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Ken Murray's Blackouts and Photos

In keeping with tradition of being the entertainment capital of the world, Hollywood had the distinction of being the home of Ken Murray's Blackouts, the longest running variety review in the history of American legitimate theater. Kim Murray started theatergoers laughing on June 24, 1942 when the lackouts first opened at the El Capitan Theatre, formerly the Hollywood Playhouse Theatre on Vine Street. As stated earlier, the original El Capitan Theatre was located on Hollywood Boulevard, just west of Highland Avenue. However, when the theater changed its name to Hollywood Paramount Theater in 1942, the owners of the Hollywood Playhouse acquired the El Capitan name.

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Murray had spent months assembling a group of personalities and acts which included Marie Wilson, a shapely comedian; the Nicholas Brothers, a Negro dance team; Connie Russell a singer; Jean Austin, singer pianist; Roy Davis, an impersonator who worked with a phonograph; and several others. The show was patterned after the old vaudeville performances; however, there was a certain sophistication added which made it appealing to almost everyone.

The opening night audience, which included such entertainment celebrities as Mae West, Al Jolson and Rudy Valley, responded favorably to the new show. However, the next day's reviews were not so encouraging. Only one, the Hollywood Citizen news, was a rave. The critics’ reviews did not discourage the seasoned performers; in fact, it seemed to strengthen their desire to succeed. After some minor revisions, the Blackouts forged ahead. During the first week the show lost $700. The second week, it lost $50 and the third week it broke even. By the ninth week, it was doing a capacity business. From this point on, the Blackouts played to a packed audience every night.

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Ken Murray highlighted many remarkable acts, but his real star was Marie Wilson. Playing a dumb blonde, she pitched the laughs with Murray, who jokes were usually directed at her well-endowed figure. Even though she was used in some rather provocative skits, they never went beyond the bounds of good taste. She performed in 3126 consecutive performances without missing a single show. In addition to the variety of acts Murray opened his show with his glamour lovelies many of whom later became stars in their own right – – Rhonda Fleming, Cara Williams and Mary Ford.

 sdgdfhDuring the seven years, two months and three days that the show ran, it played 3844 performances, entertained 4,693,524 patrons, grossed $6,789,524, employed 1456 persons, and helped to launch more than 100 performers on their way to stardom.

 

Ken Murray's Blackouts played in Hollywood continuously until August 27, 1949 when it closed to go to New York.

 ryjtyjThe finest photos of Ken Murray's blackouts are on the hollywoodphotographs.com website which is available for all to view. Other great photos on this great website are the Hollywood Canteen, Hollywood Blvd. and Sunset Blvd. Hollywood Photographs Facebook, Hollywood Canteen Facebook and Google + page.

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