Archive of 41 photographs relating to silent film screenings at the California Theatre, 1919-1921

Los Angeles: California Theatre, 1919-1921. Archive of 41 vintage photographs of the elaborate stage sets and live performers which supported silent film screenings at the California Theatre in Los Angeles, taken during the theatre's first three years in operation, 1919-1921. 20 photographs with blindstamps crediting photographer Dick Stagg, and 14 with blindstamps crediting photographer J.C. Milligan.

Photographs housed in an album, with typed labels on the versos of the adjacent pages identifying the film, screening dates, performers, and musical numbers.

The first two photographs in the archive feature a day shot and a striking night shot of the theatre's beautifully elaborate facade, followed by a photograph of the "original installation” of the stage and grand staircase. The balance of the photographs, however, show theatre sets, usually with performers present, occasionally with the orchestra present, and always without the audience present, likely taken during rehearsals or after the completion of the set designs.

The earliest dated photographs in the archive, only two and a half weeks after the theatre’s opening on December 24, 1918, show two different sets for the screening of the 1918 film "Eye for an Eye." The last, and latest, photograph in the archive shows a parlor set with five costumed actors for the 1921 screening of the 1920 film "Billions." All in all, 29 films are represented in the archive.

Interestingly, many of the screening dates of the films represented in the archive coincide with—or date earlier than—the currently believed premiere dates of the films, some of which may have had their premiere at the California Theatre.

Fred Miller opened the California Theatre at 810 S. Main Street in downtown Los Angeles on December 24, 1918. The majestic Beaux-Arts cinema housed a capacity of 2,000 and was designed by architect Alex B. Rosenthal, who also designed the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara. In 1919 the theatre was bought by Goldwyn Pictures and in 1935 operated as Teatro California, often showing Spanish language films, until 1983, after which it operated as a grindhouse and pornographic theater. The theater closed in 1987 and was demolished in 1990.

Photographs: 8 x 10 inches. Very Good plus to Near Fine overall, with some faint toning, with one photograph with two vertical creases.

Album: 13.75 x 10.25 inches. Very Good plus.


[Book #160171]