Photo of the day: BOGEY AND ME at THE UNITED PALACE “CASABLANCA” RE-PREMIERE – ‘Mondays on Memory Lane’ takes us to a grande gala evening of tuxedos and gowns as the revitalized United Movie Palace once known at the Loew’s 175th Street Movie Palace, re-premiered the all time film classic “Casablanca” starring Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. Having once spent a magical evening alone with Ingrid Bergman in 1972, the film also has an extra special place in my heart.
The Palace originally opened in 1930 as the Loew’s 175th Street Theater, presenting vaudeville and “talking pictures.” With its spectacular Thomas Lamb design, it was the last of the five Wonder Theatres to be built. In 1969, when many of the city’s grand movie theatres had been demolished or turned into multiplexes, the Palace was purchased, and preserved in magnificent style, by Reverend Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter (Rev. Ike) for his church. Rev. Ike paid big money to have European craftsman restore the hand carved gold detail work throughout the theater declaring: “We are all created in God’s image, therefore each of us is god-like. Therefore you should be made to feel like a god when you enter this palace.” (You do, thank you Rev. Ike!)
United Palace Loew’s lobby
Since Reverend Ike’s death in 2009, the United Palace has been led by his son, Xavier, a life-long musician and minister currently working with the Rhythm Arts Alliance in Southern California, whose dream has been to create a cultural center uptown. Toward this end, he has organized UPCA as a secular non-profit that has a long-term licensing agreement to use the theater and rehearsal and classroom space.
Loew’s Palace balcony
The theater is Manhattan’s third-largest; portable partitions enable its use for audiences ranging from a few hundred to its full capacity. It has hosted symphony concerts, been used in films, videos and TV shows like “Smash”.
United Palace Loew’s theater
What was expected to be an event that would just draw a couple of hundred people through their web site and friends on twitter and Facebook, wound up drawing an audience of 1,100 people! (I was made aware of it by my friend Carolyn Blackbourn). Admission was $15 but those appearing in formal gowns and tuxedos were given free admission but could still make donations to the theater in form of raffles (I won a poster!). The audience was polled by a show of hands, how many were visiting this theater for the first time – 75% of the hands went up! How many had never seen “Casablanca” in a movie theater before – 50% of the hands went up! The audience gasped with the excitement knowing we were all sharing this wonderful experience of “a first” together, that is the magic of film- the shared experience in the dark.
Mike Fitelson and Lou Lumenick
We were treated to live music performances by the SONGS chamber Orchestra and serenaded with “As Time Goes By” by Tim McAfee Lewis. Executive director of ‘the Palace’ handsome Mike Fitelson welcomed us with a wonderful speech of his goals for this architectural treasure. This was followed by the world premier of hip hop artist GPK’s music video “Bouger” which happens to have a ‘Casablanca’ theme. “Casablanca” was introduced by New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick, declaring it his favorite film of all time. Then came that magic moment when the lights are dimmed, the dark screen illuminated with the Warner Brothers logo and the magic began. The film is perfection. Bogey and Bergman are perfection, Peter Lore and Paul Henreid are perfection, the script and editing are perfection. It’s truly is the golden age of 1942 Hollywood.
Loew’s Palace mural
The joy of classic lines like: “Play it! ” (no Bogey does not say ‘again Sam’, Woody Allen did).
Captain Renault: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! [a croupier hands Renault a pile of money] Croupier: Your winnings, sir. Captain Renault: Oh, thank you very much.
Rick: We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night. Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you. Rick: And you never will. But I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.
Rick: Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
And I hope that this is also the beginning of a beautiful friendship with the many of you who will check out The United Palace web site (below) and visit this spectacular theater for future events.
“Here’s looking at you kid.” Bogey & Bergman