|THEN : Robinson's Musee Theatre, opened in December, 1890.|
|THEN : the dark arrow points to Robinson's Musee Theatre, on Yonge Street south of Richmond Street.|
|NOW : The modern office block on Yonge Street south of Richmond Street, where Robinson's Musee Theatre once stood.|
You can find a looped version of "Roundhay Garden Scene" online by clicking this link :
Louis Le Prince's "Roundhay Garden Scene"
The first films shown in Toronto were projected using an invention called a "Vitascope", which had been brought into the world by American inventor Thomas Edison - a man who is remembered for his brilliant work that was mostly inspired in the dark. The Vitascope was one of the first projection systems to be able to show moving pictures to a larger sized audience.
|THEN : An 1896 advertisement for Edison's "Vitascope" silent movie projector.|
|THEN : A young Mary Pickford, known as "the girl with the curls" and "America's Sweetheart", born in Toronto.|
|THEN : Mary Pickford and her husband Douglas Fairbanks on a visit to Toronto in the 1920s.|
|THEN : Mary Pickford and Toronto Mayor Ralph Day leaving Old City Hall in 1940.|
|THEN : Mary Pickford's birthplace on University Avenue in 1924. The house that she was born in is the two-storey building in the centre of the photograph.|
|THEN : Mary Pickford's boarded up birthplace about 1940. When she returned to Toronto for a visit, she spoke of turning it into a tea room to raise money for children, but the plan never developed.|
|NOW : The stretch of University Avenue, from Gerrard Street south to Elm Street, where the birthplace of Mary Pickford once stood. Now it is the site of Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.|
|NOW : This bust of Mary Pickford stands on a site near where her first home stood. It's located on the northeast corner of University Avenue and Elm Street.|
For a glimpse into some of the surviving film recordings of vaudeville, take a look at the following two links. Please note that the first 90 seconds or so of each clip is a rather redundant defintion of and introduction to vaudeville.
Part 1 : Historic Footage of Vaudeville Acts from 1898 to 1910
Part 2 : Historic Footage of Vaudeville Acts from 1898 to 1910
|THEN : The Colonial (Bay) Theatre in 1918, pictured in the centre of the photograph.|
|THEN : The Colonial (Bay) Theatre in 1923, showing the stonework that had been recycled off of another, demolished building.|
|THEN : The Bay Theatre in the 1960s just before it was demolished.|
|NOW : In this contemporary photograph, the Bay Theatre would be located on the site of the entrance to the Hudson's Bay Company, immediately to the left of the blue awning.|
TALKIES AT THE TIVOLI
Silent movies became more and more popular with general audiences, and the writing was on the wall for vaudeville performers. If there was one single day in Toronto on which the death knell was rung out for vaudeville in this city, then it was December 28, 1928. On midnight that night, over one-thousand Toronto movie goers went to see a special screening of a horror movie called "The Terror". What made "The Terror" special enough for audiences to come out on a cold winters night in 1928? It was the first talking movie to be shown in Toronto.
|THEN : Poster advertising "The Terror" at Toronto's Tivoli theatre. "It's All Talking From Start to Finish!" This is now thought to be a "lost movie", meaning that no copies are known to survive.|
Many credit "The Jazz Singer", starring Al Jolson, as the first real talking movie, and indeed it did debut before "The Terror". The American premiere of "The Jazz Singer" had taken place in New York City all the way back in October of 1927, over a year before "The Terror" came to Toronto. Despite the fact that "The Terror" was the second "talkie" turned out by Warner Brothers, we got it here in Toronto first, with "The Jazz Singer" coming a few weeks later, in the middle of January, 1929. As it happens, "The Terror" did star May McAvoy, Al Jolson's co-star from "The Jazz Singer".
Audiences were stunned and excited by the thought of a movie with sound. For the very first time, they could hear not only the voices of beloved - and formerly silent - movie stars, but they could also hear sound effects. This was an important point with a mysterious horror like "The Terror". Sound effects definitely added to the creepy atmosphere of the movie. Reviewers were spellbound. As one of them put it "`The Terror' will hold you spellbound from beginning to end. It's spooky, creepy, mystifying ... terrifying beyond belief." The concept of sound in movies was such a commercial cache for movie makers that they even read out the credits at the end of the movie.
Warner Brothers studios were so excited about the release of "The Jazz Singer" ~ with sound and all ~ that they produced a seven minute advertisement that was circulated through theatres around North America. This seven minute segment was essentially just an announcer talking about the miraculous invention of talkies, the Vitascope, and praising Al Jolson's theatrical abilities. The advertisement also contained clips of the New York City opening of "The Jazz Singer", along with some excerpts of the movie. Perhaps audiences were so thrilled by the invention of the talking movie that they didn't mind watching a seven-minute commerical.
Here is a link to seven-minute "`The Jazz Singer' Premier Vitaphone Promotion". Please note that near the end of the clip, Al Jolson does appear wearing black face make-up; I apologize for the lack of political sensitivity of movies produced in 1927.
"`The Jazz Singer' Premier Vitaphone Promotion"
At a time when many movie cinemas were charging an admission price of 25¢, the admission price to see "The Terror" was a startling 75¢. Of course, it cost a lot of money to convert a theatre from a house for old silent movies, into one equipped to show "talkies". New sound equipment had to be installed, and originally, only the largest of theatres could afford to make the switch. Of course, silent movies were still produced for several years and many actors were reluctant to go from silent films to new talking movies. Talking movies were the coming trend, though, and a week after "The Terror" hit Toronto, on January 5, 1929, the Uptown Theatre showed "Interference", which was Paramount Studios first talking movie.
Late 1928 and early 1929 was right at the end of a period of financial prosperity in the city. There was a boom on, and new construction downtown - Union Station, the Royal York Hotel, and the Canadian Imperial Bank building on King Street had all either just opened or were under construction. The groundwork was laid for the modern day skyscrapers in our downtown core. But at the end of 1929 came a shattering economic crash, and the start of the Great Depression. For those who could scrape together the cost of admission, talking movies provided a little bit of escape in a harrowing time.
The Tivoli Theatre, at the southwest corner of Richmond Street and Victoria Street, had opened in November of 1917, as Allen's Downtown Theatre. The name changed to the Tivoli in 1923. Housing about 1,500 seats and a single screen, the Tivoli was run by Famous Players. The last movie to be shown in the Tivoli was screened in 1964, and the building was sold off and then finally demolished in 1965. There is nothing at the site today to remind us of this great milestone in the history of Toronto's entertainment.
And whatever happened to "America's Sweetheart", Toronto's own Mary Pickford? After making hundreds of silent movies between 1909 and 1929, Pickford did star in a movie with sound. It was called "Coquette", and was 76-minutes long. It was a box office success, earning nearly $1.5-million, and winning Pickford an Oscar. That same year, Pickford appeared with her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, in a sound version of "The Taming of the Shrew". In 1933, Mary Pickford starred in a talking movie called "Secrets". It was the last movie that she ever made, and it was a commercial failure. After retiring from the screen, Pickford became reclusive, turned to alcoholism, and eventually died in May of 1979 of a cerebral hemorrhage, the same thing that had killed her father.
|THEN : Allen's Downtown Theatre, at Richmond and Victoria streets, in 1919. The name would eventually change to the Tivoli Theatre.|
|THEN : The Tivoli theatre at Richmond and Victoria streets in the 1940s. The Tivoli was where Toronto saw its first talking movie, in December of 1928.|
|THEN : The Tivoli theatre in the 1960s, just before its demolition.|
|NOW : The Cambridge Suites Hotel, at the southwest corner of Richmond Street West and Victoria Streets, stands on the site of the Tivoli theatre, the 1928 showcase of Toronto's first "talkie".|