Wednesday, January 25, 2017

"A Night at Earl Carroll's"

We get to spend lots of time inside the Earl Carroll Theatre -- and get to see Mr. Carroll himself -- in the lighthearted romp "A Night at Earl Carroll's" (Paramount, 1940).  The famous neon sculpture on the theatre's facade of Beryl Wallace, Mr. Carroll's longtime companion, is used for the opening credits.

Another shot from the credit sequence. The plot is slim -- about a mobster trying to embarrass the mayor and show him who's more powerful. The mobster (Steve Kalkus) engineers a kidnapping of Mr. Carroll and the lead performers so there won't be a show and the mayor will be shown up in front of all his guests.

Kurt Neumann, the film's director, gets a great credit card. Stars include Ken Murray, Rose Hobart, J. Carrol Naish, Lela Moore and Forbes Murray. And, of course, Earl Carroll.

The great stage was used for dancing before the shows. Down in front there's sort of a private box on the left of the stairs -- in the film the mayor and his party are there. On the right of the stairs is the orchestra -- on a lift that we see used in the film.

Barney Nelson (Ken Murray) and Ramona Lisa (Rose Hobart) try to figure out how to thwart the mobster's plans -- and put on a show without Carroll and all the principal performers. Lots of delays while they figure out what to do.

And a show we get -- and it's a treat to see the wonders of the stage all demonstrated. The stage featured a 60' revolve with separately operated inner and outer sections. There was also a water curtain, the orchestra pit lift, a small circular lift downstage for a soloist to rise up on, and a revolving tower of four pianos stage right.  We even spend some time backstage.

Well, it's hard to see what's happening in this murky screenshot but we're stage right where the neon-lit column forming that side of the proscenium has revolved revealing a tower of four ladies each playing their own piano.

You can see it in action 29 minutes into the film on the low-res version that's on Vimeo.  The footage also appears in Mike Hume's three and a half minute 2017 video tour of the theatre "A Day at Earl Carroll's." It's on YouTube.

Immediately following the use of the "piano revolve,"  the outer ring of the revolving stage is cued, bringing a row of ladies on from stage right for the fan number. At the left note the vertical neon bands concealing the revolving tower.

The outer revolve in action as seen from the booth.

A lobby card for the film. Note the circular lift opening on that protrusion of the stage to the left of the stairs. And a bit of a rising mic showing above the floor level.

A poster for the film appearing with an article about the theatre on the website of Martin Turnbull.

The theatre, at 6230 Sunset Blvd., still retains many of its original deco features, especially in the lobby. See the Earl Carroll Theatre pages on the Los Angeles Theatres website for more about the building.

A low-res version of the film is on Vimeo.

On IMDb: "A Night at Earl Carroll's"

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