Universal York

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Movies Hot in York Seventy Years Ago

I’ve heard the theory that entertainment does well in a period of recession because people want to escape for just a little while. York County’s many movie theaters were certainly showing a great variety of films in September 1938, when America was just starting to come out of the Great Depression.
As shown below, some theaters even added an extra incentive–free snacks. Others advertised that the films they were showing provided clues to a nationwide $250,000 contest being run by the motion picture industry.
What was playing?

The Stand featured Carefree, starring “America’s Top Dancing Team,” Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, along with Ralph Bellamy. This film was included in the $250,000 contest, as was the one at the neighboring Capitol, the York, and the Lion.
The Capitol was showing Three Loves Has Nancy with Janet Gaynor, Robert Montgomery and Franchot Tone. The ad summed it up: “Help Wanted…Male! But it was no trick for Nancy to get her man…because this little gal could cuddle, kiss and cook! The Year’s Surprise Laugh Hit!” The Capitol also promised the latest March of Time newsreel.
The Hiway had the first York showing of a double feature: Nurse from Brooklyn with Sally Eilers and Paul Kelly. “Men who never talked confessed all to her as she fought to help them live!” Also Living on Love with James Dunn, Whitney Bourne and Franklin Pangborn. “High speed romance of a girl who fell in love with the man she hated!” Sounds like what they used to call “B” movies to me. But the Hiway had a family matinee for Labor Day: Spencer Tracy and Loretta Young in Mans Castle, with tickets 15 cents for adults and 10 cents for children. Besides, each child would “receive a bag of delicious cakes, courtesy of Minnich’s, Your Neighborhood Baker.”
The Rialto’s Saturday kiddies show could top that. They featured Smith Ballew in the sixth chapter of Wild Bill Hickock, showed an Our Gang Comedy, a Porky cartoon “and to every child…a bag of the famous Bon Ton Tasty Tater Chips.” The Rialto’s regular show was Army Girl with Madge Evans and Preston Foster and featuring 300 of the world’s crack horsemen. They also were having a Sunday “Midnite Spook Show” It was Who Killed Gail Preston “Murders and thrills.” Their “Gala Holiday Show” for Labor Day Was Bobby Jordon and Jack Holt in Reformatory. “The search-light is turned on the KID CONVICTS of the juvenile BIG HOUSE!” Doesn’t seem very gala to me.
This is only half of the local movie advertisements for September 3, 1938. I’ll be back with the rest next time and let you know where these motion picture theaters were located.
Click here to read the second installment.
Click here to see what other amusements Yorkers could enjoy in 1938.
Follow the links below to see what else York County people did for entertainment over the years.
Jolly Giggling Club.
Tom Thumb wows them.
Click here to read about an earlier short person’s appearance in York.
Melodramatic menagerie.
York Fair in the past.
Famous musician likes Weaver pianos.
Fun and fundraising.
Fossils of what?