Sunday, February 18, 2007

Arcadia books

Chances are, you’ve seen Arcadia Publishing books in your local bookstore. They are the photo-filled paperbacks (with often sepia color covers) that document the local histories of communities, business, schools, sports and ethnic groups across the nation. I own a bunch of them, mostly books about the San Francisco Bay Area (where I live now) and the Detroit area (where I grew up). Among my Bay Area books are a couple on the movie theaters of San Francisco and Oakland - each of which have made for interesting reading in local history.

During my December trip to Detroit, I picked up a just published book on Detroit's Downtown Movie Palaces, which has also proved to be quite interesting. In that book, I was able to see images of a few of the theaters where Louise Brooks' films first played in the Motor City. Another recent acquisition is The Chicago Movie Palaces of Balaban and Katz.


I was especially interested in this title because - through my research - I know that all of Brooks' American silent films played in Chicago, and usually at a Balaban and Katz theater. (Balaban and Katz, the dominant theater chain in the Windy City, were also the primary exhibitors of Paramount films in Chicago.) Thus I was not suprised to see The Canary Murder Case (1929) advertised on the marquee of the Uptown theater (as depicted on page 74 of this book).


A few other titles from Arcadia which I hope to check out eventually include Cleveland's Playhouse Square (the cover image depicts a marquee trumpeting the name of Ethel Shutta - Brooks' one time co-star in the Follies), Stepping Out in Cincinnati: Queen City   Entertainment 1900-1960, and South Jersey Movie Houses. I am interested in the history of theaters, and like local history. These books make for great reading.

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