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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Keaton Collapse in Cleveland!

Cleveland's Gigantic Hippodrome After 1953 Retro-Fit For Cinemascope

Eclectic Menu At The Hipp: Buster on Stage, Conrad Veidt On Screen

King Kong could have fought a stegosaurus live on the Hippodrome's stage. Rodan's egg might comfortably hatch there, but for fact that Cleveland tore down this world's second-largest performing space and 4,000 seats facing it in 1981. The "Hipp" was built as an opera house in 1907, hosted Caruso, Jolson, Sarah Bernhardt, Bill Fields --- headliners endless --- before a movies-only policy took hold in 1931. Vaudeville would continue as support for pics, however, and so was format to which Buster Keaton and performing troupe arrived in September, 1933, eight months after BK's let-go out of Metro, that story part of Greenbriar's previous pass at What --- NoBeer?, so here is what might be called Aftermath For Buster. He was down on luck for much of '33 as result of Leo's sack, and so sought work wherever same could be scrounged. The Hippodrome berth was no trouper's idea of a lower, being Cleveland (or anywhere's) equivalent to Broadway's Palace. Keaton was still a front-rank name and capable of a corking show as had been case since the century's turn. Trouble on this occasion was "nervous indigestion," said Variety,  felling the comedian ten minutes before curtain on opening day (9/23/33). "Three doctors were called in" to diagnose his illness and render "emergency treatment" before ordering Buster to bed in his dressing room. The trade left it at that ... and perhaps for insiders to read between lines. Had Keaton caught his bug out of a bottle? Those in the know at Metro might have thought so. They'd nursed many a Keaton collapse and no doubt got a snicker when Variety's reportage broke. If word got round of BK missing a performance due to drink, his vaude comeback would be in for the hangover. Trade coverage, and maybe covering up, at least kept Keaton on industry pages. As for the Hippodrome's opening day, there were two of the Gala Triple Headliners to carry on, Evelyn Brent and Harry Fox by themselves an admission's worth. She had luminated for  Paramount, a Joe von Sternberg discovery, but talkies so far hadn't served well. Harry Fox was in vaudeville before pterodactyls flew, going back to when Buster was a tot and human mop with the Three Keatons. Bet they were friendly acquaintances of forever standing. Harry too was on a sled by '33, his Hipp parlay with Evelyn Brent a two-for-one result of their being husband-wife at the time. And check out the Hipp's screen attraction --- Conrad Veidt in the Brit/French/UFA  F.P.1, aka F.P.1 Doesn't Answer, a bizarre and pioneering sci-fi that must have had the crowd scratching heads as they entered and exited the cavernous Cleveland showplace.

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