Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 16, Number 01, Spring, 2004 Page: 57
This periodical is part of the collection entitled: Legacies: a History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas and was provided to The Portal to Texas History by the Dallas Historical Society.
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3foo e D Tews
Jeanette Howeth Crumpler,
Street of Dreams: A History of Dallas'
Theatre Row (Jeanette Crumpler: Dallas
Texas, 2003, 244 pp., $14.95)
In an age when an audience feels fortunate
to watch an entire movie without someone's cell
phone ringing, the times described in Street of
Dreams by Jeanette Howeth Crumpler seem
long ago and far away. Crumpler tells the story
of Dallas's theatre row which ran from the north
side of Elm Street between Deep Ellum on the
east all the way to Lamar Street on the west.
The book is divided into decades that provide
a general overview of what was occurring in the
country and what impact those events were having
on Dallas. Beginning with the settlement of
Dallas, Crumpler details what life was like for citizens
at that time. In the early days, patrons could
go to the Dallas Opera-the season of 1895-96 was
critically acclaimed-then step next door afterwards
to grab a bite at the Opera House Chili Parlor.
In 1896 the first silent film was shown on
the second floor over a drugstore on Main
Street. Although seen by fewer than 100 people,
the film marked the beginning of Dallas's participation
in the golden age of movies.
With the firm establishment of an audience
for film, huge movie palaces were built across the
country in the late 1910s and early 1920s.These
were enormous, elaborate buildings designed to
make movie going an experience. Before each
film, there would be "performances by a full
orchestra, an elaborate prologue stage presentation,
complete with singers, dancers, and musicians,
which carried out the theme of the
movie." All of the shows would include performances
by organists playing "massive, beautifully
gilded theatre organs."
Elm Street was filled with these movie theatres,
each more ornate and beautiful than the
next. One of the most unusual theatres was the
Queen, built in 1913.The theatre was filled with
larger-than-life nude statues. Even the light fixtures
were adorned with nudes.
Dallasites could go to the Palace to see Sarah
Bernhardt, Ethel Barrymore, and Ruth St. Denis.
Vaudeville acts came through town, and many
stars appeared at the Palace. Notables include the
Marx Brothers, Sophie Tucker, and Eddie Cantor.
The Palace housed a mahogany Wurlitzer that
was placed on a hydraulic lift used to bring it to
the orchestra pit level. The lift, however, had an
unfortunate problem. Since it used water pressure
to raise and lower the organ, if too many toilets
were flushed at once, the lift could rise and fall
unexpectedly. It must have been disconcerting for
the organist as well as the audience.
Filled with interesting tidbits and side notes,
Street of Dreams describes one of the more
unusual acts of 1917 as "The Shrapnel Dodgers:
A Trench Entertainment by Four Fighting
Canadians." These soldiers had been severely
wounded in the war but were on medical leave.
"The four men limped onstage .. .played harmonicas
and sang sentimental love songs.
Audiences loved them."
The Capitol theatre was the site of the
1938 world premiere of Roy Rogers' first feature
film. Rogers attended with his sidekick
Smiley Burnett, and the crowds lined up for
blocks to see them.
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Dallas Historical Society. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 16, Number 01, Spring, 2004, periodical, 2004; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth35092/m1/59/: accessed May 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.