Sunday, March 09, 2008

Giving the Liberty Theatre Liberty

I strongly advise everyone to give John Clancy's blog post about the Liberty Theatre a read. Yes, John, the Liberty needs to be saved.

And a photograph of the Liberty is one of the 240 photographs in my book -- which, I am pleased to announce, can be preordered on Amazon. (The cover image will be forthcoming and the issue date is May, not March 14.)

Anyway, here is some of the caption copy I wrote on the Liberty:
The 79 performances of the Ziegfeld Follies of 1907 played in three theatres: the Jardin de Paris (part of Oscar Hammerstein I’s Olympia Theatre complex), the Liberty Theatre and the Grand Opera House, a now-forgotten West 23rd Street venue. Of these, only the Liberty’s fa├žade is still extent. Built in 1904, the Liberty hosted Cohan’s Little Johnny Jones (1904); a Shubert-produced, Ada Rehan-starring revival of The Taming of the Shrew (1905); George White’s Scandals of 1921, one of George Gershwin first shows; and Lady Be Good (1924), pairing George with his lyricist brother Ira Gershwin. But the Liberty, as pretty as it was, was hardly a distinguished house, and was converted to a movie theatre in the 1930s, which it remained for over 50 years. This photo shows it dark in the early 1920s, its marquee advertising silent films.
Of course, if we -- IF WE GET UP AND DO SOMETHING -- have a chance now, as John says, to make it a distinguished house.

The images are from the NYPL's collection. I love the one from the perspective of the stage door.

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