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John C. Lindsay.

Erin (ON), Boston Mills Press, c1983.
176pp, cloth, $35.00.
ISBN 0-919822-53-3.

Grades 12 and up.
Reviewed by Mary Fallis.

Volume 12 Number 5
1984 September

Here we have a combination of coffee table book and reference source about the buildings, the "movie palaces," built originally for silent pictures when they played along with vaudeville acts. It is the buildings which were large and lavish that are the subject of the work, not the development of the moving picture film, which would affect the eventual role of the moving-picture theatre.

A part of the culture of the twentieth century, the building of large, lavish theatres began quite early. By 1910 there were opera houses all across the country, among them the Royal Alex (Toronto) and the Grand (London, Ont.) which are still in operation today. All the centres small and large had fine big theatres for the presentation of vaudeville and film programs. The atmospheric theatres with stars and clouds moving across their ceilings and many other spectacular effects have vanished now except for two or three in the United States that are National Historic Landmarks, and the Orpheum in Vancouver, which narrowly escaped remodelling to become an outstanding concert hall.

The text is a well-written chronological account. It is full of interesting information, such as seating capacities; some very amusing anecdotes about mishaps: organs and organists suspended in mid-air Travel when lifts misbehaved, or stars and clouds left drifting across the ceiling all night (thus the title); remarkable themes carried out for effect, this theatre a winter garden, another one a baronial hall; and the personalities who built the theatres and ran the chains.

The pictures are interesting; some in colour show magnificent stages, ceilings, entrance stairways. There are also architect's sketches of elaborate building plans.

It is a Canadian study, but it also reports on corresponding theatre construction and operation in the United States, particularly in New York, which had strong links with the Canadian moving-picture theatres especially those in Toronto. The operation of the American chains would restrict the Canadian theatres both in their programs and their financial returns.

It is really a specialty book to supplement one's study of the development of film and of the popular culture of the first half of the twentieth century.

Mary Fallis, Prince George, BC.
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