A Very Vintage Christmas – Retro Mid Century Xmas Ornaments

As much as we may be in denial about winter being here, it’s hard to deny Christmas is around the corner when you’re bombarded by Christmas music in all the malls and decorations starting to pop up in stores and street corners. Instead of grumbling about how it all starts “too early”, we’ve decided to embrace it and take this time to help you prep for your own holiday celebrations, vintage style. Here’s our list of where to source the best decorations for those of you who like a “classic” feel.

Cheerful Reproduction Ornaments

Nothing says retro Christmas like the classic Shiny Brite ornaments. The most popular ornaments of the 1940s & 50s, they faded out of fashion in the later half of the 20th century, but in 2001 Christopher Radko began reproducing them, complete with vintage style box! You can find them a lot of places online, including Amazon.

 

 

Kurt Adler is another company that has really nailed the vintage aesthetic. You can find his stuff on Amazon as well, and he’s got everything from sparkly glass ornaments to small novelty characters, bubble lights, and classic clip-on birds, as seen below.

Garlands, Tinsel & Icicles – Oh My!

No vintage tree is complete without some classic garlands and tinsel. Retro Festive has a super fun popcorn garland (if you want the look without the salty temptation) The Holiday Barn has a  candy garland if you prefer something sweeter, and of course there’s the classic Shiny Brite garland, again from Amazon.

For tinsel, you can try a garland like this kitchy pink one from The Holiday Barn, get some beautiful handmade tin icicles from Pietersma Tinworks, or go with a real classic like Brite Star tinsel strands. While all of these are available from Amazon, I have lucked out before and come across some Brite Star type stuff at Dollarama. They get their share of decent stuff and it’s dirt cheap!

Retro Keepsake Ornaments

Maybe you’re not looking to replicate a classic tree, and just want something to show off your retro-loving personality. If that’s the case, there are a tone of cute and kitschy “keepsake” ornaments out there, like these fun little guys from Old World Christmas or Winterworm (bonus – they’re in our colours!).

 

You can get both of those on Amazon. Or you can check out specialty stores like The Holiday Barn and find ones like these retro cars and trailers, which are always fun.

Of course you can also take your chances scouring vintage shops, Etsy or Ebay for some authentic vintage pieces, though the prices can be steep, and if you’re worried about little hands or paws knocking things over, you might want to steer clear of the real thing.

What’s your favourite spot to score a vintage style ornament? Let us know in the comments below.

-E.

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Top 10 Tragic Stories & Scandals of Early Hollywood – Part 1

With the passing of several Hollywood greats over the past few months, as well as my recent acquisition of some autographed photos of Silver Screen stars, I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the forgotten stories and scandals of the early days of cinema.

For this list, I’m not going to include those who died tragically young of natural causes; Jean Harlow, Rudolph Valentino, Harold Lockwood. I’m also going to omit the cases where it is generally agreed that the death was caused by an accidental overdose, like in the case of Judy Garland, or Marilyn Monroe, reason being that there are simply too many of those, and they could easily make an entire list of their own (that may be one we do soon). For this, I’m going to focus on the bizarre, the types of tales that fed the tabloids and imaginations of millions of star-struck fans. So, in no particular order, here we go…

1.Olive Thomas (1894-1920)

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Autographed photo of Olive Thomas, available for sale at TuckedAwayAntiques

 

The beautiful Olivia R. Duffy started her career as a model in 1914, before quickly moving on to become one of the celebrated Ziegfeld Follies girls. By 1916, she had started a career in silent films, and would go on to appear in over 20 features in a short 4-year span. While she found success during her short career, her early life had been troubled; she lost her father in 1906 when he died in a work-related accident. At age 15, she left school to help support the family, and by 1915 she had already been married and divorced (on the grounds of “desertion and cruelty”). But in late 1916 it seemed her fortunes would change, when she met and married the younger brother of silent film star, Mary Pickford; Jack Pickford.

The marriage was a passionate but tumultuous one. In her biography, Mary Pickford described it as such;

“She and Jack were madly in love with one another but I always thought of them as a couple of children playing together.”

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The couple’s marriage was strained when, in 1920, they took a vacation together to Paris. After a night on the town, the couple returned to their hotel suite, and Jack either fell asleep or passed out drunk, with Olive in another room. The heavily intoxicated woman found a flask of her husband’s, and mistaking it for either water or medicine, ingested its contents; sadly, this turned out to be mercury bichloride, a poison prescribed to Jack to treat his sores from syphilis.  Apparently she immediately realized her mistake, and screamed out “Oh my god”, prompting Jack to rush to her side. She was taken to hospital where she died of poisoning 5 days later.

While her death was ruled an accident, it was the subject of media speculation, and became one of Hollywood’s first heavily publicized scandals. Some believed that she had committed suicide, devastated by Jack’s numerous affairs. Others pointed the finger at her husband, speculating that he had tricked her into drinking the concoction so that he could collect on her insurance money. Neither these nor any other rumours held much weight, and her death was almost certainly accidental, however it goes to show the power that the tabloids hold over stars’ careers. By 1923 he was making only a single film a year, and during his brief life he married 2 more times, both to other Ziegfeld girls. Both marriages ended in divorce, apparently due to his abusive behaviour. In 1933 he died, at the young age of 36, from progressive multiple neuritis, a result of his alcoholism.

2. Carl Switzer (1927-1959)

You may not know the name, Carl Switzer, but you almost certainly know the face. Switzer was a child star known for playing the character Alfalfa in the popular depression-era shorts, Our Gang (Little Rascals). While he had a number of bit-roles in films and on television in his later years, he found it difficult to find sustaining work due to typecasting.

In 1954 he married the heiress daughter of grain elevator empire Collingwood Grain. The pair lived for a time with the woman’s mother, but by 1956, wife Diantha was pregnant, and the couple was nearly out of money. Switzer’s mother-in-law gave them a farm in Kansas, and their son was born shortly after. Despite having been born in Illinois, Switzer was not made out for the farming life, and the arrangement didn’t last long; they were divorced in 1957.

In 1959, a series of unfortunate and frankly, petty arguments built up and eventually lead to his death. Essentially, Switzer had offered to train a hunting dog for a man named Moses Samuel Stiltz. The dog ran away and was lost, and so Switzer offered a $35 reward for its return. Several days later, a man found and returned the dog, and Switzer paid him the reward, as well as bought him $15 worth of drinks. A few days later, Switzer and his friend, Jack Piott, decided that Stiltz, the owner of the dog, should be responsible for paying the reward, and so in the early evening of January 21, 1959, the two went off to the home of Rita Corrigan, where they knew Stiltz was staying, to collect the $50 they felt they were owed.

What happened next has been a subject for debate for years. Originally, the story went that the pair entered the home and Switzer and Stiltz got into an argument which escalated violently when Switzer struck Stiltz with a glass clock. Stiltz then retreated to his bedroom to fetch a gun, which Switzer tried to wrestle away from him, causing it to shoot at the ceiling. Switzer then forced Stiltz into a closet and pulled a knife, before screaming “I’m going to kill you!”. Fearing for his life, Stiltz shot Switzer in the groin, causing massive internal bleeding. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. At the time, the death was ruled justifiable, as it was self-defence, however, in 2001 a new witness stepped forward with evidence that has since changed the popular view of the case.

Tom Corrigan, 56 year old son of Western star Ray “Crash” Corrigan, and stepson of Moses Stiltz, was present the night Switzer was killed. He claims that a drunk Switzer appeared at the door complaining of a month-old debt, and threatened to beat up Stiltz. Stiltz confronted him with a .38-caliber revolver, which Switzer did try to wrestle away, causing it to fire at the ceiling. A fragment struck young Corrigan in the leg, and his sister’s ran next-door for help. He recalls Switzer saying, “Well, we shot Tommy, enough of this,”and turning with Piott to leave. Corrigan followed out the front door and heard a shot come from behind him. When he turned, he saw Switzer sliding down the wall, shot and surprised. A closed penknife lay at his side, presumably having fallen out of his pocket. Stiltz shoved Piott against a counter and threatened to kill him too, while a the terrified man begged for his life. At this point, they heard sirens approaching, and the man was let go. To put the whole night simply, Corrigan stated, “He didn’t have to kill him,”. Moses Stiltz died in 1983 at the age of 62

3. Virginia Rappe (1895-1921)

250px-virginia_rappeSadly, model and silent film actress Virginia Rappe is not remembered for her career or life so much as for her death, and the way it ended the career of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle.

Rappe had more than her fair share of tragedy in her short life. She was born to an unwed mother who died when Virginia was only 11. She started a modeling career in Chicago at age 14, and by 1916 had relocated to San Francisco to pursue her career. There she met dress designer Robert Moscovitz, and the pair became engaged. However, shortly afterward, Moscovitz was killed in a streetcar accident; this prompted Rappe to make the move to LA.

In LA she was hired by director Fred Balshofer and given a prominent role across from Harold Lockwood, in the film Paradise Garden. Her personal life continued to be troubled, and in 1918 she gave birth to a child that was promptly put into foster care. She stared in a film titled Over the Rhine with newcomer Rudolph Valentino, for which she was awarded the title of “Best Dressed Girl in Pictures”. By 1919 she was engaged again, this time to director/producer Henry Lehrman.

The exact circumstances that lead to Rappe’s untimely death are not clear, but were the fuel of media fire at the time. In 1921, Rappe attended a Labor Day part at the home of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, a popular film comedian. At some point during the party, Rappe allegedly suffered a trauma that caused her ruptured bladder and secondary peritonitis; her cause of death. It was alleged at the time that this was caused by a violent sexual assault by Arbuckle. The accuser was Maude Delmont, a new friend of Rappe who attended the party with her. While Delmont was quick to point the finger at Arbuckle, she was not present for any of the events she described, and was barred from testimony at the following three trials due to her own extensive criminal background that included extortion. More likely, Rappe’s cause of death was a result of cystitis, a condition that could be aggravated by alcohol. Various witnesses also testified that she suffered from venereal disease, and so it is more likely her death was a result of poor health, rather than assault.

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Fatty Arbuckle, circa 1916

After 3 manslaughter trials, Arbuckle was acquitted, but that did nothing to save his career. Another case of media frenzy having a greater impact than truth and justice. Despite his acquittal, his films were banned for a year after the trials, and he was publicly ostracized. He worked only sparingly through the 1920s, but made a brief return to acting in 1932 when he made short two-reel comedies for Warner Bros. He didn’t get the chance to make a Warner feature, as he died in his sleep of a heart attack in 1933, and the young age of 46.

4. The Horowitz Brothers aka The Three Stooges

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The stooges with Ted Healy

The blue-collar, Jewish brothers from Brooklyn were “born without an ounce of theatrical blood in their veins” but, nonetheless decided to try their hand at showbiz in the height of the Vaudeville days. Moses and Samuel, better known by their stage names, Moe and Shemp, had moderate success in burlesque shows before getting their break in 1922, when they met up with old friend, and current Vaudeville hit, Ted Healy. He brought them together with comedian/musician, Larry Fine, and Ted Healy and His Stooges were born. While their style of comedy may be dismissed by many today, they essentially invented the form of brutal slapstick that made them popular, and comedy greats such as Bob Hope and Milton Berle credited them with inspiring their careers.

There was so much tragedy surrounding the Stooges, that I’m going to break them up individually here, starting with the man who pulled them together, Ted Healy.

 

Ted Healy (1896-1937)

In the early 1930s, Ted Healy’s Stooges made a film for Fox, and while The Stooges impressed the execs, they weren’t fans of Healy, and decided to cut him loose. Incensed, Healy tried to demand that the Stooges not use any of their old routines, and even went so far as to threaten to bomb the theatres where the group performed. But by 1932, with Moe now working as the group’s manager, Healy and the Horowitz brothers managed to reignite their partnership. Unfortunately, Healy’s erratic behaviour and heavy drinking was too much for the skittish Shemp, who decided to leave the group and start a solo act. With one man down, Moe suggested his young brother, Jerry, but Healy dismissed him as untalented. Eventually, after a impromptu walk-on in a stage act that proved insanely popular with the audience, the most famous of the Stooge brother’s was born; Curly Howard.

Larry, Curly, Moe and Healy signed an MGM contract and made several films through the 1930s, but when it wasn’t renewed, the group broke up and went their own ways. Healy, not coping well with this change or life in general, made a series of stupid choices that eventually lead to his death; he angered mobster “Lucky” Luciano by trying to rob one of Capone’s safes, and flirted with actress Thelma Todd while she was still married to Maffia man Pat DiCicco. In 1935, now married to a UCLA student named Betty Hickman, Healy went out to celebrate the birth of his first child. Drunk, he ran into DiCicco again, as well as character actor Wallace Beery. The three got into a fight, and Beery and DiCicco beat Healy so badly that he fell into a coma, and died a day later. Officially, the death was ruled accidental, with the cause being acute alcoholism. Of course, this was performed after the embalming, when the organs would have been soaked in alcohol. No one took much interest in Healy’s death, and when his widow complained to MGM, where she was working as a contract player, she was promptly fired.

Meanwhile, the Three Stooges were working for Columbia Pictures, and were on the brink of their greatest success…

Jerry “Curly” Howard (1902-1952)

The Stooges spent a remarkable 23 years with Columbia, but were kept on 12-month contracts the entire time. While they made the company enormous amounts of money, and took them from Poverty Row to being a major player, they saw very little of this financial success. By 1942, the physical strain of playing a human punching bag was getting to Curly. Apparently, many of the hits were “as real as they seemed”, and that, combined with his alcoholism, was taking a toll on his health. Doctor’s insisted that he take a break, but the studio wouldn’t allow it, so he stayed on, until, in 1945, he suffered his first major stroke, at the age of 42. He was back to work in a month, despite clearly not being up to it. They attempted to hide this by using old footage, and focusing more on Moe and Larry, but eventually even this was too much of a strain, and at the age of 45 he suffered a paralyzing stroke. It was later found that, from enduring blows to the head, he had suffered several brain haemorrhages. He died in 1952.

Samuel “Shemp” Howard (1895 – 1955)

Shemp re-joined his brothers after Curly’s death, in an effort to save their careers. Sadly, he was dead a few years later, from a heart attack at age 60.

Moses “Moe” Howard (1897 – 1975) & Larry Fine (1902 – 1975)

After 23 years of service, in 1957 the remaining troop was unceremoniously fired. Moe returned to the studio lot after a couple weeks to say goodbye to old friends, and was refused entry by the security guard.

On the verge of a comeback, Larry suffered a stroke and died in 1974, at the age of 72. Around the same time, Moe was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, and died in 1975, making him the oldest Stooge at age 78.

5. Thelma Todd (1906 – 1935)

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Thelma Todd

Being a mobster’s girl can be bad for health, as was the case with actress Thelma Todd. Known for her comedic roles in Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton and Laurel & Hardy flicks, she died under suspicious circumstances at the age of 29.

She was found dead in her car, in a garage, having asphyxiated from carbon monoxide poisoning; it was speculated this was either a suicide, or an accident, and that she had been locked out overnight and was seeking refuge in the warm car. However, earlier in the evening she had had a brief, but unpleasant exchange with her ex-husband, mobster Pat DiCicco. The autopsy ruled that it was an accident with suicidal tendencies, however there was no suicide note, and nothing to suggest that she had been planning to end her life. Were the suspicious aspects pointing not to suicide, but to a hit? Murder? We may never know.

 

Stay tuned for part 2!

-E.

Top 5 Vintage St. Patrick’s Day Songs

Looking for some classic tunes to accompany tonight’s festivities? We’ve got you covered. Here’s our top five vintage songs that are perfect for a Patty’s Day celebration.

1. The Wearing of the Green

While there are dozens, if not hundreds, of renditions of this 1798 Irish ballad, we’re personally partial to this 1940 version by Judy Garland. The tune laments the oppression of the supporters of the Irish Rebellion, and as such is an important bit of history for anyone who wants a true understanding of the wearing of the green. The jazzy score and silky voice of Miss Garland keep the song from being too dreary, making it a perfect addition to our list.

2. When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

Originally published in 1912, it became famous during WWI when recorded by John McCormack. We like Bing’s sultry version, recorded in 1939.

3. It’s a Long Way to Tipperary 

You can’t have an Irish song list and not include one by John McCormack. This is another song that was first recorded during WWI, and became popular again during the second World War.

4. Danny Boy

While the lyrics to this ancient Irish melody also originate from the first World War, you would be hard-pressed to find someone today who isn’t familiar with it; more than maybe any other on this list, it has proven to have a lasting popularity, and has been covered by everyone from Elvis Presley to Johnny Cash. We chose this Jim Reeves version as we think it incorporates the more modern (eg. mid century) style we like with the classic tune, beautifully.

5. My Wild Irish Rose

And finally, another Irish folk ballad, here sung by the charming Connie Francis.

Have a safe and happy St.Patrick’s Day!

 

Cheque, please!

Our director (and production designer) Emily Dix quickly walks you through the process for making a faux cheque for theatre.

Till Next We Trod The Boards

I get a kick out of little details in things, which is why I often spend too much time on small prop details that likely won’t be noticed by anyone but myself. Today’s example? The certified cheque prop needed for Bygone Theatre’s upcoming production of His Girl Friday.

Really, it’s a pretty simple one, and since we’re seeing the cheque before it’s cashed, I’m not going to the trouble of embossing it, I did however want something from around the right date, and double-sided.

Since this show will be on a real stage, and not something that requires the same accuracy as was needed for shows like Rope, which practically happened in the audience’s lap, I just searched for 1930s or 1940s certified cheques and settled on one from 1933;

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I found this through a memorabilia site – it works great as it doesn’t have a big distracting…

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His Girl Friday Costume Designs: Finding Vintage Fabric

As any of you who have seen one of our past shows knows, I care a lot about having costumes that are as authentic looking as possible. I’ve done past posts on how to fake a vintage style with more recent clothes or patterns, and on what types of fabric were common to a certain era – but where do you go to find that fabric? As I’ve been scouring the web looking for answers to that very question, I thought I’d share my best finds here.

Reproduction Fabrics

Don’t be dissuaded by their dated looking website, reproductionfabrics.com is an amazing resource if you’re looking for vintage or antique styled patterned fabric. From the late 1700s through to the 1950s, they have a selection of fabric that covers nearly every style and colour, and for very reasonable prices. Some are actual reproductions of old patterns and some appear to be “in the style of”, either way, this should be one of your first stops if you need vintage, patterned, fabric.

American Folk and Fabric

Another good source for reproduction designs in americanfolkandfabric.com. I found they had “frillier” fabrics than Reproduction Fabrics – lots of florals in pink, that sort of thing – so depending on what you’re looking for this could be perfect, or may miss the boat.

Antique Fabric

Depending on the project, you may prefer actual vintage or antique fabric to a reproduction. In this case, you’re likely going to find smaller amounts and a higher price, and remember, the condition won’t compare to what you get from a reproduction. While for costumes I’d always opt for a modern-made fabric, I certainly see the appeal of the real thing. If you’re looking for variety, check out antiquefabric.com. Well indexed and with a wide-variety of fabrics from periods ranging from the 1800 through to the 1960s, you’re very likely to find something you’ll want. Sadly, most of the pieces I found drool-worthy were not big enough to make what I’d like. But if you want some authentic pillows or accessories, even a blouse that takes only a yard or two, this is your spot.

Spoonflower

If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, you can try creating your own design and printing it through spoonflower.com. This site allows you to upload designs that you can print for yourself on a number of types of fabric (plus wallpaper and wrapping paper), and has the additional option of allowing you to sell your designs to others through the site (you get a commission). Try searching through what others have made, or upload your own!

Most quilting sites also offer a selection of vintage & antique styles, though I’ve found it isn’t necessarily as accurate as some of these other sites. But if you know what you’re looking for and have a particular style in mind, Equilter and Hancocks-Paducah can be great resources.

Happy searching!

-E.

Top 10 Jazzy Halloween Songs

Till Next We Trod The Boards

Part 2 of my Top 10 Halloween songs, this list features some fabulous jazz numbers, great for you guys and ghouls who like hosting a classy Halloween shindig.

I Put a Spell On You (Because You’re Mine)
There have been a lot of renditions of this one, but I don’t think any can top Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.

2. That Old Black Magic
Another classic that has been done in about a dozen arrangements, from beautiful ballad to upbeat swing. Sammy Davis Jr. did one of my favourite versions, though Judy Garland would be a close second.

3. Skeleton in the Closet
Who doesn’t love Louis Armstrong? This number is from the film Pennies From Heaven.

4.The Boogie Man (A Jazzy Halloween)
Admittedly, this has a bit of a creepy stalker feel to it, but maybe that just adds to its charm..? “Bad little girls” better watch out for this…

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Top 10 Retro Halloween Dance Songs

Till Next We Trod The Boards

I started to make a simple “top 10” list for my favourite Halloween songs and it grew so quickly I decided to split it up. Here are my top 10 (in no particular order), 1950s/60s dance songs that are sure to make your retro Halloween bash a smash hit.

1.Sinister Stomp
Including The Monster Mash would be too easy, but we can’t have a list like this and not feature something from Bobby Pickett, so enjoy this lesser-known hit.

2. The Mummy’s Bracelet
Gotta love that bass line. Check it.

3. The Transylvanian Twist
Can’t have a retro dance party without the Twist!

4. She’s My Witch
This groovy, bluesy number is sure to be a hit later in the evening.

5. Graveyard Cha Cha
If you are looking for something to dance to I don’t think you can beat this – “now shut up and get back in your…

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Toronto’s Top 10 Lost Vaudeville Theatres

In planning for Vaudeville Revue we’ve learned a lot about Toronto’s former Vaudeville theatres that have disappeared over the years. Whether they were converted into something for a new use or demolished altogether, the are very few Vaudeville palaces still standing in our city today.

Here’s a look at some of the greats that have been lost over the past century.

1. Shea’s Hippodrome

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Shea’s Hippodrome – 440 Bay St., Toronto

When Shea’s Hippodrome opened in 1914 it was Vaudeville theatre in Canada was was quickly deemed one of the top 4 in North America. Sadly, this colossal beauty had a short life;  the Hippodrome was demolished in 1957. For an interesting story about its very unique and very expensive Wurlitzer Organ, check this out.


2. The Standard (The Strand, The Victory, Victory Burlesque)

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The Standard – Corner of Spadina & Dundas, Toronto

The Standard opened in 1921 as a Yiddish theatre and remained a centre of Toronto’s Jewish community until it was converted to a cinema in 1934 and renamed The Strand. In 1941 it was rebranded again, this time as The Victory, part of the Twentieth Century Theatre chain. In 1961 it became the Victory Burlesque, one of only 3 burlesque houses in the city. While the building still remains, the theatre closed its doors permanently in 1975.

3. Shea’s Victoria

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Shea’s Victoria – 83 Victoria St., Toronto

 

The Shea Brothers opened their second theatre, Shea’s Victoria, on the corner of Richmond and Victoria in 1910. This 1800 seat theatre included a projector so that films could be screened in addition to live theatre performances.

4. The Uptown

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The Uptown Theatre – Corner of Yonge & Bloor

Loew’s Uptown Theatre opened in 1920, a 3000 seat sister theatre to The Pantages (currently the Ed Mirvish Theatre). This one as well was created for both cinema and Vaudeville. In 2001, new regulations required the theatre to become wheelchair accessible, something that would have cost about $700 000. Despite community outcries, the theatre was demolished in 2003. Sadly, the ill-advised removal of a structural beam lead to its accidental collapse and resulted in the death of a 27 year old man.

5. The Belsize (Regent, Crest)

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The Belsize – 551 Mount Pleasant Road, Toronto

The Belsize Theatre opened in 1927, another venue for theatre and film. Unlike many on this list, The Belsize didn’t turn from live theatre to film, but the other way around. In the 1950s the only theatre of note showing live theatre was The Royal Alexandra (who showed primarily American shows and tours) and many felt that a place was needed to showcase Canadian theatre. In 1953 the venue ceased showing films and was renovated and reopened as The Crest, a live theatre venue. In 1971 films began showing again and in 1988 it was again renovated and reopened, this time as The Regent, a movie theatre that still stands today.

6. The Runneymede

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The Runnymede – 2225 Bloor St. West, Toronto

The Runnymede Theatre opened in 1927 as an “atmospheric Vaudeville”house, the first of its kind in Toronto. The venue was meant to make you feel as though you were transported to somewhere magical and exotic; the ceiling was painted blue and bulbs were lit up like stars, silver and blue lights were projected to give the feeling of clouds. By 1999, the theatre was no longer profitable, even as a 2-screen cinema. The building was purchased by a Chapters Bookstore, and in the conversion they kept and maintained much of the interior. Today, it is the location of a Shoppers Drug Mart, and while it still features much of the original trim and interior facade, there’s something very sad looking about its current appearance.

7. Capitol Theatre

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The Capitol Theatre – 2492 Yonge St., Toronto

The Capitol opened in 1918 and showed Vaudeville acts and silent films. By 1933, the theatre was converted to show only films. The theatre closed its doors in 1998 and remained empty for several years, before finally being purchased, undergoing major renovations and reopening as The Capitol Event Theatre. While the seats were removed and a bar installed, much of the original ornate interior remains, much like it does at the Runnymede.

8. Academy Theatre

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The Academy – 1286 Bloor St. W, Toronto

The Academy opened in 1914, a smaller venue than most on the list with only 410 seats. It’s not known when exactly the theatre stopped showing Vaudeville acts, or when it stopped operating as a cinema, but it is likely to have occurred sometime after the 1960s. The venue still stands, though has not operated as a theatre in years.

9. Variety (Arcadian) Theatre

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The Arcadian (formerly Variety) Theatre – 8-10 Queen St. East

I have significantly less information on this theatre, but it housed in a building built in the late 1880s, and was likely built before the 1920s. In the late 1920s its name was changed to The Arcadian, and it seems that by the 30s it was a cinema and no longer live venue. The theatre closed in 1954 and for some time had a retail show that used the old sign. However, it has since been demolished.

10. Madison Theatre (The Midtown, The Capri, The Eden, Bloor Cinema, Hot Docs Cinema)

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The Madison Theatre – 506 Bloor St. W, Toronto

The Madison has had more renos and new names than most on this list. It originally opened in 1913, an early Picture Palace that also featured Vaudeville acts. In 1940 it was demolished and rebuilt as The Midtown, a cinema; all that remained of the original building were the two side walls. Movie attendance declined in the second half of the 20th century, and in the 1960s it was under the new management of the Famous Players chain and renamed the Capri. In 1973 it was again re-branded, this time as The Eden, and the theatre switched from playing mostly double-bills to a heavily censored “adult”films. Come 1979, Famous Players closed The Eden and re-opened it as The Bloor Cinema, now offering first-run, family-friendly entertainment. Soon the theatre introduced memberships and classic theatre runs, and eventually became a part of the Festival Theatre circuit. In the late 2000s the theatre had a bit of an uncertain future (read more here), but eventually it was bought, renovated, and re-opened as what it stands as today; The Hot Docs Cinema.

Think we missed some important former Vaudeville theatres? Tweet us your suggestions; @BygoneTheatre #VaudevilleRevue

Want to learn more about Toronto’s theatre history? Check out this amazing blog, where I sourced a lot of our material; Historic Toronto.

We may not have a Vaudeville house to perform in, but we’ll have historic acts on our stage and artifacts and more history like this in our lobby; join us for Vaudeville Revue, June 22-24th, Alumnae Theatre. Tickets on sale now.

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Vaudeville Revue – June 22-24, 2016

Mid Century Luggage Tags

One of the necessary set pieces for Wait Until Dark is a suitcase with travel stickers, and so I’ve been scouring the internet for some of my favourite mid-century designs.

It’s really unfortunate that these are no longer used by hotels and airways, because some of them were really beautifully designed, and who wouldn’t love a bag covered in them? Personally, I might print off a second set for myself and add them to my own luggage.

-E.

Retro Christmas Countdown – Xmas in the 20th Century

While Christmas dates back hundreds of years before, it was the start of the 20th century that saw the turn towards the lavish and very commercial holiday that we all know today. Here’s a very brief history of Christmas traditions from the last century.

1900s

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The first Christmas card was created in 1843 by John Horsley, and by the turn of the century the Victorian’s love of sentimental greetings had made this a popular tradition.

The Victorian styles of decorating carried into the start of the 20th century, with gilded nuts, candles and paper ornaments adorning trees.

This decade also saw the creation of what was to become one of the most popular children’s toys of the century; the Teddy Bear. Named after President Roosevelt, the charming story of the origin of this toy and its name can be read here.

1910s

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As Christmas rapidly became a highly commercialized holiday, more and more companies used it as a means of selling their products, and the image of Santa Claus began to morph into the one we are familiar with today. It was in the 1910s that Santa’s now unmistakable look, with red suit and pants trimmed in white fur, matching cap and long white beard, began to become the norm.

While a legend has grown that claims Coca Cola invented the modern-day image of Santa, that is not quite the case. Prior to the famous Coca Cola Santa (who was created in 1931), the jolly elf had been portrayed as anything from tall and lanky to a munchkin-sized man. Norman Rockwell had painted a Santa who is strikingly similar to the 30s Coke version all the way back in 1911, however it wasn’t until Coke began regularly producing consistent looking Christmas ads that the current version of St. Nick really began to stick.

For an interesting pictorial history of Santa, check out this link.

1920s

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By the 1920s the upper class had traded-in their candles for electric Christmas lights, and trees were as lavish and daring as the fashions of the decades.

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With the rising popularity of the wireless (radio), the 1920s also saw the first Christmas radio broadcast when, in 1922, Arthur Burrow presented “The Truth About Father Christmas”.

1930s

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Rockefeller Centre, 1931

In the midst of the Great Depression few had money to spend on food and clothing, let alone Christmas gifts and decorations. Still, the tradition of putting up a tree hung on, with many families owning decorations they had purchased in the more prosperous 1920s. Homemade ornaments also adorned the tree, made out of things like the foil paper saved from cigarette packs. As previously mentioned, Coca Cola started to advertise with their own version of Santa, and upbeat Christmas songs were enjoyed on the radio. Advertisements still bombarded shoppers with ideas for the perfect Christmas gift, only their tactics had changed; a focus on the practical and sometimes financing options were promoted.

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The popular character Rudolph, everyone’s favourite red-nosed reindeer, was created in 1939 by Montgomery Ward. Although it wasn’t until a decade later when Gene Autry released the song that we’ve all learned as kids.

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1940s

The 1940s saw the Second World War, and with that came rations and a reminder that the war effort should be supported above all else. Sales in non-necessities like Christmas lights dropped dramatically as many companies changed their focus to assist in the war effort. War bonds were promoted as a perfect gift for any family member or friend, and Santa himself switched his classic red & white outfit to don army duds and support the cause.

With many families missing fathers, brothers and sons overseas, Christmas could have been a bittersweet time. However, back home the masses were reminded to keep their spirits up while fighting the good fight, so many Christmas celebrations resumed some of the splendour they had seen before the Depression.

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1950s

The post-war boom made the Christmas of the 1950s one of the biggest and gaudiest yet. The Baby Boom meant there were lots of families with youngsters, and so the toy market was buzzing. Wide-spread prosperity meant most were lucky enough to be able to afford Christmas celebrations, and women’s magazines, eager to encourage them to return to the home, now that the war was over, pushed for the ideal Christmas season, full of elaborate recipes and decor.

Television was also becoming popular and with it came a host of Christmas specials. Stars like Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby recorded Christmas songs and popular shows like I Love Lucy recorded special Christmas episodes.

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1960s

By the 1960s, the fads of the 50s were firmly cemented; every toy imaginable was available on the market and they were advertised directly to children in between the cartoons they watched on tv. The Christmas shows we still see today – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Frosty the Snowman – first appeared on the airwaves and decorations were more colourful and outlandish than ever before.

There was significant variety now as well. Christmas trees could be anything from your traditional green pine, to the popular aluminum trees that came in silver, aqua and even pink! And don’t forget the fake snow! The concept of “Kitschmas” was truly born in the 1960s.

What’s your favourite Christmas decade? Tweet your replies to @BygoneTheatre #RetroXmas 

-E.