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Step back in time to see what area movie theaters were presenting in May 1925. Film titles are linked to the Internet Movie Database.
The Last Laugh, a German import starring Emil Jannings and directed by F.W. Murnau, opened in Detroit on Saturday, May 2, 1925. It screened at the Broadway-Strand, which was located at 1337-7 Broadway before closing in 1929. It had earlier premiered in New York on January 25, 1925.
"Screen fans who have been clamoring for something different in the way of motion pictures, and those who have been lamenting the scarcity of better pictures, are advised to visit the Broadway-Strand theater this week, where The Last Laugh, a recent importation from Europe is on display, wrote Roy Ellarcotte of The Detroit Free Press in "The Reel Players" column on May 4, 1925.
"American movie makers came pretty close to attaining perfection when Charlie Chaplin made ‘A Woman of Paris,’ but now the Germans step up and knock out a completed job in ‘The Last Laugh,’ most recent of the importations from that country," wrote Harold Heffernan of The Detroit News in “The New Movies in Review” column on May 4, 1925.
Also opening in Detroit on the same weekend as The Last Laugh were Sally (Colleen Moore) at the Capitol (now the Detroit Opera House); Zander the Great (Marion Davies) at the Adams; The Devil’s Cargo (Wallace Beery) at the Madison; and Riders of the Purple Sage (Tom Mix) at the Fox-Washington (1505-13 Washington Boulevard, closed in 1928).
The Last Laugh followed a Broadway-Strand engagement of Narrow Street (Matt Moore and Dorothy Devore). The Last Laugh played a week, until May 8, and then was succeeded by a film version of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, with Beverly Bayne, Edith Roberts, Elliott Dexter, and Stuart Holmes.
Ann Arbor audiences were treated to a special showing of The Last Laugh at Hill Auditorium on May 5 and 6, 1925. This showing in the beautiful University of Michigan music hall came courtesy of the Majestic Theater movie house.
Also playing in Ann Arbor on May 5 were Peter Pan (which played at the Redford Theatre on March 10, 2007), with Betty Bronson and Ernest Torrence at the Arcade (715 N. University, burned down in 1928); The Spitfire (Betty Blythe, Lowell Sherman) at the Wuerth; Learning to Love (Constance Talmadge) at the Majestic; Trucker’s Top Hand (Neil Hart) at the Orpheum; and Prodigal Daughters (Gloria Swanson, Theo Roberts) at the Rae (113 West Huron).
“It is quite evident after viewing this German production that the American motion picture producers do not have a monopoly of all of the tricks of their trade,” read the “Stage and Screen” column of the Ann Arbor Times News on May 6, 1925. “In fact, those who have made the colony of Hollywood famous, might do well to study this production. The Germans have given the world a real picture, more nearly mechanically perfect and better acted than we, with our unlimited means, modern machinery and high salaried stars, have produced.”
Both the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor and the Redford Theatre were three years away from their openings in January 1928.
Click here to see a PDF of newspaper images relating to the opening of The Last Laugh.
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