September 17, 2008

Ginger Rogers Worked at the Uptown Theatre, Chicago

I stumbled across this brief excerpt in Ginger: My Story, by Ginger Rogers. She provides a brief look at how the movies and stage shows operated back when she worked the B&K circuit.

At the age of fourteen, I was on a tight performance schedule in motion picture presentation theatres. In St. Louis, there were two: the Ambassador and the Missouri; in Chicago, there were seven: the Oriental, the Uptown, the Chicago, the Tivoli, the North Shore, the Roosevelt, and the Central Park.

All of the Chicago theatres were operated by Balaban & Katz. Each theatre opened at 10:30 in the morning and showed a combination of film and live entertainment. The movie began running at 11:00. During the film, show performers would straggle in through the stage door to prepare themselves for the first performance of the day. On the way to our dressing rooms, we'd peek from the wings into the darkened theatre to see if anyone was out there. Amazingly, even at that hour, there was always someone...After the movie was shown, the ruby velvet curtains would part to reveal a small set which contained the bandstand. The small set made the large stage space look more intimate and friendly. In the center stood the master of ceremonies, swinging a baton. He was usually a local "heart throb," the personality whom audiences came to see. The stage show lasted for about an hour, and would be followed by the movie and then the show again. There were usually three or four shows a day, and I did them all...

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