Simanaitis Says

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TIMES SQUARE IS THE GINZA CROSSING of New York City. I say this without pretension because, indeed, I’ve visited Ginza Crossing more often than this Big Apple landmark. On the other hand, being wacko about old movies, I’ve certainly viewed the Times Square image, c. MCMXXX’s, quite a bit. 

This got me thinking about Times Square a hundred years ago. And, wouldn’t you know, my Rider’s New York City dates from 1923. Here are tidbits gleaned from this guidebook and from my usual Internet sleuthing.

Rider’s New York City, by Frederic Taber Cooper and others, under the general editorship of Fremont Rider, Henry Holt and Company, 1923.

Locale. Rider’s describes “The open space north of the Times Building, formed by the intersection of Broadway and 7th Avenue, is called Times Square, or Longacre Square (a name due to its having been compared to London’s Longacre Street when about 1872 the square became the center of New York’s carriage business).”

This and other images from Rider’s New York City.

Rider’s says, “A fine view of the illuminations of Broadway can be obtained from here in the evening. This portion of Broadway is the heart of the theatrical district, and the brilliant night lighting has given it its cognomen, ‘The Great White Way.’ ”

This and the following image from

The view with which I’m most familiar is the typical opening scene in many a New York City-based movie from the Thirties. The contrast with Great Depression dreariness must have been striking to movie-goers of the era.

Theaterland. Rider’s listing of “Midtown District theatres” runs 13 pages. This begins with the “Metropolitan Opera House, occupying the entire block bounded by Broadway and Seventh ave., 39th and 40th sts…. a structure of yellow brick, terra cotta and iron in the Italian Renaissance order of architecture.”

The “Yellow Brick Brewery” was the Met’s home from its inaugural season in 1883 until 1966.

Among others cited was the George M. Cohan’s Theatre, Broadway at 43rd, where evening tickets ranged from $4 for lower box seats to $1 in the second balcony. Wednesday, Saturday, and holiday matinees were about half that. The movie Yankee Doodle Dandy, 1942, gives an idea of the entertainment.

The Belasco Theatre, 115 W. 44th, was “noted for careful stage production.” The Maxime Elliot Theatre, 109 W. 39th, was “constructed of Dover marble, with a low, well proportioned façade in the Louis XVI style.” 

David Belasco, theater manager, wrote the play Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan. Giacomo Puccini saw the play in 1900 and his opera followed in 1904. 

The Maxime Elliot played an important role in Orson Welles’ production of Marc Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock, 1937.

Photoplays. Rider’s includes movie houses in “Vaudeville, Burlesque, Photoplays, etc.” Loew’s State Theatre, Broadway and 45th, offered “The World’s Best Photo-plays.” In 1923, of course, these flicks had yet to gain their voices.

“To make room for the State Theatre,” Rider’s notes, “the Bartholdi Inn, famous actors’ boarding house at the 45th st. corner, was demolished. It was a favorite stopping place for Charlie Chaplin, Mack Sennett, D.W. Griffith, Dorothy Dalton and other well known photoplay artists.”

Dorothy Dalton, 1893–1972, American silent film actress and stage personality. Cover art, November 1921, by Benjamin Eggleston from Wikipedia. 

Dalton’s filmography includes 55 flicks between 1914 and 1924, including Dorothy Dalton in a Liberty Loan Appeal during World War I. She married and divorced (twice) actor Lew Cody in 1910–1914. Then, as noted in Wikipedia, “In 1924 she married theatrical producer Arthur Hammerstein, uncle of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II and son of impresario Oscar Hammerstein I. After this marriage, Dalton retired.”

Impresario Hammerstein. Oscar Hammerstein I, 1846–1919, also appears in Rider’s: Describing the Manhattan Opera House, west of Fifth Avenue on 34th, the guidebook notes, “This opera house, one of the many ventures of Oscar Hammerstein, enjoyed a brief but brilliant period of artistic success, becoming for a time a recognized rival of the Metropolitan Opera Company. Subsequently, an agreement was reached by the terms of which Mr. Hammerstein was legally bound not to produce foreign opera in New York for a specified term of years. The Manhattan thereafter suffered various vicissitudes, and was used for vaudeville, photoplays and miscellaneous entertainments.” 

’Nuff said. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2023

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