The King of Jazz Returns

The musical was a popular genre in the very early days of talkies, but the moviegoing public quickly (if briefly) lost interest in singing pictures.

One movie that fell victim to that disinterest was King of Jazz (1930), a lavish musical-comedy revue that featured Paul Whiteman‘s orchestra delivering an assortment of musical numbers with comedic sketches interspersed throughout.

King of Jazz, made for Universal Pictures, was filmed entirely in an early, two-color version of Technicolor and featured actors and performers such as the Rhythm Boys (Bing Crosby, Al Rinker and Harry Barris, don’t you know), John Boles, Laura La Plante, Slim Summerville, Walter Brennan, jazz legends Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang, and the Russell Markert Dancers (who would soon become the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes).

King of Jazz was not a money-maker, and a revamped version released a few years later did no better, so it might well have fallen into obscurity and been forgotten, but over the decades, interest in the film increased. In 2013, the film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry, and in 2018, a spectacular restoration of the film was screened in a few locations across the country and around the world.

We were present for the restoration’s premiere in New York City, and it proved to be a terribly exciting event. The buzz in the theatre was palpable and the film, which had been beautifully restored, received cheers from the packed house throughout the screening.

We’re pleased to share the exciting news that Turner Classic Movies is airing this acclaimed restoration on Monday, March 4, at 8 p.m. ET. If you listen to Cladrite Radio with any regularity, this one’s right up your alley. We’re calling it a don’t-miss.

To give you an idea what to expect, here’s a clip from the film of a performance of George Gershwin‘s Rhapsody in Blue.

Times Square Tintypes: Roxy

In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles Samuel L. “Roxy” Rothafel, the impresario who was responsible for the legendary New York movie palace that bore his nickname.
Roxy also was one of the men behind Radio City Music Hall, a theatre he intended to be a live performance space but which quickly came to be used, for the next 47 years, as a grand and glorious movie palace. The Music Hall opened late in 1932, the year Skolsky’s book was published, which explains the fact that it isn’t mentioned in this profile.


He wanted a monument, so he built the Roxy Theatre and called it, with his usual simplicity, “The Cathedral of the Motion Picture.”

It is a living tribute to a great man. It oozes his personality. It is so great that it has even absorbed the man. He lives in his monument. Has an apartment adjacent to his business office on the sixth floor. The man—oh, yes, Samuel Lionel Rothafel. Everybody calls him what he calls his theater, Roxy.
He averages eighteen hours a day in the theater. When asked to make a speech on, “What I Do With My Leisure Time,” he was obliged to change the subject.
His favorite food is hamburger steak chopped very fine with onions. His favorite delicacy is hot dogs.
He has clothes in four places. At the theater, at home and at two golf clubs. Recently it took two men four weeks to make a complete inventory of his clothing.
In the motion picture industry his position is unique. He is the leader of presentations, the originator of the atmospheric prologue. Also, institutional movie houses, introducing staff uniforms and military ushers.
Has a habit of putting a final touch to a discussion by saying, “Applesauce. Bunk. Baloney.”
The first movie house he ever owned seated two hundred fifty people. The chairs were removable. Every time there was a big funeral there wasn’t any show. They needed the chairs.
Calls everybody by their first name or not at all.
His mascot is a black cat called “Lindy.” The cat walked in from the street the day Lindbergh hopped off for Paris. In has been there ever since.
He speaks with a lisp. Always has a sob in his throat. It’s a great radio voice. “Hello, everybody!”
His favorite eating place is a lunch wagon.
Every Thursday he spends the entire night rehearsing next week’s show. During rehearsals he is a fiery dynamo. Exhorting. Scolding. Unreasonable. Demanding the impossible and getting it. He always refers to his actors and stage crew as “My Children.”
In his apartment at the Roxy he has a valet, a chef and a butler.
His ushers are put through drills by a “Devil Dog” every morning.
His favorite exercise is handball. Is very proud of the fact that he plays well enough to beat Benny Leonard.
The orchestra pit is so large that Arthur Hopkins once remarked to him: “Don’t let the Shuberts see it or they’ll want to build a theatre there.

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Let us show you the Wonder City

Do you have holiday travel plans that are bringing you to New York City? If so, this 1930s pamphlet from a bus tour company, which comes courtesy of our pal Tim, will have you smiling and sobbing simultaneously (smiling at the charms of a cool bit of ephemera like this; crying at the prices cited compared to what you’ll be paying when you arrive).

Hi-res Hi-res

Speaking of traveling to NYC, we have an exciting new venture to share with you. As a duly licensed NYC tour guide, we’ve launched a walking tour operation called Avenues and Alleys. These privately booked tours are designed to broaden your horizons as a visitor to the Big Apples, showing you sites and sights you might not otherwise find on your own.

We’re especially excited about our Christmas Tour, which is now available for booking from Friday, Nov. 25 through Thursday, December 22. New York really is the Christmas Capitol of America (if not the world), and on this 90-minute stroll, we’ll show you the sights and share the stories that illustrate the major influence NYC has had on the way Christmas is celebrated here in the United States. You’ll see the classic NYC department stores where so many Christmas traditions were born (and whose windows continue to amaze and delight), including Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, and Saks Fifth Avenue; you’ll see Rockefeller Center with its iconic ice skating rink and breathtaking Christmas tree, not to mention Radio City Music Hall, home since 1933 to the Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes.

You’ll learn why it could be argued that ol’ Santa Claus was born in New York (and if not born, then raised to maturity), about the man who wrote A Visit from St. Nicholas (or did he?), and so much more. And along the way, you’ll enjoy the holiday atmosphere in the town that invented both hustle and bustle.

You can learn much more about us our website (which is also a NYC-centric blog), and we hope you’ll take a moment to “like” our page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. And given that we can use all the help we can get in spreading the word about our fledgling operation, please mention us to any friends and family who are NYC-bound for the holidays and beyond.

We’d love the chance to show you—and them—the town!