Thursday, October 04, 2012
Images of America: BOSTON’S DOWNTOWN MOVIE PALACES
Images of America
by Arthur Singer and Ron Goodman
Copyright © 2011 by Arthur Singer
Softbound, 612 pgs, $21.99
Review by Zvi A. Sesling
In his introduction to Boston’s Downtown Movie Palaces, Arthur Singer notes that the book is, “a ticket, a ticket through time to visit these places in their heyday.” And Singer
keeps the promise. Beginning in 1775 when Faneuil Hall was made into a theatre by the British forces led by Gen. John Burgoyne, the book provides prints, photographs and informative captions to carry readers a little known historical aspect of Boston. There are fires, the first theater with electric lights (under Thomas Edison’s supervision), the inventor of Vaudeville, and a thorough, fascinating history of Washington Street, then Boston’s Broadway, the Modern Theatre, the Orpheum, Loew’s State Theatre and Back Bay theatres, the Metropolitan, Keith Memorial and Paramount theatres. And while the history is an interesting step back in time, the photos are even more fun. So is the scurrying views of Brookline, Somerville, Dorchester, West Newton and other local theaters that were “rescued” and could now be listed as “survivors.” For those old enough to remember original theaters, knowing they are alive and doing well is a thrill.
And the sad demise of great old movie houses like the Saxon, Pilgrim, RKO Keith Memorial, and others. I can remember the Franklin, Morton and Oriental in Dorchester and Mattapan, all gone, though there was an attempt to revive the Oriental in Canton with it twinkling star and floating cloud ceiling. I am told it did not last either.
However, let me say that Arthur Singer and Ron Goodman have provided a great slice of nostalgia and a big chunk of history which is a captivating read. When it is coupled with photos of the past, result is successful and well worth having on one’s bookshelf.