Friday, August 26, 2016

Yellowstone and the National Park Service Centennial

Yesterday, Thursday, August 25, the National Park Service celebrated 100 years, acknowledging their past achievements, but their main focus is really about the future. For the second century of stewardship, future generations can still take part in America's scenic beauty and so long as policies remain in effect, the best nature offers will remain preserved. Most importantly, nature provides strength for both body and soul. It was author John Muir who once said, "In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."

Hoping to avoid the crowds, a few weeks ago my wife and I went to Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore and Devil's Tower. There was a thrilling experience and relaxing peace of mind of nature and wildlife, history and culture. At least twice a year I unplug for a full week -- usually to finish a book project without the internet or phone interrupting me every ten minutes. This trip was meant to accomplish the same. In Yellowstone we saw bear, ram, deer, elk, coyote, gazelle and buffalo among a large number of wildlife that roamed free. Yellowstone contains 2.2 million acres of preserved wildlife and mankind has left no more than one percent of his fingerprint in the National Forest in the form of roads, parking lots, lodges, etc. Preservation in the park was at the utmost. When a road is no longer needed, it is torn up and nature takes over where man once traveled. Oddly, most people never venture off the man-made trails so the Park Service estimates no more than three percent of the tourists that come to Yellowstone every year venture into the actual forest itself.

The park is suffering from a number of complications, however. Tourism is at an all-time high and conservationists debate how large foot traffic has to be before damage is made. Polls were taken this year with various questions to find a potential solution. There may be some changes in Yellowstone in the coming years, but all in the need for preservation. 

At Devil's Tower, we saw mountain climbers taking the challenge. It seems 4,000 people every year climb Devil's Tower (with permits from the U.S. Government, of course), and while this is legal, some debate whether it is unethical. As a result of wholesale mountain climbing, pieces of rock have fallen off the tower over the years and a 40-year-old photograph can reveal the damage that is evident. Mother Nature side-stepped the Tower for millions of years and we've only needed 40 years to create the damage that wind and rain has not accomplished. Local American Indians still insist the Tower is a religious ground and like their ancestors before them, travel from far distances to pray and leave behind their tokens. The U.S. Government has asked mountain climbers to refrain from climbing the mountain during the month of June, in observance, but this is merely a request and there are a small percentage of mountain climbers who insist they have the right -- and the permit -- to climb the mountain in June... and they do.

Mt. Rushmore was a beauty to behold. The geek in me was pleased to see a signpost along the road indicating where scenes for Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest was filmed, but the observatory itself where Eva Marie Saint shoots Cary Grant has been torn down and replaced with a more grand monument for tourists. My wife and I went to Rushmore at five in the morning to watch a sunrise and get the best photograph and it was worth it. Oddly, tourism really starts pouring in at Mt. Rushmore around seven a.m. so if you can visit the monument at 5:00 or 5:30, make an effort to do so.

As for Yellowstone, I was surprised how many people go there just for the wildlife and not the natural canvas of scenery. When we stopped once at a pull-over to take a picture of a beautiful view and relax for a few minutes and take in the scenery, someone pulled up and asked what we saw. "A beautiful view," I told them. 
Disappointed because we saw no animals, they rolled the window up and drove off. 

The park is not easily accessible during the winter months and the higher elevation ensures the majority of the tourism from late May to early October. Even in August it was 37 degrees in the evening and 81 degrees in the afternoon. Humidity was almost non-existent. I was also surprised to discover how many people visit the park and do not understand the concept of a "get-away." One man checked into the lodge and asked the receptionist where the rec room was. She pointed to the trails outside. He asked where the pool was and she mentioned there was a waterfall two miles down the road. Cell phone towers is practically non-existent and visitors to the park complained but people should not be visiting Yellowstone for a few days just to look at their smart phones.

Enjoy the photographs enclosed and for anyone hoping to read a movie review, news about a new book being published or OTR documentation, I will return the blog back to the regularly schedule programming next week.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Suicide Squad Might Live Up to the Hype

Ever watch a movie and discover the hard way that the movie trailer was better than the movie itself? Suicide Squad can be added to the list. This is just another example of how a movie, based on a popular franchise with an established fan base, was made for fans but the finished product is what executives at Warner Brothers wanted: catering to the appeal of a mainstream audience. The end result? Taking mother’s famous chili recipe you loved since you were a child and trying not to complain to your wife when she wants to “improve” it requires biting your tongue. Is Suicide Squad a terrible movie? No. Is it enjoyable? Yes. Is it one of the better comic book movies ever made? No. Is it the type of movie you can take your children to see? Definitely no.

Warner Brothers, owners of the DC Comics property, clearly wants to mimic the financial success recent Marvel movies accomplished, especially with the record-breaking ticket sales for the first Avengers movie. The premise of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice sold a ton of tickets but anyone shelling out more than $5 for popcorn questioned whether they should have waited for the BluRay or DVD release. Early movie trailers for Suicide Squad promised a light-hearted romp of black comedy and loads of fun – something sorely lacking from the grim and slightly depressing mood of Batman vs. Superman. When critics and fans alike complained about Bats vs Supes, Warner Brothers quickly went into production for a number of revised scenes and additional sequences in an effort to eliminate some of the darker-toned scenes for Suicide Squad. The end result? A mix of both light-hearted scenes, villains who shed tears over lives of total strangers, and dark scenes generated by CGI graphics that will certainly look like a cartoon in a few years.

I read the Suicide Squad comics and they were never anything above average. But they had something to them. Whether it was Batman’s insistence to Amanda Waller to close down the program, or Captain Boomerang’s jovial lack of concern for his partners-in-crime, there was a charm to the series. The problem here is that I could not find any connection with the villains and felt a lack of concern when they were put into peril. Will Smith is clearly the shining white knight in bulletproof armor. I initially questioned why he chose to co-star in a movie that clearly had a cast that would outshine him… but I was wrong. The camera may have been focused on Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, but Smith came up on top.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn
Everyone was perfectly cast for their roles in Suicide Squad with Viola Davis as the tough-as-nails Amanda Waller and Jared Leto as The Joker chewing up all of their scenes. The story and subplot worked perfectly. But with so many flashbacks and introductions for the various villains I wondered if Warner Brothers was trying to rush things a bit… catching up with Marvel perhaps? If you are among the mainstream crowd who did not know who Amanda Waller was before watching the movie, she almost meant nothing and left the viewer only curious to know why the film was momentarily centered on her – twice – between action scenes.

The movie trailers sold the film. Ever hear someone say, "the trailer was better?" I had more fun and laughs watching the three minute trailers for this movie than watching the movie itself. A number of scenes in the trailers, however, never show up in the finished film. There is no scene with Harley Quinn holding her mallet when unpacking a trunk full of costumes and weaponry. The Joker never pulls the pin from a grenade using his mouth. The movie was clearly created with the fans in mind but the final cut provided more questions than answers. Why was Captain Boomerang carrying a stuffed pig in his jacket? Where did all that money in his jacket come from? Obviously there were a lot of scenes filmed that ended up on the cutting room floor and like Ghostbusters, it shows. Franchise fatigue? Maybe. But it was disappointing when critics and fans alike complain about the darker tone of the prior Batman movie and regardless of filmed revisions there were scenes and sequences cut out that would have added more fun tot he mix. The criss-crossing of a “cinematic universe” will get old very quick if the studio fails to follow the ingredients, which requires preparation and time, and Warner Brothers would be wise to heed this advice: Marvel spent five years of post-credits sequences teasing of a future Avengers movie. Warner executives need to slow down. Their handiwork is labored and it shows.

By the way, you do want to stay after the movie credits to watch the "teaser" clip.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Railroad Hour: The "Lost" 1953 & 1954 Broadcasts

Gordon MacRae
The Railroad Hour was broadcast from the studios of the National Broadcasting Company in Hollywood, California. The program was heard regularly over 170 stations of the NBC network. According to an annual report issued by the Association of American Railroads, it was estimated that the program was heard by more than four million family groups. “Musical shows with a dramatic continuity are enjoyed by persons of all ages, especially when the leading roles are portrayed by outstanding artists. All members of the family, as well as school, church, and club groups, find The Railroad Hour wholesome, dignified, and inspiring entertainment,” quoted Francis Van Hartesveldt.

The June 3, 1953 issue of Variety reviewed the opening summer season of The Railroad Hour:
     “The Railroad Hour ushered in its summer format this week. Scripting team of Lawrence and Lee have prepared 18 new musical comedies, first of which, a free adaptation of Sir James M. Barrie’s Quality Street, started the NBC series off on the right foot. “With Gordon MacRae and Dorothy Warenskjold in the leads, the skimpy plot wasn’t of import. The pair did solid musical jobs on a number of classical and public domain melodies, using the story of a soldier returning to claim his love more as a background to the music than anything else.
     “Carmen Dragon orch gave top-notch backing, and his arrangements were right in the comic opera groove. Norman Luboff chorus likewise added a feeling of richness to the numbers, which were culled from such various sources as
Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be? and Invitation to the Waltz. On the acting side, MacRae and Miss Warenskjold were good and Isabel Jewell gave excellent support. Commercials were straight and to the point. And the entire production has a sense of freshness and directness that radio can use more of.”


The Railroad Hour was tied with Dr. Christian as the 19th highest rated show of the 1952-53 season, making the program, at this point, still one of the top twenty programs of the year. For the 1953-54 season, The Railroad Hour was tied with Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar in 14th place! The final broadcast of The Railroad Hour was on June 21, 1954. The reason for the program’s termination remains unknown, and the Association of American Railroad’s Annual Report of 1954 sheds very little light except for a brief mention:
    The Railroad Hour, consisting primarily of condensations of outstanding operettas and other musical shows, was presented in 1954 for a 30-minute period each Monday night over the full network of the National Broadcasting Company through June 21, 1954, when the program was discontinued.”

During the early 1950s, the Armed Forces Radio Service offered rebroadcasts of radio dramas for troops stationed overseas. Many of The Railroad Hour presentations were rebroadcast, as part of the network’s Showtime line-up. Most references to the Association of American Railroads were deleted from the rebroadcasts, as sponsorship was often disregarded as important when it came to entertaining the troops. Shortly after, the AFRS featured rebroadcasts of The Railroad Hour under a new name, The Gordon MacRae Show, using the song, I Know That You Know, from MacRae’s film, Tea for Two, as the theme. Many of these recordings circulate among collector catalogs. 

Collectors today offer a number of recordings from the AFRS rebroadcasts. Regrettably, those edited, “washed out” versions are not as enjoyable as the original offerings. The musical presentation is intact, but much of the flavor of the series, including the Railroad commercials and cast comments, make up some of the program that make these shows so special. I recommend that the readers make an attempt to acquire and listen to the uncut recordings and avoid the AFRS rebroadcasts if at all possible. Reagrding the "lost" episodes below, I doubt beggers will be choosers and will be thankful for a copy in any format.

Throughout their careers, Lawrence and Lee continued to write and produce radio programs for CBS. They co-wrote radio plays including The Unexpected (1951), The Song of Norway (1957), Shangri-La (1960), a radio version of Inherit the Wind (1965), and Lincoln the Unwilling Warrior (1974).
In 1954, one of Lawrence and Lee’s original one-act operas, Annie Laurie, was published by Harms, Inc., who specialized in publishing music in various forms across the country. The musical was adapted from Lawrence and Lee’s original Railroad Hour script. For the next two years, Harms, Inc. published two more original musicals, Roaring Camp (1955) and Familiar Strangers (1956), also previous Railroad Hour originals. (The Roaring Camp episode is among the "lost" recordings which is why it's so desperately sought-after.) Shortly before The Railroad Hour premiered, Lawrence and Lee’s first Broadway show, Look Ma, I’m Dancin’!, opened at the Adelphi Theatre on January 29, 1948. The musical was a hit in many aspects, and critics approved favorably. Their second play, Inherit the Wind, opened at the National Theatre in New York on April 21, 1955, less than a year after The Railroad Hour went off the air. This play, not a musical, established Lawrence and Lee in the American theatre.

The following eight episodes documented below are the "lost" episodes from 1953 and 1954. That is, they are not know to be circulating among collectors and are sought after. If you have any of the episodes listed below that match the enclosed details, please let me know so I can make sure the adjustment is made.

Episode #238 “EL CAPITAN” Broadcast April 20, 1953
Ann Ayars (Esterelda), Parley Baer (Pozzo), and Gordon MacRae (Don Medigua).
Based on the three-act operetta of the same name, which premiered at the Broadway Theatre on April 20, 1896. Music score by John Philip Sousa, with lyrics by Thomas Frost and John Philip Sousa and book by Charles Klein.
Adapted for The Railroad Hour by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.
Songs include: El Capitan (orchestra effect); From Peru’s Majestic Mountains (MacRae and chorus); When We Hear the Call to Battle (Ayars and chorus); El Capitan (reprise with Ayars, MacRae and chorus); Ditty of the Drill (MacRae and chorus); Sweetheart, I’m Waiting (Ayars and chorus); I’ve a Most Decided Notion (Ayars and MacRae); When Some Serious Affliction (Ayars, MacRae and chorus); and El Capitan (reprise with entire cast and chorus).

Episode #241 “ROSALINDA” Broadcast May 11, 1953
Sandra Gould (Adele, Rosalind’s maid), Dorothy Kirsten (Rosalinda), Gordon MacRae (Henry Eisenstein), Dan Reed (Alfredo), and Dan Tobin (Blint).
Songs include: Rosalinda, Love of Mine (tenor from chorus, then MacRae); Trio (Tobin, Kirsten and MacRae); Oh, Jimmy (Kirsten, MacRae and chorus); Drinking Song (MacRae and chorus); Ha, What a Night (Kirsten and chorus); Wine and Song (chorus); Laughing Song (Kirsten and chorus); Watch Duet (Kirsten and MacRae); and Ha, What a Night (reprise with Kirsten, MacRae and chorus).

Trivia, etc. This was a repeat performance of episode 128, broadcast March 12, 1951.

Episode #264 “SUNNY” Broadcast October 19, 1953
Gordon MacRae (Tom Warren), Lucille Norman (Susan Peters), Harold Peary (Pop Peters), and Carleton Young (Jim and the voice).
Songs include: Sunny (MacRae and chorus); Who? (Norman and MacRae); D’ye Love Me? (Norman and chorus); Who? (reprise with Norman and chorus); Let’s Say Goodnight (Norman and MacRae); Two Little Bluebirds (Norman and MacRae); Who? (reprise with Norman and MacRae); and D’ye Love Me? (reprise with Norman, MacRae and chorus).

Trivia, etc. This was a repeat performance of episode 78, broadcast March 27, 1950.

Episode #272 “THE CAT AND THE FIDDLE” Broadcast December 14, 1953
Joseph Kearns (Daudet), Dorothy Kirsten (Shirley Sheridan), Charlotte Lawrence (Odette), and Gordon MacRae (Victor Florescue).
Songs include: Poor Pierrot (MacRae); The Night Was Made For Love (MacRae); She Didn’t Say Yes (Kirsten, MacRae and chorus); Try to Forget (Kirsten, MacRae and chorus); The Love Parade (MacRae and chorus); Poor Pierrot (Kirsten and chorus); One Moment Alone (Kirsten and MacRae); and She Didn’t Say Yes (reprise with Kirsten, MacRae and chorus).

Trivia, etc. This was a repeat performance of episode three, broadcast October 18, 1948, cut down from the 45 minute broadcast to 30.

Episode #275 “THE VAGABOND KING” Broadcast January 4, 1954
Joseph Kearns (King Louis XVI), Gordon MacRae (Francois Villon), Lou Merrill (Tabariel), Marvin Miller (voice), Lucille Norman (Katherine), and Jane Stuart Smith (Huguette).
Songs include: Song of the Vagabonds (MacRae and chorus); Some Day (Norman and MacRae); Only a Rose (Norman and MacRae); Only a Rose (reprise with Norman, MacRae and chorus); Tomorrow (Norman and MacRae); Huguette’s Waltz (Smith); Love Me Tonight (Norman and MacRae); and Only a Rose (reprise with Norman, MacRae and chorus).
Trivia, etc. This was a repeat performance of episode seven, broadcast November 15, 1948, cut down from the 45 minute broadcast to 30.
Episode #276 “THE GYPSY BARON” Broadcast January 11, 1954Cast: Mimi Benzell (Saffi), Myra Marsh (Czipra), and Gordon MacRae (Sandor Barinkay).
Songs include: Barinkay’s Song (MacRae); Prophesy Music (chorus); The Gypsy Song (Benzell and chorus); Song of the Sea (MacRae and chorus); She is the Only One for Me (MacRae); I’ll Be a Lucky Man (Benzell and MacRae); Barinkay’s Song (reprise with Benzell, MacRae and chorus); I Live to Love You (Benzell and MacRae); Finding the Gold (Benzell and MacRae); The Birds Were Our Witness (Benzell, MacRae and chorus); Victory March (MacRae and chorus); and Barinkay’s Song (reprise with Benzell, MacRae and chorus).

Trivia, etc. This was a repeat performance of episode 219, broadcast December 8, 1952.

Episode #279 “MAYTIME” Broadcast February 1, 1954Cast: Patty Ayenoni (little girl), Nadine Conner (Ottilie), Carl Frederick (the auctioneer), Gordon MacRae (Dick), Marvin Miller (the butler), and Sammy Ogg (the boy).
Songs include: Sweethearts (Conner, MacRae and chorus); In Our Little Home Sweet Home (Conner and chorus); Gypsy Song (Conner, MacRae and chorus); Will You Remember? (Conner and chorus); Go Away, Girls (MacRae chorus); Sweethearts (reprise with Conner, MacRae and chorus); It’s a Windy Day on the Battery (MacRae and chorus); Road to Paradise (Conner and MacRae); Dancing Will Keep You Young (Conner and MacRae); and Sweethearts (reprise with Conner and MacRae).

Trivia, etc. This was a repeat performance of episode 210, broadcast October 6, 1952.

Episode #299 “THE NEW MOON” Broadcast June 21, 1954
Berry Kroeger (Rebeau), Gordon MacRae (Robert Misson), Tom McKee (Philippe), Marvin Miller (the captain), and Lucille Norman (Marianne).
Songs include: Stouthearted Men (MacRae and chorus); One Kiss (Norman and chorus); Wanting You (Norman, MacRae and chorus); Lover Come Back to Me (Norman); Softly, As in A Morning Sunrise (MacRae and chorus); and Lover, Come Back to Me (reprise with Norman, MacRae and chorus).

Trivia, etc. This was the final episode of the series. This was also a repeat performance of episode nine, broadcast November 29, 1948, cut down from the 45 minute broadcast to 30.

Shameless plug: Material included in this blog post originates from The Railroad Hour by Gerald D. Wilson and Martin Grams. Reprinted with permission from Bear Manor Media. Special thanks to the staff of Ohio State University Library and the staff at the Billy Rose Theater Collection. Also special thanks to Ben Ohmart, Derek Tague, Joyce Comeaux, Kara Darling of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Theatre Library, Aida Garcia-Cole of G. Schirmer, Inc., Jim Cox, Leo Gawroniak, Terry Salomonson, Amanda Dittoe, Craig Wichman, Sheila MacRae Wayne, Al Hubin, B. Ray Druian, Jack French, Harlan Zinck, Roy Moore, Kathy Dragon Henn, David Goldin and Alex Daoundakis.

Friday, July 29, 2016

A Recent Visit to the Ohio Theatre

Fun trivia. When people went to see Gone with the Wind in 1939 and 1940, movie theatres were practically selling tickets six months in advance. That meant if you missed the screening, you had to buy new tickets and wait another six months. Yes, David O. Selznick did make a ton of money off that picture... But with today's cinema complexes offering 20 plus screens, IMAX, 3-D and digital projection, it boggles the mind that few today can picture what it was like to visit a movie palace from the by-gone era. 

Inside the lobby of the Ohio Theatre.
Sadly, movie palaces of the past are becoming a dying breed, threatened with demolition. Real estate developers knock 'em down and establish condominiums, apartment complexes and storefronts. Which is why I took advantage of the opportunity to visit the Ohio Theatre and attend a screening of Giant (1956) starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean. An epic worthy of viewing for sure but epics rarely spark my interest because of their lengthy running time. And as I get older I find my appreciation for a motion-picture extends to the capacity of the human bladder. Watching an epic at home is rare because I can think of better things to do in those four hours. But while attending a convention in Columbus, Ohio, and learning the theatre was merely ten blocks from the convention center, I decided to spend my evening watching Giant, which I never saw before. It was an enjoyable epic and James Dean was surely one of the best actors of 1956. 

The manager of the Ohio Theatre gave me (and a friend of mine) a brief tour of the facility, explaining how everything remained intact as it was when the building was constructed and opened for business in 1928. There was a 21-foot high chandelier, 2,791 seating capacity and an organ that rose from the stage before the movie started. The only thing that was not original, I was informed, was the carpet. Every ten years new carpet is purchased and replaced. The pattern is cut from the existing carpet and replicated at a factory to ensure the same pattern could be evident on the new carpet.

Legendary vaudevillians performed on stage there including Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Martha Raye, Kate Smith, Ray Bolger, Ginger Rogers and many others.

Here, an organist rose from below the stage to devote the first 20 minutes playing classic melodies before the picture began. Giant was projected on the big screen through 35mm and not digital, providing an experience that I often describe as "the feel of film." Intermission consisted of more organ music with music appropriate for the subject matter of the movie. 

Tickets were $4.00 per person and most of the candy and soda pop sold for $2.00. The volunteer staff was very friendly and it was evident that everyone wore evening dinner attire. When I verified that the money raised from the sale of concessions went to the preservation of the theatre, I handed them a $20 and walked away with a soda and two packages of candy. I told them to keep the difference.

The Ohio Theatre thrived as a movie house until the suburban sprawl of the 1960s drew traffic out of downtown Columbus. Like many other grand theatres of the past, the Ohio was headed for demolition. In 1969, the citizens of central Ohio mounted a "Save the Ohio" campaign, raising over $2 million in less than a year in an unprecedented effort. The newly-formed Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA) subsequently purchased and renovated the Ohio Theatre, which now puts on an annual summer movie program usually consisting of double features. Any film older than 25 years is considered a classic and screened -- from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) to The Princess Bride (1987).

And to think some people prefer strip malls here?

And you would think there was a way to keep other historic movie palaces from suffering the ill effects of adaptive reuse, through some form of preservation beyond photographic memories. Thankfully, there is.  

The Theatre Historical Society of America (THS) is a national non-profit membership organization founded in 1969, which is devoted primarily in the history of theatre buildings. It exists to encourage and ensure the acquisition, preservation and publication of historic photographs, documents, artifacts and other information and material related to American theatre architecture and history, and to encourage the preservation and use of historic American theatres. THS maintains the American Theatre Architecture Archives and the American Movie Palace Museum.

The American Museum Palace Museum and National Headquarters are located on the 2nd floor of the renovated York Theatre in Elmhurst, Illinois. It showcases artifacts, posters, programs, seats, blueprints and photographs from the great movie palaces built all over the United States in the 1920s. The Museum is open to the public free of charge (donations accepted). Small group tours (up to 15 people) are welcome by prior appointment. HOURS: Tuesday - Friday: 9 am - 4 pm. 3rd Saturdays: 9:30 am - 1:30 pm (Call to confirm 3rd Saturdays).

The centerpiece of the Museum is a finely-detailed, large scale-model of Chicago's 1927 Avalon Theatre, complete with bubbling fountains and flying doves! This authentic replica of the atmospheric "Persian Palace" theatre was built over a period of three years by Frank Cronican, a New York designer of television stage sets, and is accurate down to the WurliTzer organ console. Following his death, it was donated to THSA. A large-screen television now graces its "stage" and visitors to the Museum can view videos from the THSA collection in a real "movie palace" setting, albeit a scale model! One featured video is “The Movie Palaces” which is a 30 minute film produced by the Smithsonian Institution that tells the story of our nation’s greatest movie theatres.
The Marquee Exhibit (Interactive) is a huge photo blowup of the Paradise Theatre from Chicago, and has a magnetic marquee. Letters, symbols and numbers are on hand for you to spell out words and phrases on the marquee. Give it a try and you see your name "in lights"!
The American Theatre Architecture Archives, also in the York Theatre, is dedicated to preserving the architectural, cultural and social history of America's theatres. It contains information on more than 15,000 theatres, primarily in the United States. Every period and style of theatre architecture is represented: 19th century opera houses, nickelodeons, vaudeville houses, small town and neighborhood theatres, open-air theatres, drive-ins, and movie palaces. 

The Archives’ holdings consist of photographs, negatives, slides, postcards, artist’s renderings, scrapbooks, books, periodicals, business records, blueprints and architectural drawings, supplier and trade catalogues, architectural artifacts, theatre furnishings, ushers' uniforms, and numerous other items relating to theatre buildings and their history. Talk about comprehensive!

Scholars looking into the possibility of doing research about a specific theatre might find this place of extreme value. Research can be done on-site or by the THS staff. A preliminary search has a small fee for each theatre or topic requested. Further research is done at an hourly rate. This is not uncommon considering the fact that most libraries offer the same service for an hourly fee. On-site research is by appointment only. Other costs may apply for photo prints, scanning, licenses to use, display, or publishing images (including web posting), etc. If you wish to conduct research, please contact the Archive Director, Kathy McLeister at (630) 782-1800 or e-mail her at

The Ohio Theatre 30 minutes before showtime.
Among the major collections are the Theatre Files, approximately 450 linear feet containing paper-borne materials. This includes advertising, newspaper clippings, magazines, corporate documents, and representative samples of stage bills and playbills. These are organized geographically by state-city-theatre. In addition, there are materials in the Subject Files, including theatre architects, scenery, seating, theatre chains and other allied topics. THS also keeps a Reference Library which contains more than 800 books.
The THS Negative Collection and Slide Collection includes more than 6,000 negatives and 10,000 slides. The negatives are primarily 4”x5” and 35mm, but contain some odd size and oversize negatives. The slides are primarily 35mm, but contain some other sizes.

The Chicago Architectural Photographing Company Collection includes photographic images taken by the firm for architects and builders. The collection includes approximately 1,400 negatives of 250 theatres mainly in the Midwest. The negatives are 8x10 glass plate negatives, 8x10 film negatives, and 4x5 copy negatives. 

The Michael Miller Collection includes 35mm slides, 3.5x5” photographs, 35mm negatives, and a card catalog index of New York City theatres. The slides and photographs cover the United States, but are primarily New York City and the surrounding area.

The Terry Helgesen Collection consists of 26 scrapbooks (some with 600 pages) with over 2,000 photographic images of theatres across the country, mostly 1920s and 1930s era, with his index and notes. Terry Helgesen amassed his collection while traveling on the vaudeville circuit as a pianist.
As a researcher of old-time radio broadcasts, it comes as no surprise that a number of radio programs such as The Lux Radio Theatre originated from theatres and movie houses that could support a large crowd wanting to watch the performances. Some programs like The Cavalcade of America and Duffy's Tavern performed on stage on occasion, offering the general public a rare opportunity to watch their favorite radio celebrities in action. Cannot find information about the theater and the time period those broadcasts originated? This is the place to visit. 

The best part of about this Society is that you can become a member! THS publishes a quarterly journal called Marquee®, and a special Annual publication on a specific theatre or topic, and a quarterly Newsletter with current THS and theatre news. I love this magazine because it features extensive articles about various theaters across the country, the people who kept them running, and superb photos that makes you wish you had Professor Peabody's Wayback Machine.

The Rivoli Theatre in Pendleton, Oregon

Every summer, THS has an annual Conclave/Theatre Tour which brings together THS members from around the world to visit a different city every year to tour theatre buildings. During the Conclave, THS tours theatres from “basement to booth,” enjoys a banquet, a silent auction, and the company of like-minded people.  
York Theatre Building
152 N. York St, 2nd Floor
Elmhurst, IL 60126
Telephone: (630) 782-1800
Richard Sklenar, Executive Director
Information on becoming a member of THS is available at its web site,

The Theatre Historical Society is also available on Facebook!