From the archive... Uptown, World's Largest And Finest, Opens By Rob Reel
Source: Chicago Evening American, 18 August 1925, p. 20.
Chicago became the possessor of the largest
and finest motion picture theater in the world as a result of the
informal opening last night of Balaban & Katz' palatial Uptown
at Lawrence av. and
The house, which surpasses anticipation, was thrown open to the
general public formally at high noon today, with a repetition of the
throngs which pressed around the entrances last night even though they
were not permitted to enter.
Indeed, so much interest has already been manifested by citizens in
both the central Uptown district, where an elaborate pageant is being
held in celebration of the new theater's completion and throughout the
city, that attaches of the Balaban & Katz Corporation predicted
between 50,000 and 100,000 people will be attracted to the locality both
tonight and the rest of the week.
The affair last night was really a dress rehearsal of the
performance, members of the firms who helped to build the magnificent
structure being invited that they might inspect the completed whole.
Many notables of the Rialto also attended, as well as all those
connected either closely or remotely with the Balaban & Katz
The great lobby, almost an exact replica of that in the Chicago,
only larger, grander
and more golden, was banked with floral tributes from hundreds of firms
who had cooperated in constructing and outfitting the theater, as well
as hundreds of well-wishers throughout the country.
Monument to Prosperity.
William K. Hollander, director of publicity for Balaban & Katz,
acted as master of ceremonies, thanking each and every one who had
helped complete the Uptown and presenting the theater to the
central Uptown district. A
representative of the Central Uptown Business Men's Association
felicitated him in turn and accepted the new monument to the prosperity
of this section.
Under the supervision of Frnak Cambria, art director, the whole
program was presented and everything was exactly as though for the
formal opening today with one exception—the mighty Wurlitzer was
silent. A crew of experts had been working night and day to get the
great instrument ready, but were unable to accomplish it in time for the
dress rehearsal. Those who had precious invitation last night,
therefore, had to forego the pleasure of hearing Jesse Crawford.
Nathaniel Finston, however, was in charge of the orchestral baton,
Tschaikowsky's beautiful "Capriccio Italienne" has been chosen
as the premiere overture, and under his capable direction the great band
of splendid musicians assembled as the Uptown's Symphony Orchestra
render it in stirring fashion.
What is undoubtedly the most pretentious presentation ever offered
in a motion picture theater has also been provided by Balaban & Katz
to accompany the theater's debut. First there are some fine syncopation
specialties by the Oriole Orchestra of the Edgewater Beach Hotel, with
Ted Fiorito at the piano and little Dan Russo as leader.
Then there is a musical production, "Under Spanish Skies,"
to harmonize with the Spanish motif which has been carried out in the
architecture, presenting Don Jose Majica and Marie Herron, a tenor and
soprano of high caliber. There is a very nice ballet incoporated in
this, too, and a peacock dance that is truly gorgeous, Maria Montero
also appears, a Spanish dancer with color, talent and fire, who shakes
her castanets as only one who has learned the art from childhood can.
Last, but not by any means least, there is the movie—First
National's "The Lady Who Lied."
"The Lady Who Lied" is a pretentious picture, matching up
with the pretentious program. Its scene is laid first in Venice during
carnival time, then in Africa, and these strange locales as well as an
extraordinary situation or two tend to lift it out of the ordinary
eternal triangle type of film. Then, too, it is excellently cast with
Lewis Stone as his polished self: Nita Naldi, as Oriental-eyed and
attractive as ever: Leo White, priceless as a comic valet, and Virginia
Valli, good to look at as the heroine whom it is all about.
Virginia, by the way, is a Chicago girl, who spent a good deal of
her time in the Uptown district, especially when she was first
struggling for recognition in films.
Taking it all in all, it's grand and glorious.
But you must see it to appreciate it.