Felix In Hollywood

A Blog for the Smart Set

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Roxy - From Begining To End It Was All Gloria.

In 1927, megastar Gloria Swanson moved into a new phase of her sizzling career by producing her first picture, "The Love Of Sunya".

Swanson wears typically understated jewelry in 'Sunya'
Perhaps it's fitting that her film was selected to open the brand new Picture Palace to end all Picture Palaces, The Roxy.  It's cutesy little, term of endearment, nickname was "The Cathedral Of The Motion Picture".  Here's why:

The Roxy was thrown together for the tidy sum of  $12, 000, 000 (that's 150 million in today's dollars). 

Opening Night

The Grand Foyer contained 'the worlds largest oval rug' and sported a massive organ on the mezzanine for the sole purpose of entertaining people as they entered.


The house seated a mere 5920 patrons (though extra seats were installed for the opening to accommodate 6200).

The entire theater house was designed on a diagonal thus tucking the stage in a corner.  As a result the stage (which was built not only for movie screening but also for live productions) was not a large as you might think.

Despite the stage limitations, the theater had a couple of  support facilities including two stories of private dressing rooms, three floors of chorus dressing rooms, huge rehearsal rooms, a costume department, staff dry-cleaning and laundry rooms, a barber shop and hairdresser, a completely equipped infirmary, dining room, and a menagerie for show animals. There were also scores of offices, a private screening room seating 100, and massive engine rooms for the electrical, ventilating and heating machinery. The Roxy's large staff enjoyed a cafeteria, gymnasium, billiard room, nap room, library and showers.

The theater's stage innovations included a rising orchestra pit which could accommodate a symphony orchestra of 110 and a Kimball 5 keyboard pipe organ.

"The Roxy Hour" was broadcast weekly to a nation wide audience on the NBC radio network from the theater's own broadcast studio.

The place was grand, massive, solid and seemly built to last forever.  But as the Studio System was wheezing it's last gasping breaths, just 33 years and 18 days after it's grand opening, The Roxy closed on March 29th, 1960.

The bad news is, by October of 1960 it was being demolished (this, I believe, is what they call progress).  The good news is, the ever-spectacular Gloria Swanson had a keen understanding for a dramatic historical moment, and God knows, that dame could take a picture.  So, with Life Magazine photographer Eliot Elisofon in tow, La Swanson showed up with all of the same fabulosity she'd possessed in 1927:


Ask the Cool Cookie said...

As a preservationist, stories like this break my heart. Not because it was a building, but because it was designed to move people's emotions. And in the end it was wiped away like it never mattered.

Slash a Gainsborough or a Rembrandt and its a crime Tear down these buildings without a second thought to the art in their construction without batting an eye.

MJ said...

I'm in agreement with Cookie on matters of preservation.

"Massive organ"...teehee.

normadesmond said...

little gloria, shmutsy at last!

Donna Lethal said...

I know. It's so sad. That dismantled Roxy picture is heartbreaking.

kabuki zero said...

do you think it was something she said?

Erynn Murray said...

My mom worked there in 1950 until it closed, she was a roxyette. She is 83 and strong!