “Fast And Loose,” at least not when it first hit town. It wasn’t until Dec. 7 that her name was in an ad for it, and that was for the Madison Theater in Oneida, N.Y., in an adjacent county:


Isn’t it interesting that Lombard and Henry Wadsworth got the attention here instead of Frank Morgan and Miriam Hopkins? Also note that “Paramount On Parade” was to be shown in a few days as a benefit for the mayor’s relief fund, proof the economy was starting to plummet in 1930 and “depression” was becoming a word on many’s lips. The Madison, which opened in 1915, closed in the early ’50s and was razed in 1958.

Lombard was busy in the early months of 1931, as five films of hers were released before the year was half over. First up was “It Pays To Advertise,” and here how it moved around Syracuse theaters. On March 30, an ad announced it was set to premiere at the Syracuse Paramount on 426 South Salina:

Compared to its major downtown brethren, not much is known about the Paramount, which seated just under 1,500; I can’t seem to track down any interior shots of the place. I do know that by the 1950s, its black-background marquee had been altered to a white one, just as the Loew’s was up the street:

And I also know that, like the RKO Keith on the same block, the Paramount shut down in early 1967 to make way for an urban renewal project — a department store that lasted about two decades before closing.

By Aug. 21, “It Pays To Advertise” had long left downtown, and was about 10 blocks east, at the Regent at East Genesee and Irving, not far from Syracuse University:

The Regent seated about 950, and I attended several travelogues there in the mid-sixties while an elementary school student. By then, SU had purchased the property for films, concerts and such. (Bob Dylan, still in his acoustic phase, performed there on Nov. 3, 1963.) The university later renovated the site, and it’s now home to Syracuse Stage.

By Sept. 20, “Advertise” had moved even further down the rung of the “nabes”:

I had never heard of the Swan, but according to movie-theatre.org, which has a list of Syracuse-area venues at http://movie-theatre.org/usa/ny/NY%20Central.pdf, it showed films from 1929 to 1932. Where it was in town is, for now, a mystery.

Next up, “Man Of The World,” the first of two Lombard films with eventual husband William Powell. It had a gala premiere at 11:30 p.m. on April 10, and the theater promoted it for two days:

See the reference to Carole as “soulful-eyed charmer”? Had never heard her described that way; I kind of like it.

But note that it was playing the RKO Keith, a beautiful venue that opened 92 years ago today and is still fondly recalled by many a Syracusan of AARP age. It seated 2,500, and was virtually a neighbor of the Paramount, as this 1959 image makes evident:

Inside, it was sumptuous:


Why did it get “Man Of The World”? So that the Paramount could show this:

Keith’s occasionally ran fare from studios other than RKO. Some two years later, it would house a Warners premiere:

Of course, if you didn’t want to pay downtown prices for “Man Of The World,” you could wait nearly two months (June 2) until it played the Regent. And you’d get a bonus as well — “Sinners Holiday,” with that brash new Warners duo of Joan Blondell and James Cagney, along with a Bobby Jones golf instructional film:

Powell and Lombard returned downtown May 7 with their next film, “Ladies’ Man,” although I couldn’t find any ads for possible subsequent runs:

Carole, sans Bill, returned to the screen for “Up Pops The Devil,” with ads on May 20 and 21 promising a tale of “love crazed youth romping along at the pace that thrills”:

If you waited until Aug. 26, you could see “Up Pops The Devil” on the lower half of a double bill with Dorothy Mackaill’s pre-Coder “Party Husband,” plus Bobby Jones in “The Spoon” — no, not that kind of “spooning,” but another golf instructional:

Finally, we come to “I Take This Woman,” the Lombard-Gary Cooper pairing that vanished for decades until finally being found in 16 mm form (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/45444.html). This ad ran in the Herald June 17, promoting its premiere the next day:

On Nov. 3, it was at the mysterious Swan (note local election returns would be announced that night, and that 12 baskets of groceries would be given out):

Near the end of the month, on the 29th, “I Take This Woman” appeared at another Syracuse “nabe,” one of which plenty is known about:

(Incidentally, that’s Myrna Loy in “Sky Line.” Sorry, Ms. Loy.)

The Palace is an anomaly in today’s theater industry — a family-run, single-screen venue that turns 90 this year. It has a history in its neighborhood…

…one that’s celebrated in its warm lobby:

Learn more about the Palace at http://palaceonjames.com.

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Posted January 26, 2012 by vp19 in Uncategorized

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