November 12, 2012
It’s June 1935 and Bride of Frankenstein is coming to the Fantasy Theater on Rock Park Avenue in Rockville Center, Long Island.
Zooming in on the marquee, a scalloped banner promises cool, comfortable refrigeration to beat the summer heat. Currently playing, a mismatched double-bill has Cardinal Richelieu, a George Arliss costumer, backed with the rough and tumble Hold ‘Em Yale with Buster Crabbe. Perhaps the only thing these two films had in common was a young Cesar Romero in supporting roles. Frankenstein connections: Cardinal Richelieu was directed by Rowland V. Lee who would go on to produce and direct the next Frankenstein film, 1939’s Son of Frankenstein, and Lon Chaney Jr., in a tiny bit part as a football player in Hold ‘Em Yale would, of course, replace Karloff as The Monster in 1942 and go on to share screen time as The Wolf Man opposite The Monster in four Monster Rallies.
Squinting is required to read the front of the marquee: Starts Fri June 21 (or the 28th?)… 3 Days Only… Boris Karloff in Bride of Frankenstein. Supporting feature announced is Age of Indiscretion, a soaper starring Paul Lukas. Easier to see is the spectacular poster high up on the side wall overlooking the parking lot. The beautiful art looked terrific in color…
From today’s perspective, three days doesn’t sound like much of a run, but remember, movies were a national pastime back then. Programs would typically include two features, comedy and musical shorts, a cartoon and newsreels. With no TV to compete with, many theaters changed their offerings twice a week to keep up with the demand. Shows played morning, noon and late into the evening, and theaters were huge. On its Friday through Sunday run, Bride of Frankenstein could have easily filled most of the Fantasy’s 1600 seats for every performance.
Built in 1929, the Fantasy survives to this day, multiplexed and operating as the AMC Loews Fantasy 5. The area is built up, the theater is squeezed between buildings and its elaborate Moorish façade has long since disappeared under plain stucco.
Photo source: Fritz Frising/Headless Hearseman Archives. With thanks to Fritz Frising who was manager at the Fantasy sixty years after this photo was taken.