Archive for the 'Theaters' Category

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

HANG ‘EM HIGH

“There is going to be a real old-fashioned lynching on the Rio Grande….”

With these words, the Las Cruces newspaper announced that Clint Eastwood would soon arrive in Las Cruces — to film HANG ‘EM HIGH.

The co-producer of the movie, Leonard Freeman, had been in town for several days and had already found the perfect location for the opening scene: a spectacular, lonely tree on the west bank of the Rio Grande River, about 12 miles north of Las Cruces.

In the opening scene, which appears even before the credits, Eastwood is dragged across the Rio Grande River, and then lynched.

clint-eastwood-movie-hang-em-high-river-scene-6-29-67

clint-eastwood-movie-hang-em-high-hanging-scene-6-29-67

The lynching is the driving event of the movie. Eastwood plays ex-lawman Jed Cooper. He is herding cattle he has just purchased back to his ranch when he is brutally arrested by a citizen’s posse. Unknown to the posse, the person who sold the cattle to Cooper had killed the true owners just prior to selling them to Cooper. The remainder of the movie consists of Cooper ruthlessly pursuing the men responsible for his hanging and enacting suitable revenge.

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Formal shooting of the film began June 21, 1967. The hanging scene was filmed June 29. Eastwood did the entire scene himself, except for the swinging by his neck, which was done by his stunt double Walter Scott (shown in photo). The Las Cruces location shooting wrapped July 1.

The tree where Eastwood was hung is no longer standing and the riverbed is now overgrown with thick brush.

Source: Screen With A Voice: A History of Moving Pictures in Las Cruces, New Mexico

See also:
Screen With A Voice – A History of Moving Pictures in Las Cruces, New Mexico

Filed in: Book Reviews, History, Las Cruces, Odds And Ends, Theaters, Theatres | Comments Off on HANG ‘EM HIGH

 

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

New Book on Las Cruces History

Screen With A Voice – A History of Moving Pictures in Las Cruces, New Mexico

Screen With A Voice - A History of Moving Pictures in Las Cruces
The first projected moving pictures were shown in Las Cruces 110 years ago. Who exhibited those movies? What movies were shown? Since projected moving pictures were invented in 1896, why did it take ten years for the first movie exhibition to reach Las Cruces? Who opened the first theater in town? Where was it located? These questions began the history of moving pictures in Las Cruces, and they are answered in this book. But so are the events and stories that follow.

First movie shown in Las Cruces
First theater in Las Cruces
First talkie shown in Las Cruces
Invention of drive-in theater in Las Cruces
Opening of Rio Grande Theater
Impact of Great Depression on business
Raffle of six-week-old baby girl at Mission Theater
World premiere of first BILLY THE KID movie
Second world premiere of a BILLY THE KID movie
Arrival of Organ, Rocket, Fiesta, and Aggie Drive-Ins
Shooting of Clint Eastwood’s HANG ‘EM HIGH

There have been 21 movie theaters in Las Cruces – all but three or four are forgotten. They are unremembered no longer. And one, especially, the Airdome Theater which opened in 1914, deserves to be known by all movie historians – it was an automobile drive-in theater, the invention of the concept, two decades before movie history declares the drive-in was invented.

To supplement this history are 102 photos and illustrations. These include ephemeral documents such as the 4-page flyer for Las Cruces’ third movie exhibition, at the Rink Theater; historic photos of theaters; aerial photos of drive-ins; and never-before-published photos of the shooting of HANG ‘EM HIGH.

Winner 2017 Pasajero Del Camino Real Award for best history book on Southern New Mexico.

Cover: Depicts the 1930 world premiere of BILLY THE KID, starring John Mack Brown as Billy, at the Rio Grande Theater in Las Cruces.

See also:
HANG ‘EM HIGH

Filed in: Billy the Kid, History, Las Cruces, Main Street, Theaters, Theatres | Comments Off on New Book on Las Cruces History

 

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Las Cruces Gets Talkies

On October 19, 1929, the Las Cruces newspaper announced the arrival of :

Sound Pictures Coming

A matter of great interest to Las Cruces theatre goers is that tomorrow the Fox Rio Grande Theatre, one block west of Church street, will open up their sound projector system which they have been busily installing for the past week or so. From the character of pictures with sound which have been booked for the coming weeks it is quite apparent that Las Cruces is to have just as high grade entertainment in that line as the largest cities in the country. Las Cruces is to be congratulated upon this fact and it is comforting to know that with this beautiful playhouse, and the installation of this most adequate and modern sound projecting system which is the product of Western Electric and the best made; together with the management afforded by the great Fox West Coast Theatre chain which now owns the Rio Grande, Las Cruces folks will not have to go to El Paso nor anywhere else to see and hear the best shows produced. It is also a matter of satisfaction to Las Cruces people that manager W. L. Gullett is to remain in charge of the management of the Rio Grande.

Las Cruces Citizen, October 19, 1929

Here’s the story behind this highly welcomed event:

Some time in early October 1929, the Rio Grande Theatre was purchased by Fox West Coast Theatres, a distribution and theater ownership company begun in 1921 by William Fox.

William Fox is one of the pioneers – and early heroes – of movies. He got into the film showing business in 1904 by starting the Greater New York Film Rental Company. In 1909, he played an important role in breaking film monopoly, the .

In 1915, he founded the to make films, his first film being staring “sex vamp” Theda Bara.

Business was booming in 1929 and Fox, who always thought “gigantic” and had a “big” reputation for showmanship, decided to celebrate his “Silver Jubilee” of being in the film business with a massive national promotion. On October 12, 1929, he ran the following full-page ad in the Las Cruces Citizen newspaper:

Fox Silver Jubilee Advertisement – “The story of William Fox
is the History of the Motion Picture”

Time Magazine said this about his campaign.

Last week came the Silver Jubilee (25 years) of the Fox Theatres, announced by lavish two-page newspaper advertisements that told of gala performances, mysteriously adding: “Far more important than even the entertainment, will be a message from William Fox of vital concern to the future welfare of every patron of Fox theatres.

In 500 of the 1,100 Fox theatres throughout the U. S. audiences heard this message delivered through Fox Movietone. The birthday gift was advice that Fox patrons buy outright as many shares as they could afford of Fox Theatres Corp. operating and holding company for his gigantic chain. As special inducement they were told of plans for future expansion and the large earnings that were possible.

Expansions promised by Mr. Fox far outstripped the ordinary bounds of showmanship. He promised not only installation of his “grandeur” proscenium-filling screen, and cinema houses devoted to newsreels, but magnificently he offered one fourth of his fortune (which newsmen were permitted to estimate at $36,000,000) to develop visual-oral instruction in schools. “On the theory,” he said, “that one picture is the equivalent of eight words” and that words uttered by college presidents are more potent than those of ordinary teachers, Mr. Fox visualized the time when 15,000,000 or 20,000,000 school children will have school hours reduced from six to three per day by listening to a talkie “educator” instead of to a teacher….

Less convincing than his generosity was Cineman Fox’s foxiness. Offered in 1925, Fox Theatres stock has paid no dividends, has never responded to continued reports of expansion. In 1928 its earnings were $1.91 a share. Previous attempts to distribute the stock, mostly held by speculators, have been unsuccessful. Early this year a group of brokers ran the stock to 37-7/8, but before much was distributed it broke to 21-1/2. Last week it was strong around 28 on belief that the Fox Birthday plan, if successful, will reduce the floating supply.

Time Magazine, Oct. 21, 1929

The coming attractions advertisement that ran in conjunction with the Silver Jubilee announcement showed that the first talkie in Las Cruces was , staring . William Boyd later became famous as “.” The Flying Fool was followed by , , and .

Movie Ad – Las Cruces Citizen – October 12, 1929

The Flying Fool is the story of a WWI pilot with that nickname who falls in love with his brother’s girlfriend. To settle who gets the girl, the brothers “fight it out” without guns in the air. After taking extraordinary risks, both brothers land safely and the girl decides she is in love with the “Flying Fool.”

Stock Market Crashes – October 24, 1929

The people who attended the Thursday showing of The Single Standard staring probably enjoyed it. It’s impossible to say how many people in Las Cruces heard of or worried about the stock market crash that day. Certainly no one knew that people would later consider that event that day — — the beginning of The Great Depression.

On October 26 the Las Cruces Citizen published the advert for the next week’s pictures, clearly marked as talkies.

Movie Ad – Las Cruces Citizen – October 26, 1929

For the curious, here’s the advertisement for the last silent movies shown in Las Cruces, just prior the Rio Grande Theatre’s purchase by Fox.

See Also:
Screen With A Voice – A History of Moving Pictures in Las Cruces, New Mexico

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Saturday, September 13th, 2008

Rio Grande Theatre – More History


The Rio Grande Theatre opened on July 29, 1926. The official announcment to the public was made in the July 24 issue of the Las Cruces Citizen newspaper:

RIO GRANDE THEATER OPENS JULY 29

At last we are privileged to announce the definite opening date of the new Rio Grande Theatre built by Seale and Dyne and operated by the Central Theatres Corporation of Denver as Thursday July 29th with the powerful Sea Drama “Mare Nostrum” as created by the masterful director, Rex Ingram with Alice Terry and Antonio Moreno in the leading roles. Mr. Ingram has directed such notable successes as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and may others. Mare Nostrum is conceded to be one of the outstanding successes of the year and the management was indeed fortunate in securing an attraction of this caliber as an opening production.

A treat indeed is in store for those who have anxiously awaited the opening of this truly wonderful institution which is a great credit to the Southwest, the builders who have had the foresight to visualize the future in their enterprise and the operators for the confidence they have placed in the community in the manner they have equipped the theatre.

Replacing the old style painted scenery, the stage is to be hung and decorated in a lavish manner with velvet drapes and curtains as is the Auditorium proper. The foyer and aisles are carpeted in a rich red and the lightning [lighting] is as modern as has yet been installed in even the larger theatres in the cities.

A washed air cooling system maintains any desired temperature with its clean pure air as distributed scientifically throughout the house, the mammoth organ will be operated by Miss Elsie Dean Bristol who comes direct from one of the corporation’s Denver theatres, which assures all lovers of accurately played pictures a treat in store for them.

— Las Cruces Citizen, July 24, 1926

The first advertisement for the theatre was published in the same issue of the newspaper:

The movie selected for the opening was the silent movie , directed by . The New York Times’ movie critic Mordaunt Hall had given the movie a mixed review on Feb 16, 1926. Even then, the movie critic’s basic stance of a haute attitude and a pseudo-intellectual tone is evident. Some quotes from that review:

“The German submarine and the Wilhelmstrasse spy system during the World War are the theme of Rex Ingram’s picturization of Blasco Ibanez’s “Mare Nostrum,” which was presented last night before an audience that appeared to be left slightly dazed by the weird delivery of the film. It is an effort that in the second half has its full quota of thrills, but in the end it reminds one of the Von Tirpitz edict—”Spurlos Versenkt!” The heroine and the hero have met their deaths and so have the villains; the comedian alone is left to drift back to his Spanish port aboard a flimsy raft.”

“Mr. Ingram goes about the unfolding of this narrative with a dislike of haste. He seems to tell you that you must gaze upon his story as he tells it or not at all, and therefore it is not until just before the first half has come to a close that interest in the picture is really awakened; that happens to be through a scene in which a stout German Frau Doktor of the German Secret Service, her faithful and beautiful aid, Freya Talberg, and a Spanish skipper, drink a toast to the Emperor Josef.”


Alice Terry and Antonio Moreno in Mare Nostrum

“The first sequence dealing with the sinking of a British vessel by a submarine is graphically filmed. The Mediterranean is a tame stretch of blue to a wireless operator. He had just said “Hello” to his colleague aboard the Californian. Then one perceives the submersible sneaking after its prey, and subsequently the Californian receives her death blow in an explosion of spray and fire. Aboard the other vessel all is tranquil; then the wireless operator gets the S. O. S., but gradually the sinking ship is covered by water. The commander of the submarine pushes his cap back over his shorn head and checks off the British steamship as having been sunk.”

“Freya is arrested as a spy and taken from Marseilles to the St. Lazare prison, in Paris. In the course of usual motion picture events Freya would have been saved at the last minute. One awaits it in this film. She is taken to Vincennes in the early morning, and the soldiers line up. The buglers sound “Taps” after making a flourish with their brass instruments. Freya had made a petition to be shot in furs, feathers and expensive clothes; it was granted. She had walked proudly to the white stake against which she rests. Her hands had been tied with rope. An officer winces before the order is given to fire. When that order comes the rifles blaze and nothing more is seen of Freya until a weird idea or nebulous figures under the sea is portrayed at the end of the picture.”

“Alice Terry is fair, but unconvincing in the rôle of the German spy. She is too phlegmatic for the part. Antonio Moreno figures as the susceptible Ferragut. Mr. Moreno has plenty of character in his countenance, but he does seem to be a ready victim to a pair of blue eyes.”

“Aside from the effective photography in Spain, Italy and France and the dramatic sequences concerned with the submarine’s deadly work and the shooting of a woman spy, this production does not do justice to the talent of the man who made “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” and “Scaramouche.” His last production, “The Arab,” was lovely but a slow story that did not boast of much in the way of drama.”


Mare Nostrum Movie Poster

” is Latin for “Our Sea.” Beginning in Roman times it referred to the Mediterranean Sea. During World War I, it was common shorthand for the fight for control of the Mediterranean between the two sides.

Probably no one in Las Cruces at the time read the New York Times’ review. The opening was a big success:

NEW THEATER HAS GRAND OPENING

W. L. Gullett, manager of the new Rio Grande Theater got off to a good start Thursday night when he opened this fine new playhouse because the house was packed and the play was up to expectations, and then some.

It is needless to say that he will continue to have full houses as it is Mr. Gullett’s intention to bring only the best plays.

M. B. Stevens, the popular realty man, made an address that took big. If “Mo” decides to throw his old chapeau into the political ring, the La Estella will get right behind his candidacy.

Las Cruces Citizen, July 31, 1926

As was standard in those days, the Rio Grande Theatre changed its movies every week. Here’s the showing for the second week, July 31, 1926:

Here’s the newspaper ad for week three, Aug 7, 1926:

See Also:
Screen With A Voice – A History of Moving Pictures in Las Cruces, New Mexico
HANG ‘EM HIGH
.
Las Cruces Gets Talkies.

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Friday, October 19th, 2007

Mission Theatre – El Paso

was designed by Otto H. Thorman, an El Paso architech.

That was not his only theatre project. He also designed the Mission Theatre in El Paso.

The theatre, at 3031 Alameda, was built in 1940 for the El Paso Amusement Company. It is now a bar.

The Spanish mission theme is obvious. The bell is still in the bell space.

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Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

Rio Grande Theatre


Rio Grande Theatre, Main Street, Las Cruces.

In 1925, the Hacker Hotel was torn down to provide a site for The Rio Grande Theatre. An El Paso architect, , was hired to design the theatre, which is built of adobe. A “washed air” cooling system was installed — which must have been very rare in New Mexico then.

The theatre opened on July 29, 1926 with the film (a silent film), directed by and staring and .

Prices for movies were 40 cents for the main floor, 30 cents for the balcony, and 15 cents for children.

In 1933, the theatre burned, but it was rebuilt and restored, even though it was the .

The theatre remained in operation until 1997, when it was closed as no longer economically viable. It was feared it would be destroyed or put to another use.

The theatre was saved by the generosity of the descendents of one of the original owners, who donated the portion they owned (thank you!), and the , which raised the money to purchase the rest and to restore the theater.

The restoration process began in 2001 and the was completed sufficiently by 2005 for a grand opening.

The , restored to its original look.

The original facade was covered some time in the 50s. When the new front was removed, the original decorations, although damaged, were discovered. In a 1933 newspaper article, the decorations are described as “color combinations of reds, yellows, and blues.” They are almost completely restored, except for these few:



Here’s the restored ticket booth:

The beautifully restored interior now seats 422:


Notice the “.” (A “ghost light” is a single bulb burning on a dark stage, an old English tradition.)

Some photos of the restored ceiling:


(Historial information provided by the Dona Ana Arts Council.)

See Also
Screen With A Voice – A History of Moving Pictures in Las Cruces, New Mexico
HANG ‘EM HIGH
Rio Grande Theatre – More History.
Las Cruces Gets Talkies.

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