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carole lombard 05

Watch like an Egyptian (yeah, yeah, yeah)

Posted by vp19 on 2011.02.11 at 01:40
Current mood: giddygiddy
...and no, we're not referring to the tumult taking place in that north African land, riveting happenings if you're following it via the BBC or CNN.

No, this deals with a place a teenage Carole Lombard was probably familiar with when this Fox publicity portrait was taken in 1925. It's the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard:

That's how the Egyptian courtyard was decorated in 1924, two years after it opened, for Douglas Fairbanks' swashbuckling epic "The Thief Of Bagdad." I have to believe that the movie-struck Lombard saw a number of films there during the 1920s; it was the first major theater in the rapidly growing Hollywood section of the city, not far from where she and her family lived on North Wilton Place. No longer was downtown the only place for movie fans to see their favorites on screen, in splendor.

For all we know, Lombard might have been part of the crowd below attending the premiere of King Vidor's "The Big Parade" (made by MGM, not Fox) in 1925. (At least one Lombard film, "True Confession," premiered at the Egyptian.)

In 1927, impresario Sid Grauman, whose palatial decor for the Egyptian thrilled audiences, opened another theater on the other side of Hollywood Boulevard. The Chinese stole the thunder from its sibling, thanks in part to that little stars-in-cement ritual, but the Egyptian is still a stunner. Now operated by American Cinematheque, this famed venue shows a wide variety of films, enveloping its guests with nearly 90 years of cinematic history.

And if you're in the Los Angeles area this weekend, it would be well worth a visit.

First, this Saturday at 10:30 a.m., take a docent-led tour of the place, getting a behind-the-scenes feel for this landmark. As the theater's website notes, "See what it would have been like to be in a Grauman stage show with a visit to the dressing rooms and singers' boxes." (I note that one of the Egyptian's stage performers was a teenage Myrna Loy.) "Check out our state-of-the-art projection booth and more! Discover the painstaking restoration work and the marriage of modern technology with a landmark of Hollywood history. ... You will see the old dressing rooms, the singer's boxes and the projection booth (not normally included on our tours)."

The tour lasts 60 minutes, and is followed by "Forever Hollywood," a 55-minute film produced by the American Cinematheque that "celebrates a century of movie-making history and the eternal allure of Hollywood glamour. The unique story of Hollywood, the bountiful farming suburb, turned movie capital of the world, is told through interviews with some of today’s best known stars and filmmakers."

It's $5 for just the tour, $10 for the tour and movie.

But if you'll be in Hollywood tonight, the Egyptian will host some welcome rock 'n' roll history at 7:30 and 11 p.m. -- a restored version of the Beatles' first concert in the U.S., which took place 47 years ago today at the Washington Coliseum, a fairly decrepit minor-league hockey arena several blocks north of Union Station. (The building still stands as a storage facility.)

The Beatles made a side trip to D.C. (where their first Capitol release, "I Want To Hold Your Hand," had received its first U.S. airplay on WWDC in December 1963) in between gigs on "The Ed Sullivan Show" from New York. More than 8,000 people jammed the arena for the event, which was filmed. A month later, it was aired via closed-circuit to theaters across the country:

The closed-circuit telecast added concert footage from two other hot acts in early 1964, the Beach Boys and Lesley Gore. (Neither was on the bill at the Coliseum; that night's supporting acts included Tommy Roe -- who had toured with the Beatles in Britain the year before -- the Chiffons and the Righteous Brothers.) While the Coliseum concert has been available from a number of sources, this marks the first presentation of the closed-circuit show, including the Lesley Gore/Beach Boys material, since March of '64, and its visual and aural quality are reportedly first-rate.

If you were too young to experience Beatlemania (I was eight, and remember it well!), here's your chance to see what it was all about, and what made 1964 such a vibrant year in music history. (And here's something I find hard to believe: More time has elapsed between that concert and today than between that Lombard portrait above and the show date. How time flies.) Here are some fascinating recollections of that historic night in Washington: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/clicktrack/2010/12/paul_mccartney_al_gore_tommy_roe_and_more_recall_beatles.html

Tickets for the film are $11; for more information, go to http://www.americancinemathequecalendar.com/egyptian_theatre_events. Here's a taste of what you can expect, as the Beatles perform "From Me To You," a John Lennon-Paul McCartney composition that was a minor U.S. hit for Del Shannon in 1963. (Incidentally, the Beatles themselves had minor chart success in isolated American markets in 1963, when Capitol initially passed on them and smaller labels such as Vee Jay and Swan got the rights.)

If you liked that, I think you'll enjoy the affectionate late '70s parody, the Rutles. Here's their "Hold My Hand," which humorously captures the feel of "All My Loving," "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and other songs from this era:


caroleirene at 2011-02-11 21:35 (UTC) (Link)
I might be going to Hollywood in the spring!!! I'm so excited, and I can't wait to visit both the Egyptian and Chinese theaters!
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