Thursday, June 9, 2016

The REAL First Movie World Premiere in Birmingham

Well, maybe, at least until I find another one.

In a recent blog post I discussed a film premier in Birmingham that was described as the first, a showing of Steel Town at the Alabama Theater in March 1952. In some even more recent file cleaning, I came across the article below. Seems we can push back Birmingham's first movie world premier to at least November 1947. 

This article details the work of actress Mary Anderson, who was scheduled to appear in the city at an event on November 23. She realized that her visit would come at the same time as the annual football game played at Legion Field to benefit the Crippled Children's Clinic. Senior high school players from around the state, picked by coaches, played in the all-star game held from 1935 until 1969, when the clinic closed. 

I have covered Mary Anderson's career in another blog post. Whispering City was a thriller set in Quebec City, Canada, and filmed on location there. The movie came about midway in her film career; she continued acting steadily for more than a decade afterward. Her career began in 1939; her first credited film role was Maybelle Merriwether in Gone with the Wind. Before she died in 2014 at the age of 96, she was one of three remaining credited actors from that film still living. 

The postcard below features the Crippled Children's Clinic on 19th Street South. No date is given, but the facility must be the one for which the movie premier was raising money. Groundbreaking was held in June 1949 and the clinic opened in November 1951. Today UAB's Spain-Wallace Building occupies the location; Jefferson Tower is across 19th Street.  

The article below was written by Lily May Caldwell, "Drama, Radio, Music Editor." She began working for the Birmingham News in 1921 and retired as its long-time entertainment editor in 1966. She died in 1980. Why she identified the 1952 film premier as the city's "first" is anybody's guess. 

Birmingham News 9 November 1947

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections

The Empire Theater in 1937 heavily promoting the film Lost Horizon. The theater was located on 3rd Avenue North. 

Source: Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections


Description on the back of the card: 

The Crippled Children's Clinic and Hospital, at 620 South 19th Street, was established in 1929 for the orthopedic treatment of underprivileged children. It has provided help for the care of thousands of needy children from 65 counties in Alabama. Much of the money used in erection of this outstanding modern clinic was raised through the realm of sports. Proceeds of an annual football game added considerably to the necessary financing.

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