Friday 27 December 2013

A Mary, a Monkey and a Mockingbird

Radio City Music Hall courtesy

John D. Rockefeller owned a piece of property in midtown Manhattan in the speakeasy belt.  He dreamed of bringing culture to New York City.  But how could he make it affordable?  In the end he built the world's largest indoor theatre which would house more than one million spectators.

Audience circa 1930's courtesy

Mr. Rockefeller partnered with the Radio Corporation of America back in 1932 to build a theatre.  He chose Donald Deskey to design the building.  Mr. Deskey focussed on an art deco design and a "Progress of Man" theme for the new theatre.  It would house:  eight lounges and smoking rooms, three mezzanines and a great stage.  Music would be played on a "Mighty Wurlitzer" pipe organ.  Twenty five thousand lights would illuminate the theatre.  The Great Stage, designed in the shape of a setting sun, would be enclosed by a shimmering gold curtain.  Its marquee would stretch one full city block.  It would be called Radio City Music Hall.

The theatre would be the site of over 700 film premiers including one for:  King Kong, Mary Poppins and To Kill a Mockingbird.  The latter starred Gregory Peck, a former usher at the Music Hall.  

Gregory Peck and his wife Veronique arrive at To Kill a Mockingbird premier 1962 courtesy

By the 1970's, Radio City Music Hall invited musicians and singers to perform on its giant stage including:  Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and The Count Basie Orchestra.  The highlight of the year would continue to be the Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes, a tradition dating back to 1933.

The Rockettes courtesy

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