Atlanta World Premieres
Several movies have had a world premiere in Atlanta. We will take a look today. Pictures are from the ” Special Collections and Archives,Georgia State University Library”. Information about the films is from the Internet Movie Database. This is an encore presentation.
As some of you may know, “Gone With The Wind had it’s world premiere at the Lowes Grand Theater on December 15, 1939. The Lowes Grand site is the current location of the Georgia Pacific building. There is a vacant lot next door, on top of some MARTA paraphernalia. This lot was the site of the Paramount Theater, another movie palace that did not survive.
The GWTW premiere was a big deal. Ten year old Martin Luther King Jr. sang with his church choir. Clark Gable requested a private meeting with Margaret Mitchell, who became the envy of every woman in America. When Mr. Gable checked out of his hotel, a lady was going to be given his room. The clerk asked for a minute to change the sheets on the bed, and the lady said, no, I want to sleep on the same sheets as him.
It was the golden age of movies, and the next year Atlanta hosted the first showing of “Who Killed Aunt Maggie”. The premiere was at the Rialto, on October 24, 1940. The review at IMDB said it was an enjoyable mystery, even if it was a cliche fest. It is not often seen today.
In 1946, “Song Of The South” had it’s premiere at the Fox Theater. SOTS is a controversial item these days. It was based on the Uncle Remus stories, which were written down by Joel Chandler Harris. For those who don’t know, these stories were told by the rural black people that Mr. Harris knew when he was growing up near Eatonton GA. As Wikipedia tells the tale “Controversy surrounding his southern plantation themes, narrative structure, collection of African-American folklore, use of dialect, and Uncle Remus character, however, has denigrated the significance of Harris’ work”. In other words, Brer Rabbit is not politically correct.
The reviews at IMDB tell a different tale. To them, SOTS is a happy children’s movie. The Disney company seems to wish it would go away and be forgotten. Copies are tough to come by these days. PG would say to see it for yourself and make up your own mind, but Disney won’t let you.
The female lead in SOTS was Ruth Warrick. Miss Warrick was a versatile talent. Her first movie role was in “Citizen Kane”, as Kane’s first wife. She was in many movies, before moving to television. She was perhaps best known as Phoebe Tyler, in the soap opera “All My Children”. Wikipedia tells a story about her, that is ironic for the female lead of “Song Of The South”
“In July 2000, she refused to accept a lifetime achievement award from the South Carolina Arts Commission because she was offended by legislators’ decision to move the Confederate flag from the state Capitol dome to another spot on the grounds in response to a boycott of the state by flag opponents. A lifelong supporter of African-American rights, she felt the flag should be removed completely, and commented, “In my view, this was no compromise. It was a deliberate affront to the African-Americans, who see it as a sign of oppression and hate.”
In 1949, the Paramount had the first screening of “The Gal Who Took The West”. The female lead was Yvonne De Carlo, who later achieved immortality as Lily Munster. In November 1951, the spotlights returned to Lowes Grand for “Quo Vadis”.
The last film in the GSU picture collection is “The Last Rebel”. This western had it’s premiere at the Rialto, May 27, 1958. The movie was a return to Atlanta glory for Olivia De Havilland. The film is the story of a man, whose wife dies in a fire during the war between the states. PG questions the use of the Stars and Bars on the marquee.
In 1974, Ringo Starr produced and acted in “Son of Dracula”. The movie had it’s world premiere at the Cherokee Plaza Theater. Cherokee Plaza is a shopping center on Peachtree Road, just east of the Atlanta city limits. The theater was torn down during a renovation, and the space is currently the produce department at Krogers.
A local radio station hired a band to play in the parking lot at the premiere. At some point, a long limousine pulled up to a stage, and Ringo Starr and Harry Nillson got out. Both were wearing sunglasses, even though it was after dark. Ringo got on the stage, waved a wand at the crowd, and said “I am turning you into frogs”. He went inside to see the movie, the crowd went home, and the movie was mercifully forgotten.
In 1981, PG went to a supper in an apartment building (now a vacant lot) across from First Baptist Church on Peachtree Street. There was a commotion down the street at the Fox, and PG went to see what it was. “Sharkey’s Machine” had it’s World Premiere that night.