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Looking Back

October 1954

Step back in time to see what area movie theaters were presenting in October 1954. Film titles are linked to the Internet Movie Database.

For more information about these theaters, see Cinema Treasures or Water Winter Wonderland.


A Star is Born with Judy Garland and James Mason opened in Detroit at the Madison Theater on Friday, October 1, 1954, two days after its world premiere in Hollywood, California. At the Madison, it succeeded a double bill of two Oscar-winning 1953 movies—Stalag 17 (William Holden) and Roman Holiday (Audrey Hepburn). A Star is Born later opened in New York City on October 11, 1954 at the Paramount and Victoria theaters.

"Hollywood's bent towards lavish spectacle and sumptuous production justifies itself, I think, in Warner Bros.'s 'A Star is Born,' currently showing at the Madison," wrote J. Dorsey Callaghan in the Detroit Free Press on October 2, 1954. "The story is one that Hollywood should, by all means, do well, for it is about the shining city itself."

"Judy Garland has come back," commented Al Weitschat in The Detroit News on October 2, 1954. "The plaudits of the movie millions are drowning out memories of mental anguish and physical suffering that blacked out for four years the career of the little girl with the big voice and the happy personality."

Other downtown Detroit movies when A Star is Born opened were Suddenly! (Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden) at the Palms; Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Jane Powell, Howard Keel) at the United Artists; Betrayed (Clark Gable, Lana Turner, Victor Mature) at the Adams; The Egyptian (Jean Simmons, Victor Mature) at the Fox; Francis Joins the WACS (Donald O'Connor) at the Michigan; Dawn at Socorro (Rory Calhoun, Piper Laurie) at the Broadway-Capitol; and, in its second year in Detroit, This is Cinerama at the Music Hall.

The Redford and Fisher were both screening The High and the Mighty (John Wayne, Robert Stack, Laraine Day) and Drive a Crooked Road (Mickey Rooney). The Senate was showing Living It Up (Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis) and The Paris Express (Claude Rains, Märta Torén).

Alternative film options in Detroit included Hobson's Choice (Charles Laughton, John Mills) at the Krim; Daughters of Destiny (Claudette Colbert, Michèle Morgan) at the Cinema; Justice is Done (1950, Claude Nollier, Michel Auclair) and Beauty and the Devil (1950, Gérard Philipe, Michel Simon) at The Carlton; and a W. C. Fields double feature of My Little Chickadee (1940) and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941) at the Studio.

A Star is Born played at the Madison for two months until December 9, 1954, before being replaced with a double feature of two classic M-G-M movies—A Woman's Face (1941, Joan Crawford, Melvyn Douglas) and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941, Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner). A Star is Born first played at the Redford from March 30 to April 2, 1955.

Ann Arbor audiences were treated to the opening of A Star is Born at the State on January 26, 1955 after a run of Green Fire (Stewart Granger, Grace Kelly, Paul Douglas). A Star is Born played one week at the State until February 1, 1955 before being replaced by Walt Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Kirk Douglas, James Mason).

Also playing in Ann Arbor during A Star is Born's run at the State were A Bullet is Waiting (Jean Simmons, Rory Calhoun) at the Michigan; The Last Time I Saw Paris (Elizabeth Taylor, Van Johnson) and Rogue Cop (Robert Taylor, Janet Leigh) at the Wuerth; a re-release of Hamlet (1948, Laurence Olivier) at the Orpheum; and The Violent Men (Glenn Ford, Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck) at the Martha Washington in Ypsilanti.

Click here to see a PDF of newspaper images relating to the opening of A Star is Born.

Also opening in October 1954 was White Christmas, the first movie to use the widescreen process VistaVision. It opened in Detroit on Thursday, October 28, 1954, at the Michigan (Bagley at Grand River). It had earlier premiered in New York City on October 14, 1954.

"When Irving Berlin was in Detroit not long ago, he described 'White Christmas' in an expression typical of show business as 'a big hunk of entertainment'," wrote Detroit Free Press Movie Critic Helen Bower on October 29, 1954. "Detroiters who waited in line for the first and second shows at the Michigan Theater Thursday should be willing to go along with that opinion from the man who composed its songs and wrote its lyrics."

"A bright October sun bathed the Michigan Theater yesterday in a radiance far removed from Christmas, but inside the house the atmosphere was full of sleigh bells, snow, Santa Claus and good cheer," wrote Al Weitschat of The Detroit News on October 29, 1954. "Beating the merchants to the holiday gun, Paramount trotted out its Irving Berlin musical, 'White Christmas,' first film made in VistaVision, the studio's new wide-screen process."

Other Detroit movies on October 28 included Walt Disney's The Vanishing Prairie at the Telenews (Woodward at Grand Circus Park); Woman's World (Clifton Webb, June Allyson) at the United Artists; Brigadoon (Gene Kelly, Van Johnson) at the Adams; A Star is Born (Judy Garland, James Mason) at the Madison; This is Cinerama at the Music Hall; and The Adventures of Hajji Baba (John Derek, Elaine Stewart) at the Fox. The Redford was showing a double bill of Magnificent Obsession (Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson) and The Yellow Tomahawk (Rory Calhoun).

At the Michigan, White Christmas followed a run of Bengal Brigade (Rock Hudson, Arlene Dahl). It played until Wednesday, November 24, before giving way to a Thanksgiving Day opening of The Barefoot Contessa, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ava Gardner.

White Christmas opened at Detroit area neighborhood theaters (including the Redford) on Saturday, December 25, giving patrons a special Christmas Day gift. At the Redford, White Christmas succeeded Arrow in the Dust (Sterling Hayden, Colleen Gray). It played for a week, along with the Walt Disney featurette Prowlers of the Everglades, and was followed by a New Year's Day 1955 opening of Sabrina, with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.

Ann Arbor audiences were treated to the opening of White Christmas at their Michigan theater on November 3, 1954, following another popular movie, The Caine Mutiny, with the very busy Humphrey Bogart.

Also playing in Ann Arbor on November 3 was Francis Joins the WACS (Donald O'Connor, Julia Adams) at the State. White Christmas played at the Michigan until November 16, before being replaced the next day by On the Waterfront, with Marlon Brando in an Oscar-winning performance.

Click here to see a PDF of newspaper images relating to the opening of White Christmas.

 


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Website copyright © 2016 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.

Launched November 25, 2005.

Last updated December 4, 2016.

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