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March 29th, 2007


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09:30 am - 1. Sic Transit Gloria
Picture 'bout a Minnesota man so in love with a Mississippi girl that he sacrifices everything and moves to Biloxi...
IN THE EARLY WINTER OF 1927, silent film star Gloria Swanson travelled to West 50th and 7th Avenue in New York City to visit Samuel L. Rothafel, powerhouse showman, tireless promoter, and theater manager since "the days when pianists trebled 'Hearts and Flowers' whenever a Sousa march didn't fit."

It was there that Roxy, as he was known to his friends ("...and you may call me that, too, when you write," he would later advise his radio audience) eagerly gave Swanson a tour of his nearly-completed prize: an enormous, outlandishly rococo movie palace capable of seating almost 6000 people. The actual auditorium number was around 5900, but in Roxy's inimitable fashion, he upped it to 6200 in the press by counting all the chairs in the offices, lounges, and even the maintenance rooms.

Gloria walked with Roxy up to the upper balcony, where workmen were busy plastering the ceiling. Impetuously, she grabbed a trowel and inscribed "ROXY - I LOVE YOU - GLORIA" in one corner. Roxy ordered that it stay on the ceiling forever. The Roxy Theater opened on March 11, 1927 with Gloria Swanson's latest film, "The Love of Sunya", as one of the features and Swanson herself in attendance. The Cathedral of the Motion Picture had arrived.

In 1961, after years of declining attendance, failed revitalization attempts and numerous protests, the Roxy was closed and demolished. Roxy himself was long gone, but Gloria Swanson paid one last visit to W. 50th and 7th, accompanied by a Life Magazine photographer. There, in evening gown and boa, she posed amidst the ruins. Swanson was photographed in several poses -- one echoed the glamour and beauty of the old palace in stark contrast to its reality. But the most enduring image is her pose to the left, arms outstretched in one final gesture of exaltation and praise to the treasure that was; Gloria triumphant.

The corner of W. 50th and 7th in Manhattan is now home to The World's Largest T.G.I. Friday's.

Next: Let There Be Light

(11 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:orionsmom
Date:March 29th, 2007 01:50 pm (UTC)
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That's um... sad.
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From:derspatchel
Date:March 29th, 2007 02:04 pm (UTC)
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Sad but beautiful. And, given New York City's need to cannibalize itself (Manhattan is a large amount of buildings in a small amount of space), inevitable. By the 60s, the real estate was worth more than the theater.

That picture is one of my most favorite pictures. If I could find a decent print-sized blowup, I'd frame it.
[User Picture]
From:orionsmom
Date:March 29th, 2007 02:10 pm (UTC)
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Its definitely a lovely picture.
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From:ron_newman
Date:March 29th, 2007 02:17 pm (UTC)
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I may as well throw in the obligatory CinemaTreasures link.
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From:kpht
Date:March 29th, 2007 03:00 pm (UTC)
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my company has banned spatch.net. odd.
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From:derspatchel
Date:March 29th, 2007 03:19 pm (UTC)
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It must be all that pornography that I serve up wholesale, huge gigabytes of it on a daily basis.

Well, either that or the collection of Interactive Fiction, I know some places just ban anything that may have a game on it.

Huh.

[User Picture]
From:spritelord
Date:November 28th, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)

maybe the

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...dildo-hat?
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From:vanguardcdk
Date:March 29th, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC)
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The World's Largest T.G.I. Friday's??? Sweet!!

Oh wait...
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From:infinitehotel
Date:March 29th, 2007 07:10 pm (UTC)
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Is this an excerpt from an article or is it something you're working on?

(That's a nice piece of writing.)
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From:derspatchel
Date:March 29th, 2007 10:19 pm (UTC)
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(Thank you!)

This is part of something I've been working on for a few days now. I've been simultaneously reading a history of Rockefeller Center, a biography of both Irving Thalberg and L.B. Mayer (entertwined as they were in the MGM studio system, it's only fitting they get a joint biography), a collection of Hollywood anecdotes from the 1920s through to the end of the studio era, and biographies of New York's most beloved showmen such as Roxy and Flo Ziegfeld. (Well, ok, I'm not reading them all at the same time. Perhaps concurrently is the best word for it.) I have a lot of it on my mind and when I found the Gloria Swanson pics, I knew I had to start sharing this rich, wonderful history with folks who'd appreciate it.

Plus it's good fer th' writin chops.

(but frankly, if I read one more writer pontificating on Cole Porter's "you're the pants on a Roxy usher" line, I'm gonna scream)
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From:song72
Date:March 30th, 2007 01:01 pm (UTC)
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That was great to read. I found the photo that you used to be much more evocative than the one that was linked.

Beautiful and amazing. Sad and yet uplifting at the same time. thanks for sharing.

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