Sunday, May 14, 2017

1959 ads for the Rialto, Louisville's million dollar movie palace

  The Inn of the Sixth Happiness was a big Fox prestige picture which made a hit out of the children's song "This Old Man."  I sang it a lot myself at the time.    January 1, 1959
                                                            January 21, 1959.

IMDB says that this was the first western shot in Spain.  Connie Francis did Jayne's singing for her -- and it's quite obvious.  February 12, 1959.

Clifton Webb, who had twelve children in Cheaper by the Dozen, had seventeen in Pennypacker and two wives.  What's even more remarkable is how Fox was able to market the effete Webb as a romantic male lead. He was very close to his mother, Mabelle.  When she died in 1960 at 90 , his friend Noel Coward quipped, "It must be tough to be orphaned at 71."  February 18, 1959

I saw Rally Round the Flag, Boys! at the Valley drive-in with my parents and distinctly remember feeling it was over my head at age five. I haven't seen it since.  February 26, 1959.

It delights me to see that the Rialto actually participated in William Castle's cheesy "Emergo" gimmick which I assume was pronounced 'emerge - o' and not 'emer-go.'  Here's what IMDB says: William Castle used a gimmick called "Emergo" in theaters. When the skeleton rises from the acid vat in the film, a lighted plastic skeleton on a wire appeared from a black box next to the screen to swoop over the heads of the audience. The skeleton would then be pulled back into the box as the skeleton in the film is "reeled in". Many theaters soon stopped using this "effect" because when the local boys heard about it, they would bring slingshots to the theater; when the skeleton started its journey, they would pull out their slingshots and fire at it with stones, BBs, ball bearings and whatever else they could find.  Here's a delightful recreation of Emergo. Was William Castle a genius or what? It played for two weeks. March 12, 1959

About fourteen years ago, the Alex Theatre in Glendale, CA recreated the gimmicky 'Percept-O' for The Tingler in which some seats in the audience were given a mild shock.  It actually worked quite well judging from the screams in the audience that night for those who were 'wired.'  The rest of us laughed uproariously. 

At age five I studied the ads for House on Haunted Hill intently and begged to see it so my parents did give in and took me to the Valley Drive-in.  I even remember the first feature was The Giant Behemoth.  I haven't seen it since, but I remember one of the opening scenes entailed fish washing up on a beach which were radioactive.  I liked the dinosaur so I wasn't troubled by the movie at all. And then House on Haunted Hill began and that did scare me. I dove from the front seat to the back and hid on the floor more than once, but I had to beg parents not to leave. The drive-in did not utilize Emergo, I'm sad to say.  Strangely, the exterior of the haunted house in question was not the typical Gothic mansion but a modern architectural house in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. If he knew his house was being used as a stand-in for a cheesy haunted house, I'm sure he would have been outraged.  There were plenty of dilapidated old houses that could have been used that would have been more convincing but perhaps Castle didn't feel a search was worth the effort.  The movie did big business, however, and according to IMDB convinced Alfred Hitchcock to tap into the horror market himself.

                                                               March 26, 1959

I very much wanted to see The Shaggy Dog, and we did later that summer at a drive-in. April 9, 1959.

 Here's the only picture of the front of the Rialto I've been able to find from this era. It was a surprise seeing it in the actual ad that ran in the Courier-Journal April 16, 1959.

April 23, 1959

                                                                 May 7, 1959

                                                              May 14, 1959

  May 21, 1959.
                                                                  June 7, 1959.
By this point, Doris Day had left Warner Brothers to make this movie for Columbia.  It was the only movie Doris did with Jack Lemmon and it was not a success.    June 7, 1959.
                                                                       June 18, 1959

                                                              June 25, 1959

Say One for Me was by all accounts a pretty terrible musical. But the Rialto was air conditioned, anyway, and most people's homes were not. Somehow it played for three weeks.  July 2, 1959

Sleeping Beauty had already played the Brown Theatre on Broadway in Louisville when it moved to the Rialto at popular prices. This is the first new animated Disney release I remember seeing and I was pretty excited about it. I saw it at a drive-in and not in Technirama 70 (as advertised at the Brown -- the Rialto was apparently not yet outfitted for 70mm) or stereophonic sound, but I was just happy to see it. I had a Sleeping Beauty puzzle I put together many times.  The added short subects were Nature's Strangest Creatures and Swimmer Take All.  The former was a documentary short about Australia made by Disney but the second is a 1952 Popeye cartoon.  Walt would not have been happy about that. July 23, 1959

                                                                    July 30, 1959.
                                                                  August 14, 1959.

Disney returned once again (the Rialto seemed to split its engagements between Fox, Allied Artists and Disney most of the time) with the Darby O'Gill and the Little People.  Much has been written about its visual effects which I won't go into here except the forced perspective is to this day astonishing to behold.  August 20, 1959.
                                                               August 27, 1959.
                                                             September 3, 1959
                                                              September 17, 1959. 
According to IMDB, when Marilyn Monroe posed as Marlene Dietrich as Lola-Lola in Life Magazine, she was offered the role in the remake of The Blue Angel, but she wasn't interested.    September 24, 1959.

The Bat was based on an old play that Price said terrified him as a child and released by Allied Artists. Darla Hood (who had been a child actress in the Our Gang comedies) makes a rare appearance here at age 28.
                                                           October 1, 1959
                                                               October 8, 1959
                                                             October 15, 1959.

T Joan Crawford is a big presence in the movie as an unhappy executive slamming down phones and telling people to go to hell.  This is her first wide screen movie.   It was also in stereo.  
October 22, 1959

                                                              November 1, 1959
                                                            November 12, 1959.
                                                     November 19, 1959
                                                             November 19, 1959
December 3, 1959
                                                               December 10, 1959
The Rialto's big Christmas release was coming, and it would be the second time I went to the Rialto. I remember very little about it since I was only six, but going downtown to see a movie was certainly a Big Deal and some of the experience certainly survives in my memory. It made quite an impact.  December 13, 1959

Journey to the Center of the Earth was a big, expensive Fox production with some impressive visual effects and a cast that takes the proceedings fairly seriously.  It takes a while to get started, but once it does, it has a sort of magic about it, in no small part to the great score by Bernard Herrmann. Jules Verne was very big at the time due to the huge success of Around the World in Eighty Days and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.  Given the choice between the three of them, I'd pick this one every time.  December 17, 1959
                                                                   December 24, 1959

It's hard to say why they were showing The Rookie on New Year's Eve, a movie that would not arrive until a few weeks later.  This was the second-to-last time the Rialto would exercise its New Year's Eve tradition of previewing an upcoming film.  December 31, 1959

All articles and advertisements appeared in The Courier-Journal in 1959. 

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