August 15, 2010

The Bride of the Bronx

This unique movie poster for the Bronx’ Ritz Theatre is a superb example of classic playbill art and typography. The Yiddish script and the history of the film shown, the Polish drama On a heym (Without a Home), makes it a singularly valuable document. The two-color placard, 21 by 29 inches (approximately 53 X 74 centimeters), was obviously produced in very low numbers by a local typesetting and printing shop.

Without a Home was the last Yiddish feature made in Poland prior to the September 1939 Nazi invasion. Its themes of immigration, displacement and the threat of anti-Semitism foreshadowed the coming tragedy.

The Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association of America dates the poster to “circa 1940”, but we can assert it was 1939. June 18 and 19 fell, as announced on the poster, on a Sunday and Monday. Furthermore, several of the films listed were released early that year, well in time to be brought together for a June screening.

Of particular interest to us is the highly eccentric double-bill showing of James Whale’s dark fairy tale, Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Lambert Hillyer’s dreamlike, somewhat transgressive Dracula’s Daughter (1936). The “We Dare You To See This” tagline was first used by Universal in 1938 to promote the pairing of Frankenstein and Dracula, a distribution event so successful that studios began making horror films again after largely shutting out the genre in the late Thirties.

The Ritz Theatre was built at 1014 East 180th Street, between Bryant Avenue and Boston Road. It opened as a silent movie house in 1927, the very year that Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer brought “talkies” to American screens. Typical of neighborhood showplaces in the Thirties and Forties, the Ritz supplemented its film programs with raffles, bingo and cash drawings. It evolved into The Yiddish Art Theatre for some time before disappearing, razed, along with its once busy commercial neighborhood, for housing.

The Ritz marquee is one of many wonderful photos found on a Bronx nostalgia site.

1 comment:

Fang Shih-yu said...

Sez this first-time commentator, a marvelous site!

Do you plan to cover the '73 TV movie Frankenstein: The True Story anytime soon?