to escape monotony I
went to the Capitol Theatre
With his faraway father's injury and his nearby niece's illness on his mind, Papa had more to escape from this day than just the monotony of his lonely apartment. Other men may well have sampled a bit of prohibition liquor under such circumstances, but the movie-loving gene runs strong in my line and luckily kept Papa from more dangerous vices.
While I inherited Papa's taste for cinematic escapism, my New York does not, unfortunately, bear any active trace of the cinemas Papa escaped to. As mentioned before, the Capitol Theater was one of many grand movie palaces designed to give the proletariat a taste of old-world grandeur via nouveau gaudiness. These theaters typically programmed live music, ballet and opera performances along with feature films, too, giving its patrons access to high culture they might not otherwise have had.
On this night, Papa saw a screening of Wild Oranges, directed by the legendary King Vidor and adapted from a novel by Joseph Hergesheimer. (A prologue called "Popular Fantasy," presumably a live performance of some sort, preceded the film.) The story of a violent man-child who terrorizes a young woman, "Wild Oranges" struck an anonymous New York Times reviewer as "entertaining and thrilling" even if "its subtitles are mostly of the long-winded variety." (The Times' blow-by-blow review practically obviates the need to see the film at all, which is helpful in this case since it's not available on video.)
The Times archive also mentions Wild Oranges in a couple of other interesting articles. One, called "The Birth of a Picture," tries to disabuse readers of their glamorous impressions of the movie business by outlining the tortuous path a movie takes from concept to completion; it's a great read. An overview of movie goings-on called "Grinding out Amusement for the Millions" mentions the Wild Oranges opening, but is also has this paragraph:
Joseph H. Hazelton, who is said to have seen President Lincoln assassinated, and Calvert Carter, another aged actor who was an associate of Hazelton's in the days of the Ford stock companies, the other day worked in the same film studio. Hazelton is playing in "San Francisco," and Carter with R. William Neill's production, "Rose of the Ghetto." Hazelton was a program boy at the Fort Theater in Washington when Booth shot the great Emancipator.I like to come across these little reminders of what a different era Papa lived in when he wrote his diary. 1924 was a lot closer to 1865 than it was to 2007.
Additional references for this post:
- Wild Oranges on IMDB and All Movie Guide
- Joseph Hergesheimer biography on Wikipedia
- King Vidor biography at All Movie Guide
Time Magazine's archive also has a write-up on Wild Oranges. According to the anonymous reviewer,
The tale is told with extraordinary vividness and pungency by King Vidor, a director who can evoke a heart-quaking spirit of mystery without a single trapdoor. Frank Mayo, Virginia Valli, Ford Sterling, Nigel de Brulier are splendid instruments in one of the exceptional pictures of the year. And a most extraordinary characterization is done by Charles A. Post as a modern Caliban, a hulking beast with a child's mind that wanted to be good.
I really hope this gets released on DVD soon.