The Los Angeles Conservancy is having their annual fund-raising event, the Last Remaining Seats, where they showcase the movie palaces on Broadway (Downtown LA). Last Wednesday we went to the Million Dollar Theater and saw Psycho. I haven’t seen Psycho since it came out in the early 60s (I was in grade school–what were my parents thinking?!); it’s the reason I still have clear glass on my shower doors. The acting style is dated but I really enjoyed it. Everybody in the theater had seen the movie on TV a few thousand times so we all knew what was coming but the audience clapped and cheered the shower scene, the detective murder scene, and the final scene where Norman is exposed as the ‘mother’. I think they enjoyed being shocked. So did I. It’s a really well-made movie. The stuffed owl, Perkins jacket, and the building plans to the Psycho house–what Hitchcock called Hollywood Gothic–were on exhibit. It was good seeing the Million Dollar Theater again. I haven’t been inside for years. Thank God the city didn’t tear the movie palaces down. As a matter of fact, councilman Huizar introduced the film by updating the Bring Back Broadway plans. They’re widening the sidewalks and bringing back the streetcars. But it’s going to slowly I wonder if I’ll live to see it. Hope so.
Last night, Saturday, we went to the Los Angeles Theater to see City Lights which was a treat. The soundtrack that Chaplin had written for the movie was used. People were dressed in 30s costumes, two 1930s cars were parked out front, and a Charlie Chaplin impersonator worked the crowd. A movie historian presented a short film showing the Los Angeles locations when Chaplin made the film. Most of the landmarks are still standing. The film premiered in the Los Angeles Theater about 85 years ago. Albert Einstein and his wife were two of the attendees. Tickets went for $10 (about $150 in today’s money). It was a big deal. I asked Gordon why Chaplin premiered City Lights at the Los Angeles; he was one of the artists of United Artists and they had their own theater (we’re going to see Raiders of the Lost Ark there next week). Gordon explained the talkies were ‘in’ and Chaplin’s partners voted him down when he wanted to show a silent film. So Chaplin went down the street. The builder of the Los Angeles had run out of money before he could complete the palace so Chaplin lent him the money for completion. In return, he was allowed to premiere his silent film. Anyway, I really enjoyed City Lights. Chaplin didn’t need dialogue although the movie wouldn’t have worked without his soundtrack. Chaplin would have made an amazing Cap’t Jack Sparrow. Johnny Depp owes Charlie Chaplin a lot.