Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Silent Greta Garbo Movie @ the Orpheum Theatre

Tonight Uwe and I saw a silent Greta Garbo movie at the Orpheum Theatre on Broadway, in downtown LA. It's part of the annual "Last Remaining Seats" film screenings presented by the Los Angeles Conservancy. This year being their 21st annual production.

LA Conservancy
The LA Conservancy shows classic movies in historical theaters in and around Los Angeles. The tickets are general admission (no reserved seats) and are $18 for advance tickets, or $20 at the door (if not sold out), available through LA Conservancy. The show begins At 8 P.M. and doors open At 7 P.M. For more info call (213) 430-4219 or visit

The Movie
This 1926 silent, black and white movie called Flesh and the Devil (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 113 minutes) starring Greta Garbo and John Gilbert, ignited the silent screen in this melodrama about a deadly love triangle involving boyhood friends who are turned against each other when they both fall for seductress Garbo. Gilbert’s off-screen romance with Garbo helped create some of the steamiest love scenes Jazz Age audiences had ever witnessed. Directed by Clarence Brown; co-starring Lars Hansen.
The Real Story is even Better than the Movie
So the story goes, Greta Garbo and John Gilbert met, fell in love and had a passionate affair during the production of the movie. Before the movie was released, the couple had moved in together, and were engaged to be married. Rumor has it that Greta Garbo left John Gilbert standing at the altar. She never married and it's been said that she was a lesbian who never got over a female drama school student she had an affair with. As for John Gilbert, his career ended with the invention of the talkies. (Although Greta Garbo remained loyal to him and had him hired for parts in movies she starred in.) Greta Garbo became a recluse in New York City, and when she died, she left everything to her niece.
A Live Orchestra
Since the movie had no sound, it was accompanied by the Robert Israel Orchestra.
A Short Film before the Movie
The movie was also preceded by a screening of a 1920s short (but felt extremely long) film "Moonland" with live organ accompaniment.
The History of the Los Angeles Orpheum Theatre
The Los Angeles Orpheum Theatre- is the last of the four Orpheum theatres built in LA. Situated at 842 South Broadway, downtown Los Angeles, it is near the southern end of Los Angeles' Historic Core theatre district. Built in 1926 for Vaudeville, at a then staggering cost of $2 million dollars, it was the most elaborate vaudeville house ever constructed in southern California. The interior style is French Renaissance.
The Orpheum stage was built to accommodate the largest vaudeville acts, with the most modern lighting and stage riggings of its era. There are six floors of dressing rooms serviced by the backstage elevator. Facilities were included to house circus animals which over the years included elephants, tigers, and lions. It was designed by G. Albert Lansburgh of San Francisco.
The Orpheum has played host to some of the most venerable names in show business – from burlesque queen Sally Rand, a young Judy Garland (as Francis Gumm) and comedian Jack Benny, to jazz greats like Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington. The 1960s brought a completely new dimension to the theater – "rock and roll" – with performers such as Little Richard, Aretha Franklin and Little Stevie Wonder. It closed briefly during the Great Depression.
In 2001 the Orpheum underwent a multi-million dollar rehabilitation under the supervision of owner Steve Needleman. The venue currently is a rental facility for special events and location filming. It's also the location for the filming of the TV show "American Idol".
The LA Orpheum Theatre - Then
The LA Orpheum Theatre - Now

The Orpheum’s spacious orchestra, loge, balcony, and side boxes offer newly-installed upholstered seats and comfortable accommodation for over 2,000 people.The first five rows of seats can be removed to create extra space for camera crews, a dance floor and a variety of other needs.The main floor and balcony are wheelchair accessible.

The stage, which measures 30’ (D) x 50’ (W), is completely upgraded with all new rigging and electrical, making the facility more user-friendly to promoters, film companies and event producers. An eight-foot stage extension is available.

Orchestra Pit & Organ
The orchestra pit accommodates up to 16 musicians.
The Orpheum is home to the Mighty Wurlitzer, the last of the great theater organs remaining on Broadway. It is one of only three original theater organs still existing in Southern California theaters. This beautiful instrument is moveable to either side of the orchestra pit, or can be stored backstage.
It was installed at the Orpheum in 1928. This 13-rank, three-manual Wurlitzer organ has metal and wood pipes than can simulate more than 1,400 orchestral sounds. Now restored to working order, it is lovingly cared for by the Los Angeles Theater Organ Society.

The mezzanine, which overlooks the theater’s lobby, is a wonderful, out-of-the-way space that lends itself well to silent auctions, event overflows, exhibition space and other uses. This area accommodates up to 125 people.Lobby
The lobby’s white marble walls are beautifully restored and new plush carpeting replicating the lavish pattern of the original has been installed. This lovely space accommodates up to 300 people for cocktail parties, hors d’oeuvres, bar setups, coffee & dessert bars and much more.
The Orpheum’s handsome wood-paneled lounge can handle up to 175 people. The room’s decorative fireplace adds an inviting touch. A separate private cocktail lounge and food preparation room are conveniently located for parties and other events.
This would be a cool place for a bar. There was even a sign which said "Tavern" but it wasn't open tonight. It's located on the floor beneath the lobby.

The evening's sponsor was Hugh Hefner And yes, we saw Hugh Hefner walk in with his 3 girlfriends and entourage. (This is a photo of them from another night.)

He looked good from the front, wearing a black suit, but later when we saw him walking around with his two bodyguards, from the back we saw the old man shuffle. He's getting up there in age.

Uwe didn't know who the women were with him, and I had to explain that they are his 3 girlfriends. Sad that I know, but yes, while channel surfing I came across their reality TV show "The Girl's Next Door."
After the movie we went next door to the Broadway Bar for a drink.

We also have tickets to see the original 1932 Scarface gangster movie produced by Howard Hughes (set in 1920's Chicago) showing at the Alex Theatre in Glendale on June 27, 2007. They'll also have have a swing band that night performing 1930's music. Looking forward to it.

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