By Eric Veillette, originally published October 7, 2010
Juvenile delinquency and showmanship never had it so good.
Since a recent post at my Silent Toronto blog showcased a burlesque act and a juvenile delinquent flick at the Casino Theatre on Queen St., I thought I’d share this marquee-blazing shot of So Young So Bad at the Bloor Cinema, then the Midtown, in late 1950.
Despite the alluring tagline, the film’s a bit of a doozy, but it does feature an early appearance by fiery Rita Moreno,who would later star in West Side Story.
When So Young So Bad opened, similar fare was shown across the street at the Bloor (now Lee’s Palace), which closed in 1957; you could catch the fancier stuff at the Alhambra (demolished), slightly east of Bathurst.
If you’re familiar with the Bloor, which opened in 1913 as the Madison, you’ll notice that today’s marquee is now flat against the building, but more importantly, the left doorwayno longer exists. In its place is a juice bar run by the owners of the shawarma spot on the right side where the hat shop once resided.
Although unsure of the exact date, the modern-day Bloor’s Carm Bordonaro thinks the left doorway may have been filled up and rented out around 1987. It was still there in June 1981, when he was photographed in front of the building for a “state of repertory cinemas” feature in the Toronto Sun (The Tin Drum was playing that week). Bordonaro, who now owns the building, says that left to his own devices, he never would have changed a thing.
Taking a closer look, however, you’ll notice the streamlined doors are not the only thing missing from the modern-day picture. Toronto’s subway system was still a few years away, and the Bloor-Danforth line wouldn’t arrive until 1966, hence the character-adding cobblestone-lined streetcar track, which ran from Jane St. all the way to Victoria Park.
Oh, another thing: they no longer go to such lengths to decorate the joint when they play Repo: The Genetic Opera every month. “That’s what showmanship was all about,” adds Bordonaro.
Eric Veillette is a Toronto-based journalist and film programmer. A regular contributor to the Toronto Star, he often examines our city’s dearly departed movie houses and how they helped shape much of our urban landscape. In the world of film, he has programmed outdoor silent film restrospectives for TIFF, and runs Silent Sundays, Creepy Classics and other special events at the Revue Cinema and Fox Theatre. His musings can be found at SilentToronto.com.