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A picture palace, UK style

carole lombard 1933 divorce 00b

It's mid-August 1933, and Carole Lombard stands on the steps of the courthouse in Carson City, Nev., as she gets a divorce from William Powell. And as Hollywood columnists attempted to figure out whom her next husband might be, little did they -- or she, for that matter -- know the answer could be found "across the pond" in one of Great Britain's most illustrious film venues.

carole lombard stoll picture theatre no man of her own 00a

Yes, some 2 1/2 years before they became "an item," Lombard and Clark Gable were heating up the Stoll Picture Theatre in London...a venue that required plenty of heat (well, maybe not in August), as it seated 2,440 and by 1933 already had a great history to it.

The Stoll opened in November 1911 as the London Opera House, a project of American theater impresario Oscar Hammerstein, who wanted his own version of the fabled Royal Opera House:

stoll picture theatre november 1911 large

The interior was equally gorgeous:

stoll picture theatre november 1911bb

Hammerstein's intentions were good, but he didn't have the connections or resources to compete with home-grown rivals and closed it in June after undergoing substantial financial losses. A French group took it over in December with similar lack of success, and in 1916 Oswald Stoll gained control and made it a cinema house -- just at the time movie attendance was beginning to boom. It remained a popular venue during the 1920s and for much of the 1930s, showing at least one other Lombard film, the classic "My Man Godfrey":

carole lombard stoll picture theatre my man godfrey 00a

Wartime posed problems for the Stoll, and it stopped showing movies in September 1940. It reopened the following year as a live theater, including a nearly two-year run of "Kismet" with Alfred Drake in 1955:

stoll theater 080155

However, the Stoll closed for good on Aug. 4, 1957, as Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh starred in Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus." A development company had bought the property, razing the building in 1958 and putting up an office building in its place. For many British theater and architecural buffs, the loss of the Stoll was one of the West End's great tragedies.

Now that you know about the Stoll and its history, would you be interested in the program that featured "No Man Of Her Own"? An Oct. 6 baby is on its cover -- though it isn't Carole, but Janet Gaynor:

carole lombard stoll picture theatre no man of her own 02

And here's the back page:

carole lombard stoll picture theatre no man of her own 01

The program measures 8.5" x 5.5" and according to the seller is in good condition, with some "very light ageing." Bidding begins at $9.99, with the auction set to close at 7:10 p.m. (Eastern) next Thursday. For additional information or to place a bid, visit http://www.ebay.com/itm/JANET-GAYNOR-CAROLE-LOMBARD-CLARK-GABLE-Stoll-Picture-Theatre-UK-Prog-1933-/321674389538?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4ae549a822.
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