Thursday, August 09, 2012

Los Angeles Movie Memories

I've previously described some of my memories of growing up attending movie revival theaters in Los Angeles. There were a couple theaters here in Orange County, but for the most part we drove to Los Angeles to see "old" movies in the pre-VHS, pre-cable TV days of my childhood.

I was weeding out a file cabinet today and came across a forgotten folder which turned out to contain a treasure trove of ads, schedules, and reviews for classic film screenings I attended as a child and on up through my teen years. I'm so glad I saved them!

Here's some memorabilia from a series of MGM films we attended in Westwood when I was 11 or 12. Incidentally, the paper that one ad came from, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, doesn't exist anymore! (Click images to enlarge.)

My favorite theater was the Vagabond:

This was the era of THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! (1974) and THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT, PART II (1976) when MGM films were receiving renewed attention. I have great memories of seeing double bills from this schedule like MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) paired with YOLANDA AND THE THIEF (1945), and a Christmas week showing of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954) with LITTLE WOMEN (1933).

Then there was the Tiffany. I've recounted seeing AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951) there...

...and previously shared my autographed program from that amazing night.

There was also KISS ME KATE (1953), complete with 3D glasses...saw it in 3D there twice over the years!

Occasionally we saw films, like CAROUSEL (1956) and THE SEARCHERS (1956), at the Beverly:

The Beverly was also where I first saw one of my favorite comedies, THE MORE THE MERRIER (1944).

And the Fine Arts ran a huge Warner Bros. festival:

I was introduced to THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) and CASABLANCA (1942) at the Fine Arts, and I also saw old "TV favorites" TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944) and THE BIG SLEEP (1945) uncut for the first time at that theater.

It's hard to imagine, in these days of cable, streaming, and DVDs, how challenging it could be not only to see "old" films in uncut versions, without commercials, but to gather information about them. In those pre-Internet days of the '70s, when film research or collecting memorabilia could be a slow, painstaking, or expensive process -- often involving mail order, hours at library reference desks, or trips to Los Angeles -- these ads were special reminders, in and of themselves, of classic movie titles and the opportunities I'd had to see them. They were all the more significant to me as in those days, who knew when or if you'd ever have the chance to see a particular movie again?

I'm glad I saved them and rediscovered them today -- lots of happy movie-going memories at these theaters!


Blogger mel said...

These evoke such memories.

I wish I'd been able to save and preserve all my movie programs, magazines and record catalogs that I'd ardently collected when I was a kid . .

Thank you for sharing some of your wonderful collection of memorabilia with us, Laura.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

Yes, glad you saved them. Most of my memories around these things are in my mind, though they are pretty vivid.

The Vagabond and Tiffany were both managed by Tom Cooper, whose programming made a rich contribution to the revival scene. And he was really great at getting guests who had been involved with the movies to come.

Laura, you mentioned a double bill of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS and YOLANDA AND THE THIEF at the Vagabond. If it was the same night I went to this double feature, he managed to get not only Vincente Minnelli, but no less than four of the cast of ST. LOUIS --Margaret O'Brien, Lucille Bremer, Tom Drake and Leon Ames (all great in the movie, needless to say, and of course Bremer and Ames also have good roles in the unusual, at times captivating YOLANDA) and the five of them sat and watched it together (ST. LOUIS) with a packed house, a magical experience to be watching with them.

Were you there that night, Laura? I hope so--I know if you were it was something you'd have a happy memory of too. In the break between films after ST. LOUIS, I saw Minnelli in the lobby--there were tears in his eyes. Lots of reasons for that I imagine. It really moved me.

11:31 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

This is neato.

And..."In those pre-Internet days of the '70s, when film research or collecting memorabilia could be a slow, painstaking, or expensive process -- often involving mail order, hours at library reference desks, or trips to Los Angeles..." my gosh yes, been there done that. Well, the only trip to LA I ever made was as an adult, but in the '70s as a child and teenager, I scoured the local library for anything about classic films. I still can't get over so much info and memorabilia available on Internet these days.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much for all your comments!

Jacqueline, I particularly remember hours at the library with books containing movie titles and credits which couldn't be checked out -- I think they had reviews too -- I took lots of notes! My mind would have been blown by the concept of IMDb if I'd been told about it back then. Along with the library research, of course, I checked out everything on the shelves. :)

Blake, I wasn't at that particular screening, we must have gone later during the run of that double bill. I never had the chance to see Bremer or Ames in person, I would have loved it! It's really wonderful you got to do that.

I did get to see Minnelli and Drake on a different occasion (AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at the Tiffany), and in the early '80s Margaret O'Brien was at the Vagabond for a screening of THE SECRET GARDEN. I was able to have her sign a publicity still from that film, which I treasure. That was in the theater's waning days and I think it was only open a couple more years or so after that.

I'm guessing that at some point back in the '70s you and I must have been at the same screening at least once, Blake! Our family also spent a lot of time at LACMA's Leo S. Bing Theater, when it was curated by the great Ron Haver.

Best wishes,

10:06 AM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

Yes, I'm sure we were at the same movie many a time without knowing it. I spent a lot of time at LACMA too, during Ron Haver days--wrote notes for a lot of movies and so very luckily for me had a pass for many years. Those were good days.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Blake, a few months ago I found a lot of my LACMA memorabilia, including the catalogue for the big RKO series they did in the '70s. Any chance I might find your name on some program notes if I get them out?!

I feel very fortunate that I was able to enjoy both a "Golden Age" of L.A. revival houses and then a second Golden Age thanks to DVDs, TCM, and the revival theaters still in business today. :

Best wishes,

12:49 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Blake, I just pulled out my LACMA/FILMEX folder, trying to answer a question about something else, and without even looking, guess what I found? Your notes for the LACMA series on Raoul Walsh! With an acknowledgement for your "invaluable assistance" on the back.

I remember going to THE BIG TRAIL and DARK COMMAND in that series -- in fact, according to the notes it was on my birthday, though I don't know what year. How cool is that?! I remember being fascinated by the early "widescreen" of BIG TRAIL.

Best wishes,

8:00 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...


11:22 AM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

I remember leaving a comment but it must have not gone through. This was really excellent to see Laura! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Will you be making a scrapbook of some sort out of them?

11:41 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks to you both, Caftan Woman and Raquelle!

Still pondering how I'd like to preserve these but I'll definitely be hanging on to them. :)

Best wishes,

12:17 AM  

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