Always Cool and Comfortable at the Pantages

“Always cool and comfortable,” claims this ad for the Pantages Theatre in July, 1928, and on this ridiculously hot night (it’s a staggering 86F in Toronto), sitting in a cool movie theatre sounds like a great idea.

As we recently examined, air conditioning was an early attraction in both movie palaces and neighbourhood theatres, and both its advertising and marquees often capitalized on the public’s desire to chill out.

Lady Be Good, based on theĀ  musical by George and Ira Gershwin, was directed by Richard Wallace, who spent years directing comedy shorts under Mack Sennett and Hal Roach.

Although the film was silent, this ad could be somewhat misleading to modern viewers with its claims of hearing “all the music” and seeing “all the romance that was the talk of Broadway.”

100% All Talking

Indeed, while the Pantages orchestra played along to Gershwin tunes like “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” and “It’s All The Same To Me,” talking pictures wouldn’t make their way into the Pantages until late April 29, 1929, with the premiere of William Wellman’s Chinatown Nights, starring Wallace Beery, Florence Vidor and Warner Oland.

An early gangster film, it was originally shot as a silent, with dialogue later over-dubbed. The Toronto Star was quick to pan the film, claiming the grandest Canadian theatre’s “first talkie has too much shooting,” and that “its moral tone is not high.”

“There is more death shooting in this picture than is some of the war films, and the realism of falling corpses is not lessened when you hear the shots.”

But we all know that’s hogwash, as the gangster genre was a popular attraction in early sound films, with the riccochet of bullets and tough-talkin’ wiseguys commanding the audience’s attention.

The Pantages, which opened in 1920, wasn’t the only Toronto movie palace to make that marvelous technological leap that week, as the neighbouring Loew’s Yonge St. was also decked out in full sound regalia, showing Joan Crawford and William Haines in The Duke Steps Out.

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