October 17th, 2007

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Attack of the giant Carole Lombard (pictures)

In Carole Lombard's day, this was state-of-the-art in terms of appearing "giant size" in the movies: Charlotte Henry in the 1933 Paramount "Alice In Wonderland," realizing she's much too big to approach the Duchess' house. Fortunately, all it took for her was a bite of a mushroom to bring her down to the proper scale.

While Carole never appeared larger than life in the movies, there are several places in cyberspace where you can find images of her and other classic era stars blown up to sizes bigger than your usual publicity still...yet with remarkable clarity. They're well worth checking out -- and downloading.

One site is Dr. Macro's High Quality Movie Scans (http://www.doctormacro.info/), which has an eclectic list of galleries of many stars (including Lombard), film clips, short subjects and even wallpapers. It's also updated regularly, so the collection continually grows. Well worth checking out.

Another site, "Simply Classics" (http://www.simplyclassics.net/index2.html), has a huge array of pictures from the Golden Age. You have to register to use the site, but it's worth it. The Lombard gallery has more than 250 images of her -- publicity stills, movie pictures and even a few informal shots.

Here are a few images of Lombard from both sites. Click on them two times to see just how big and beautiful they are:

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Positively palatial

"A King can have no more than you." For the moviegoer of the late 1920s, that mere thought was seductive. And so it was in late November 1928 when the Brooklym Paramount, the latest in an array of big-city movie palaces (and appropriately located in Kings County, N.Y.), opened for business.

For a relatively low price, the commoner could step inside and be transformed into moviegoing royalty, with lush surroundings, mirrors and staircases. Seating, whether it be in the orchestra or the balcony, was equally sumptious as you readied for the entertainment:

The Paramount's designers knew what was coming, so from day one the theater was equipped to cover all the latest sound formats, whether it be Phonotone or Vitaphone. There was also an organ, and a large stage to host shows in between films. (Over the years, that stage would host Russ Columbo, Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee in the '30s; two decades later, many of Alan Freed's rock 'n' roll revues also paraded there.)

Many of Carole Lombard's Paramount films were shown there, along with those of Crosby, Bob Hope, Claudette Colbert and others. It was as much a favored meeting place as the more famous Paramount in Times Square, Manhattan. (And the daughter of one manager of both theaters became a star of her own -- Suzanne Pleshette.)

But times changed, suburban flight weakened downtown Brooklyn, and even rock 'n' roll shows couldn't prevent the Paramount from bleeding red ink. It closed in 1962 and the building sold to Long Island University, which converted the theater into both classroom space and a gymnasium. I covered several basketball games there, and with many remnants of the glory days still around, it was undoubtedly the funkiest venue in Division I:

But even that has changed. Two years ago, LIU built a new, state-of-the-art gym on its Brooklyn campus, and there is talk about converting the old Paramount space into some sort of performing arts facility. What goes around comes around.

We bring all of this up in order to promote a nice Web site, "The Midnight Palace" (http://www.midnightpalace.com/). It's a tribute to "classic & obscure films from silents to the Golden Age" -- movies that might have played the Brooklyn Paramount -- that includes film and book reviews, articles, interviews, message boards and such. It's a comprehensive site that keeps getting better and better. Check it out.