Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here today for our third consecutive rumination about a single summer day in the mid-Forties.
We’re still intrigued by the amusement pages of The New York Times for August 7, 1945. As we’ve noted, if you want to know what films and stars were REALLY popular back in the golden era you must do your own research. And beside, it’s fun to read old editions of newspapers.
In our two previous blogs we highlighted who was mentioned in the entertainment news of the day, and who had their names used prominently in the movies ads. Arturo de Cordova, anyone?
But there were other bits was of interest as well.
There were many, not just one or two, reissues playing as first run features in major New York movie houses.
Walt Disney’s Snow White, wasn’t surprising. That was animation, of course, and Walt Disney’s game plan was to reissue his films every seven years when there would be a new crop of youngsters to see them. But other reissues were more intriguing.
There were films that were only a year or two old, Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire’s You’ll Never Get Rich, Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette, and Veronica Lake’s I Married a Witch.
But there were a few real oldies. Clark Gable and Loretta Young in Call of the Wild (1935), Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy in Naughty Marietta (1934) and 1937’s ensemble piece Stage Door.
However, the BIGGEST piece of information gleaned from the movie pages of that newspaper was this — the films or their stars weren’t half as important as were promotions about air conditioning that movie theaters offered.
The ads blared “AIR CONDITIONED LITTLE CARNEGIE” — “LOEW’S COOL CRITERION”– and “BRANDT’S AIR CONDITIONED GLOBE.”
Although rudimentary forms of air cooling have been around since Roman times, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that modern types of air conditioning were developed for real. We can thank Willis Haviland Carrier and others for nurturing this revolutionary technological device that profoundly changed how we live.
Air cooling in movie houses goes back at least to the early Balaban and Katz nickelodeons in which large running fans were situated behind blocks of ice, and aimed in the general direction of seated audiences. (How the ice was kept from from melting is a subject for another blog.)
In the sweltering temperatures of August 1945, audiences often went to the movies primarily because of the air conditioning not available at home. And, oh yeah, to see the movie, any movie.
The major theaters in New York City had another draw as well. Live stage shows.
Paul Whiteman and his orchestra were at the Capitol, with singer Johnny Johnston. The Paramount theatre boasted Phil Spitalny’s All Girl Orchestra and “The Hour of Charm.” Over at the Roxy you could see and hear Dick Haymes (pictured above) and Helen Forrest with comedian Phil Silvers.
One of the most popular crooners of the Forties, Haymes had a relatively short movie career. He was in the cast of 1945’s State Fair, which certainly must have added to his onstage appeal over at the Roxy. He also appeared with Ava Gardner in 1948’s One Touch of Venus for Universal. In 1976’s Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood, Haymes last film, he joined a platoon of Hollywood veterans in the cast.
Although an excellent singer, Haymes is best remembered today for the women he married. He had exquisite taste. His wives included actresses Joanne Dru, Fran Jeffries and, most notably, Rita Hayworth.
Trumping Haymes and everyone else was Radio City Music Hall with its A Spectacular Stage Production –The Rockettes, The Corps de Ballet and The Symphony Orchestra. WOW, all that for a simple price of admission… about 50 cents. (But don’t forget that was about $7 in today’s money.)