SOCIAL HISTORY: THE JAZZ AGE – NEW YORK’S CAFE DE PAREE and EARL CARROLL THEATRE – SOCIAL HISTORY


Earl Carroll review in the 1920s.

In December 1934, the refurbished Earl Carroll Theatre located on the south-east corner of 7th Ave and 50th Street, New York City, opened as the French Casino.

This glittering supper club was described by Fortune magazine as ‘a vast scarlet and silver restaurant which, in terraced rows of tables, seats fifteen hundred people without any crowding.’

For a short three year period it became the unrivalled premier nightspot in New York. It also celebrated the end of prohibition.

Excellent films of backstage scenes at the theatre during the 1930s. 

(Left: The art deco masterpiecel.)  The original building was designed by architect George Kiester and opened 25th February 1922 as the Earl Carroll Theater with seating for 1,000. The first few shows did not do well but there was some success with The Gingham Girl (28/8/22) and Earl Carroll’s Vanities of 1923 (5/7/23). With the advent of the depression Carroll’s fortunes floundered and he rented the theatre to Radio Pictures. Carroll decided he needed a bigger space and with the backing of William R. Edrington, a Texas oil baron, bought the land East of the theatre for $1m and leveled the building. He spent a further $4.5m creating a new theatre which was an art deco masterpiece once again designed by architect George Keister with the interior designed by Joseph Babolnay.

The new lobby was three times bigger than the old one. Seating capacity was tripled with 1500 seats in the orchestra, 200 in boxes and the loge and 1300 on the balcony. In the 60 x 100 feet space under the balcony lounge areas were created. It was the first theatre to be cooled backstage, in the auditorium and public areas.

he premier attraction was Earl Carroll’s Vanities of 1931 (27/8/31), but Carroll could not make the theatre a success since operating costs for such lavish shows were high and the ticket prices low due to the depression. Within six months he had lost the theatre Carroll and was sued for back rent, taxes and interest. He eventually relocated to Hollywood and made more of a success there. Florenz Ziegfeld took it over, called the building the Casino Theatre and opened with a revival of his great hit Show Boat (1932) but during the run he died and the show closed. George White used the theatre for Melody (1933) but success was still elusive and the theatre closed.

In late October 1933, the Theatre was sold to a business consortium of Louis F. Blumenthal, Charles H. Haring and Jack Shapiro for $52,000,000. This set in motion the beginnings of the French and London Casino project. The new owners invested $125,000 in renovation work to turn the theatre into the latest, up-to-the-minute cabaret-restaurant. They took out the seating and put tiers in the balcony and orchestra with tables. One of the key features was access. In other cabaret-theatre-restaurants, balcony diners must walk down through the rear to reach the dance floor. At the French Casino can descend the balconies by means of a series of ramps flanking both sides of the auditorium to the dance floor. People can ascend and descend in the theatre proper not by going out into the lobby. It provides the means of a grand entrance. Capacity was 900 on the lower floor and 500 flanking the sides and on the mezzanine and upper balcony. The show performs on an extended circular platform which comes out from the stage proper so that a neat ringside effect is created.

Read more by clicking here.  Our thanks to the excellent Jazz Age website. 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*


− 3 = zero

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>