The Importance of Being Earnest, a UBC Theatre playbill by Ernest Le Messurier, cartoonist and commercial artist, from the Ernest Le Messurier Comic Collection in the Vancouver Archives, 76-32 #121. Ernest was a graduate of the first class to officially bear the name UBC, and this poster was created for the 1919 production of the Oscar Wilde classic. The theatre program can be seen on this page. It was not without controversy, however, as an editorial that ran in the January 9, 1919 Ubyssey lambasted the theatre for its selection:

We note with more disgust than surprise that the Players’ Club has chosen for the spring play “The Importance of Being Earnest,” by Oscar Wilde. It does seem extraordinary that from the vast army of playwrights, ancient and modern, Oscar Wilde should be the one favored by the executive of this club; but it is the play itself more than its writer that meets with our disapproval. It would seem fitting indeed that an organization of University students, enjoying the broadening process of “higher education,” should endeavor to stand for the moral as well as the merely intellectual qualities in the plays with which the University name must be associated by the general public….

But was the editorial intentionally written to garner a response? A week later, a rebuttal appeared in the form of a letter to the editors:

Dear Sir: I read with amazement, mitigated by compassion, your amazing attack on the masterpiece chosen by the Players’ Club for their spring production, it seems scarcely credible that anyone who has carefully read this play could make such absurd comments. Your criticisms seem to be levelled against the character of the author and the moral attitude of the play. The first point I shall pass over as unworthy of discussion. If standard works are to be judged by the morality of their authors, then our literature would be sadly depleted. As for the second charge, I am entirely in agreement with you that the play was written primarily to amuse. If we went to acquire only “higher education” through the stage, we do not attend Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas nor any other exhilarating and piffling productions which for years have been drawing immense audiences from all ranks of life in London and New York. We even exclude the great Shakespearian comedies for fear they upset the gravity of our thoughts. I venture to say ninety per cent, of our great plays aim not at “higher education,” but at wholesome amusement, which in itself is highly beneficial. I am even inclined to think it would do you good, Mr. Editor, to relax your ponderous solemnity with an occasional laugh…

On March 13, it was reported that the “WILDE COMEDY PLAYED TO FULL HOUSE—ACTORS WELL APPLAUDED”

"The University Players, who on Saturday brought to a close their excellent ‘performance of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ did more than give the Vancouver public some delightful hpurs of amusement. They have assisted to put Oscar Wilde ‘where he belongs’— back amongst he most brilliant writers of the Victorian era." Such is the tribute paid to the Players’ Club by one of the editors of “The World.” "The Importance of Being Earnest" is not an easy play for amateurs to act; and the very creditable performances given by our students at the Avenue last week, before large audiences, shows both an aptitude for acting and a capacity for hard work on the part of the performers. The staging of the play was excellent, and no words can adequately describe the charm of the setting in the second act. The costumes were appropriate, the dresses of the ladies being both fashionable and, on the whole, well suited to their roles as English society ladies…

To put things in perspective, UBC was in its 4th year when this play was produced, and Ernest was 25 years old when he produced this poster. I think the poster clearly demonstrates that Ernest was an artistic tour de force and an early achiever! His assortment of drawings in the Vancouver Archives is one of my favourite collections in the entire Vancouver Archives! Vive Le Messurier!

The Importance of Being Earnest, a UBC Theatre playbill by Ernest Le Messurier, cartoonist and commercial artist, from the Ernest Le Messurier Comic Collection in the Vancouver Archives, 76-32 #121. Ernest was a graduate of the first class to officially bear the name UBC, and this poster was created for the 1919 production of the Oscar Wilde classic. The theatre program can be seen on this page. It was not without controversy, however, as an editorial that ran in the January 9, 1919 Ubyssey lambasted the theatre for its selection:

We note with more disgust than surprise that the Players’ Club has chosen for the spring play “The Importance of Being Earnest,” by Oscar Wilde. It does seem extraordinary that from the vast army of playwrights, ancient and modern, Oscar Wilde should be the one favored by the executive of this club; but it is the play itself more than its writer that meets with our disapproval. It would seem fitting indeed that an organization of University students, enjoying the broadening process of “higher education,” should endeavor to stand for the moral as well as the merely intellectual qualities in the plays with which the University name must be associated by the general public….

But was the editorial intentionally written to garner a response? A week later, a rebuttal appeared in the form of a letter to the editors:

Dear Sir: I read with amazement, mitigated by compassion, your amazing attack on the masterpiece chosen by the Players’ Club for their spring production, it seems scarcely credible that anyone who has carefully read this play could make such absurd comments.

Your criticisms seem to be levelled against the character of the author and the moral attitude of the play. The first point I shall pass over as unworthy of discussion. If standard works are to be judged by the morality of their authors, then our literature would be sadly depleted.

As for the second charge, I am entirely in agreement with you that the play was written primarily to amuse. If we went to acquire only “higher education” through the stage, we do not attend Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas nor any other exhilarating and piffling productions which for years have been drawing immense audiences from all ranks of life in London and New York. We even exclude the great Shakespearian comedies for fear they upset the gravity of our thoughts. I venture to say ninety per cent, of our great plays aim not at “higher education,” but at wholesome amusement, which in itself is highly beneficial. I am even inclined to think it would do you good, Mr. Editor, to relax your ponderous solemnity with an occasional laugh…

On March 13, it was reported that the “WILDE COMEDY PLAYED TO FULL HOUSE—ACTORS WELL APPLAUDED”

"The University Players, who on Saturday brought to a close their excellent ‘performance of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ did more than give the Vancouver public some delightful hpurs of amusement. They have assisted to put Oscar Wilde ‘where he belongs’— back amongst he most brilliant writers of the Victorian era."

Such is the tribute paid to the Players’ Club by one of the editors of “The World.”

"The Importance of Being Earnest" is not an easy play for amateurs to act; and the very creditable performances given by our students at the Avenue last week, before large audiences, shows both an aptitude for acting and a capacity for hard work on the part of the performers.

The staging of the play was excellent, and no words can adequately describe the charm of the setting in the second act. The costumes were appropriate, the dresses of the ladies being both fashionable and, on the whole, well suited to their roles as English society ladies…

To put things in perspective, UBC was in its 4th year when this play was produced, and Ernest was 25 years old when he produced this poster. I think the poster clearly demonstrates that Ernest was an artistic tour de force and an early achiever! His assortment of drawings in the Vancouver Archives is one of my favourite collections in the entire Vancouver Archives! Vive Le Messurier!

I’ve posted these photos from 1969 previously, but I think it’s worth a repost. On the left, we have the photographs of Nicholas Russell from 1969, showing the demolition of the Lyric Theatre (the former Vancouver Opera House, among other names over the years). The demolition crew creatively used the historic theatre backdrops as demolition curtains, enough to make any heritage advocate cringe! On the right, I’ve photographed the former Sears building, with mesh netting just recently applied, during the demolition of the building’s facade. I missed my chance to shoot right through the building before the netting was installed, but then the idea struck me to feature a little ‘then and now’. It’s also hard to get the precise identical angles as the scale of the buildings are so dramatically different, but I’m happy with the result. I’m also extraordinarily grateful for folks like Nicholas Russell for documenting the evolving landscape of our city when it was still relatively uncommon to do so. The three 1969 photos are courtesy of the Vancouver Archives [one two three]; my photos are on flickr.

There’s still an opportunity for someone to photograph the building from the other side of the block!

Ladies Parlor of the Castle Hotel, a vintage postcard-like image via Glen A Mofford's outstanding collection of hotel and beer parlour ephemera on flickr. This photograph shows a series of large scale murals above each booth, which I presume to be paintings they but could also be tapestries? I do suspect these are original art and not merely reproductions or wallpaper. I have never seen this interior before and it looks to be phenomenal!

This hotel was once located at 750 Granville Street tucked in next to the Vancouver Block, and it operated at that location from 1915-1990. Previously it was known as the Windsor Hotel which operated from 1888-1914. This postcard image is circa 1930, and it appears to mix art deco styles with some very organic folk art, creating quite a contemporary visual feast. It must have been spectacular to see in colour! This would have been such a great place to hang out after a show across the street during any of these eras: the old Opera House (1891), the Orpheum [#3] (1913), Loew’s Vaudeville (1914), the Orpheum [again, this time owned by the Orpheum Circuit] (1915), Vancouver Theatre (1927), Lyric Theatre (1935), International Cinema (1948), and Lyric Theatre again (c.1965-1969).

If anyone ever finds any further documentation surrounding these murals or the artist responsible, please leave a comment! I stretched a few of the panels for a simulated view of the art, but it is very difficult to reconstruct at this dramatic angle. It also appears to me that there are at least 8 large scale panels on the right hand side, with at least 3 more on the left, possibly with room for 4 or 5 more on the left! Conceivably, there could be as many as 16 original panels in this room - astonishing.

For more ephemera related to Beer Parlours and the Castle Hotel, see Glen’s additional posts on flickr. Thanks to Tom Carter for assistance clarifying the complicated theatre chronology above! The years listed above roughly indicates the year the name changed. Furthermore, between the last name change, the theatre was actually turned into a bank for a while! Alas, if only I could find a time machine, this would be the first block I visit!

Merry Christmas from the Beacon on Hastings Street, a painting & Christmas card by Tom Carter. Tom writes on his Christmas card:

My friend Arthur Irving suggested the subject of this year’s card, the Beacon Theatre (built as the second Pantages in 1917, subsequently the Hastings Odeon and finally the Majestic before it was demolished in 1967). Arthur fought valiantly to save this theatre in the 1960’s but at that time, unbelievably as it is for us now, not enough people cared and it was lost. Thanks to Arthur’s dedication and hard work at that time, a wealth of information has been kept about this theatre - without a doubt the finest theatre ever built in Vancouver.

The letters spelling Merry Christmas are to a certain extent, artistic license, not based on an actual photograph, but instead inspired by the giant marquee letters that were changed regularly depending on the title of the show. The signs shown above include The Birth of a Nation in Sound, March 31, 1932 (VPL 11021); 5 year old boy psychic Jackie Merkle, December 20, 1932 (CVA 99-4282); and Texas Guinan in her 1929 film Queen of the Night Clubs, October 28, 1933 (CVA 99-4563).

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Happy 85th Birthday to the Orpheum, or rather, the NEW Orpheum! Last night I attended the 85th birthday celebration with the live orchestra playing along to Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights. One piece of breaking news—the Orpheum now has a new permanent addition—a 35mm film projector has been installed in the theatre, courtesy of a local film collector!

This souvenir program is dated 1916, and was for the OLD Orpheum, which is no more. From wikipedia:

the old Orpheum, at 761 Granville Street, was renamed the Vancouver Theatre (later the Lyric, then the International Cinema, then the Lyric once more before it closed for demolition in 1969 to make way for the first phase of the Pacific Centre project)

The cover illustration depicting a woman looking at the city skyline from North Vancouver, which I think might be a reference to Pauline Johnson who had just passed away 3 years prior. The drawing was signed “W. McCreery, Van, BC, ‘16”. The name McCreery appears in Early Vancouver Vol 2 circa the 1890s:

Possibly about two or three years later I helped to build the McCreery house on Pacific Street for $3 per day,” (now site of Tudor Manor) “one of the first I think in that locality. Horrobin and Holden were contractors, Fripp architect…

The back cover of the program features a classic ad from A. H. Timms, Printers, the company that early Vancouver photographer Philip Timms worked for. The program itself, shown courtesy of Neil Whaley.

Theatre Under the Stars at the Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park, the 1945 souvenir program with offset lithograph by artist unknown. About the Malkin Bowl, from wikipedia:

The Marion Malkin Memorial Bowl, or Malkin Bowl, is an outdoor theatre in Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Built in 1934, it was originally a two-thirds-size replica of the Hollywood Bowl. Allard de Ridder, then conductor of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, was largely responsible for convincing W. H. Malkin, a former mayor of Vancouver, to build the theatre as a summer concert venue for the VSO. Malkin endowed the theatre in memory of his wife.

From the Theatre Under the Stars website:
In 1940, Theatre Under the Stars started when a group of local theatre people formed to produce professional quality musicals during the summer. Since then, TUTS has been a Lower Mainland tradition, delighting generations of locals and tourists alike under the stars in the pastoral outdoor setting of historic Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park…Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) produced operettas and musicals 1940-63 at the Malkin Bowl. The original TUTS was founded under the auspices of the Vancouver Park Board by board superintendent A.S. Wootten, conductor Basil Horsfall and actor E.V. Young, with advice from Gordon Hilker, to provide entertainment in Stanley Park in Malkin Bowl, which was a band shell for summer concerts. In the 1930s attempts had been made by Young and Stanley Bligh to establish outdoor theatre at Brockton Oval, and these ventures set the precedent for TUTS. After TUTS’ first season (which opened 6 Aug 1940 and presented The Geisha, the plays A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It, and selections from grand opera), its program was devoted mainly to operettas (The Firefly, Rose Marie, The Red Mill, Naughty Marietta and others)…Plagued by bad weather and facing competition from the Vancouver International Festival, TUTS declared bankruptcy in 1963. In its 24 summers, the original TUTS had contributed greatly to the Vancouver scene and assisted significantly in the development of many performers’ careers. Then in 1969 a new theatre company, Theatre in the Park, began presenting two musicals a season. The company renamed itself to Theatre Under the Stars in 1980. In 1982 a fire destroyed part of Malkin Bowl but the company was able to survive and rebuild the damaged outdoor theatre and continued presenting musical theatre through to 2006, when Theatre Under the Stars took a season off to regroup then returned in 2007 presenting Oklahoma! and Grease to sell-out crowds…
The Vancouver International Festival, in case you’re curious, survived for 11 seasons, with 1968 being the last. By comparison, the Folk Festival first appeared in 1978. It was 14 years later that the Vancouver International Film Festival came to town in 1982. And the Fringe Festival appeared a year later, when the First Vancouver Theatrespace Society (FVTS) formed in 1983. 

Theatre Under the Stars at the Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park, the 1945 souvenir program with offset lithograph by artist unknown. About the Malkin Bowl, from wikipedia:

The Marion Malkin Memorial Bowl, or Malkin Bowl, is an outdoor theatre in Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Built in 1934, it was originally a two-thirds-size replica of the Hollywood Bowl. Allard de Ridder, then conductor of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, was largely responsible for convincing W. H. Malkin, a former mayor of Vancouver, to build the theatre as a summer concert venue for the VSO. Malkin endowed the theatre in memory of his wife.

From the Theatre Under the Stars website:

In 1940, Theatre Under the Stars started when a group of local theatre people formed to produce professional quality musicals during the summer. Since then, TUTS has been a Lower Mainland tradition, delighting generations of locals and tourists alike under the stars in the pastoral outdoor setting of historic Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park…

Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) produced operettas and musicals 1940-63 at the Malkin Bowl. The original TUTS was founded under the auspices of the Vancouver Park Board by board superintendent A.S. Wootten, conductor Basil Horsfall and actor E.V. Young, with advice from Gordon Hilker, to provide entertainment in Stanley Park in Malkin Bowl, which was a band shell for summer concerts. In the 1930s attempts had been made by Young and Stanley Bligh to establish outdoor theatre at Brockton Oval, and these ventures set the precedent for TUTS. After TUTS’ first season (which opened 6 Aug 1940 and presented The Geisha, the plays A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It, and selections from grand opera), its program was devoted mainly to operettas (The Firefly, Rose Marie, The Red Mill, Naughty Marietta and others)…

Plagued by bad weather and facing competition from the Vancouver International Festival, TUTS declared bankruptcy in 1963. In its 24 summers, the original TUTS had contributed greatly to the Vancouver scene and assisted significantly in the development of many performers’ careers. Then in 1969 a new theatre company, Theatre in the Park, began presenting two musicals a season. The company renamed itself to Theatre Under the Stars in 1980. In 1982 a fire destroyed part of Malkin Bowl but the company was able to survive and rebuild the damaged outdoor theatre and continued presenting musical theatre through to 2006, when Theatre Under the Stars took a season off to regroup then returned in 2007 presenting Oklahoma! and Grease to sell-out crowds…

The Vancouver International Festival, in case you’re curious, survived for 11 seasons, with 1968 being the last. By comparison, the Folk Festival first appeared in 1978. It was 14 years later that the Vancouver International Film Festival came to town in 1982. And the Fringe Festival appeared a year later, when the First Vancouver Theatrespace Society (FVTS) formed in 1983. 

Mural of the Vancouver skyline painted in 1993 by (correction) Carol Davenport, seen above the lobby of Fifth Avenue Cinemas, 2110 Burrard Street, Vancouver. How many of my followers did NOT realize the concession stand IS the BURRARD BRIDGE!

Curtain call: a photographic series of images documenting the lost backdrops of Vancouver’s theatre history. Normally I don’t feature photographs, but in this case I’m making an exception. I’d like to focus on the backdrop artists themselves, but since they are a famously anonymous group, I’ll have to give credit where I can. Images are courtesy of the Vancouver Archives. Here’s a breakdown:

  1. The interior of the Vancouver Opera House, 733 Granville St (Item Bu P7)
  2. Columbia Theatre and company, 1920 (CVA 99-1379)
  3. Kiwanis Glee Club Capitol Theatre. Vancouver, B.C. December 16, 1922 (CVA 99-3439)
  4. St. George’s School play “Robin Hood” 1939 (CVA 805-26)
  5. Demolition of the Lyric Theatre, 700 block Granville St, 1969 (CVA 1348-37)
  6. Demolition of the Lyric Theatre (CVA 1348-37) (as above, closeup)
  7. Demolition of the Lyric Theatre, 700 block Granville St, 1969 (CVA 1348-36)
  8. Demolition of the Lyric Theatre, 700 block Granville St, 1969 (CVA 1348-39)

About image # 1, Sean Jung describes the Vancouver Opera House at cinematreasures.org:

The Canadian Pacific Railway built the Vancouver Opera House and was opened on February 09, 1891. It was adjacent to the first Hotel Vancouver on Granville Street between Robson and Georgia with 2,000 seats…in 1913, it was refurbished and named the Orpheum Theater. This would be the 2nd theater in the city to grace this name. (The first being the old Alhambra). It was briefly called the Vancouver Theater, then the Lyric, then International Cinema before reverting to the Lyric Theatre.

Regarding image # 2, the Columbia Theatre operated as a vaudeville theatre in the teens and 20s. It was located at 64 West Hastings, across the street from where the Paris Block is today. Once again, I asked resident expert Tom Carter to fill me in on some details about the Columbia. He mentioned that just to the (east) was the National theatre, which was even older. And get this - the National theatre actually started as the Cameraphone theatre! With research assistance from Andrew Martin at the VPL, we now know the Cameraphone opened November 30, 1908, but by July 6, 1909 the Vancouver World was announcing the National’s grand opening, so the Cameraphone didn’t last long! : ) About the technology, Tom writes:

Cameraphone was a New York company that offered early sound-synchronized films and built purpose-built theatres around North America to display them. This beats the film The Jazz Singer (1927) by almost 20 years and it’s amazing Vancouver was chosen as a location for such cutting-edge American technology. We also had the Hales Tours so it seems we were seen as a viable market for state-of-the-art back then.

Also located just a bit further east was the new Pantages aka Majestic Theatre at 20 West Hastings St.

Back to the Columbia theatre, Tom tells me it actually had 3 levels of opera boxes; 9 boxes on each side - 18 in total! The Columbia, along with the National were converted into retail space with offices above in the early 1930’s. They survived together as Wosk’s until the 1980’s. Currently, there’s a big empty parking lot where the Columbia and National once stood, but the site is slated to become a community garden. The eventual plan is for a new PHS complex of housing and retail.

What can I say about image # 3, the Kiwanis Glee Club at the Capitol Theatre? It was taken on December 16, 1922, just 2 months after the Harold Lloyd comedy Grandma’s Boy would have played at the very same theatre (October 2-7, 1922). Zoom into the original image and you can see the pipe organ in the centre of the stage, a relic of the silent film era!

I love everything about image # 4, the 1939 photo of the cast of Robin Hood, donated in 2008 by Nigel Toy, St. George’s School Headmaster. Nigel retired from St. George’s School in June of 2010. Thanks for the donation, Nigel!

The images of the Lyric Theatre demolition are the most heart-breaking; to see the once magnificent backdrops used as demolition curtains is enough to bring tears to my eyes! Previously known as the Vancouver Opera House (image # 1), it was renamed the Lyric Theatre in 1937. The demolition made way for the Pacific Centre in 1969. The Vancouver Archives website indicates that the photographs were taken by Nicholas Russell, and they include this brief bio:

Nicholas Russell lived in Vancouver’s West End in 1968. He was very concerned about the demolition of the older wooden houses in the West End and photographed many houses that are no longer in existence today. Later he was president of the Archaeological Society of B.C. and Heritage Regina. He now lives in the James Bay area of Victoria.

This entry has been cross-posted to Vancouver Is Awesome with alternate text. For further reading, see also Miss604’s recent post compiling exterior images from a good number of Vancouver’s theatres.

I’m taking a hiatus for a while, so please excuse the impending pause in the action. If you happen to discover some breaking new art while I’m away, or if you accidentally uncover some great unknown anecdote from the city’s art history, please don’t hesitate to let me know! Till we meet again!

"So this is Canada", the satirical revue as advertised in the October 2nd, 1926 edition of The Morning Leader, Regina, Saskatchewan. This is a followup to my previous post showing the speculative drawing of a theatre at Broadway and Granville on land owned by J.A. Schuberg. This next quote should help to explain who Mr. Schuberg was. From the Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema: 

John Albert Schuberg (aka ‘Johnny Nash’), lived from 1875-1958. Schuberg, whose professional name was Johnny Nash, came from a Swedish family living in Minneapolis, and was already an accomplished magician by his teens. In 1894 he moved to Canada, touring the country’s fairs and variety halls. In 1898 he acquired an Edison projector and added films to his act…Wishing to end his family’s traveling life, Schuberg converted an empty shop at 38 Cordova Street, Vancouver into Canada’s first cinema in October 1902. He opened further theatres in Winnipeg and elsewhere, eventually owning eight theatres in Canada and the United States and by 1919 had become western Canada’s leading cinema exhibitor…
Luke McKernan 

"So This is Canada" featured some real heavyweights of its day: John A. Schuberg presents a Charles E. Royal Production written by W.S. Atkinson. The ad boasts it’s “The World’s Funniest Show!” It must have been good, because this production went on a cross-country tour after some 50,000 people saw the show in Vancouver in a 6-week standing-room-only run at the Empress!
Now I have to admit, I am hardly the expert on Vancouver’s theatre history. All of these significant details were courtesy of the artist Tom Carter, whose expertise was invaluable in making this post happen; he also provided the ad for this post!Tom recommends two more books about J.A. Schuberg; first there’s Embattled Shadows: A History of Canadian Cinema, 1895-1939 which was used as a reference in the Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema above. And evidently there’s an unpublished autobiography that Schuberg’s grandson donated to the VPL titled Fifty Years A Showman by John Schuberg.
In the future, I hope to highlight more gems from Vancouver’s theatre past. With a little bit of microfilm and some expertise from Tom, perhaps we can uncover a few more of Vancouver’s entertainment legends!
And ps: Here’s the review of the show in the October 2nd, 1926 The Morning Leader (I think) from Regina, which gives a great background into the making of the play.

"So this is Canada", the satirical revue as advertised in the October 2nd, 1926 edition of The Morning Leader, Regina, Saskatchewan. This is a followup to my previous post showing the speculative drawing of a theatre at Broadway and Granville on land owned by J.A. Schuberg. This next quote should help to explain who Mr. Schuberg was. From the Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema

John Albert Schuberg (aka ‘Johnny Nash’), lived from 1875-1958. Schuberg, whose professional name was Johnny Nash, came from a Swedish family living in Minneapolis, and was already an accomplished magician by his teens. In 1894 he moved to Canada, touring the country’s fairs and variety halls. In 1898 he acquired an Edison projector and added films to his act…Wishing to end his family’s traveling life, Schuberg converted an empty shop at 38 Cordova Street, Vancouver into Canada’s first cinema in October 1902. He opened further theatres in Winnipeg and elsewhere, eventually owning eight theatres in Canada and the United States and by 1919 had become western Canada’s leading cinema exhibitor…

Luke McKernan

"So This is Canada" featured some real heavyweights of its day: John A. Schuberg presents a Charles E. Royal Production written by W.S. Atkinson. The ad boasts it’s “The World’s Funniest Show!” It must have been good, because this production went on a cross-country tour after some 50,000 people saw the show in Vancouver in a 6-week standing-room-only run at the Empress!

Now I have to admit, I am hardly the expert on Vancouver’s theatre history. All of these significant details were courtesy of the artist Tom Carter, whose expertise was invaluable in making this post happen; he also provided the ad for this post!

Tom recommends two more books about J.A. Schuberg; first there’s Embattled Shadows: A History of Canadian Cinema, 1895-1939 which was used as a reference in the Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema above. And evidently there’s an unpublished autobiography that Schuberg’s grandson donated to the VPL titled Fifty Years A Showman by John Schuberg.

In the future, I hope to highlight more gems from Vancouver’s theatre past. With a little bit of microfilm and some expertise from Tom, perhaps we can uncover a few more of Vancouver’s entertainment legends!

And ps: Here’s the review of the show in the October 2nd, 1926 The Morning Leader (I think) from Regina, which gives a great background into the making of the play.

Big plans for Granville & Broadway, circa 1927. Photograph of drawing for a theatre; job no. 212, by Architects Townley & Matheson. The architect firm’s name changed over the years, as documented by the Vancouver Archives:
Townley and Matheson (1919-1964)
Townley, Matheson & Associates (1965)
Townley & Matheson, Kelly, Humphrey & Ritchie (1966)
Townley, Matheson & Partners (1967-1974)
Does anyone know what this theatre would have been called? I asked Tom Carter, who didn’t know of any other theatres planned that year; he mentioned the Orpheum was built in 1927, and that it was long before the Odeon chain started building here.

We were also speculating which corner of Broadway and Granville this would have appeared on. You might think the SW corner is a natural fit, but if you look at this picture, it appears that the storefront is on downhill incline. According to this photo, it would be going uphill in the SW corner.

Thus, I think we can deduce this would have been in the NE corner, where the RBC building is today. I did a little superimposed mockup using Google maps to help get a picture of the environment. I also came up with a suggestion where we could put this theatre today!

From the City of Vancouver Archives reference code AM1399-S3-: CVA 1399-517.

Update:
The Vancouver Archives has informed me that the property owner of Granville and Broadway at the time was owner John A. Schuberg. I wonder what he planned to name the theatre?