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Ken Murray's Blackouts Photos

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Ken Murray's Blackouts

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. Ken Murray started theatergoers laughing on June 24, 1942, when the Blackouts first opened at the El Capitan Theatre, formerly the Hollywood Playhouse Theatre on Vine street. 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. Photos of the El Capitan Theater are on the hollywoodphotograohs.com website. 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, singer; Jean Austin, singer pianist; and Roy Davis, an impersonator who worked with a photograph; 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.

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Grand opening

The opening night audience, which included such entertainment celebrities as Mae West, Al Jolson and Rudy Vallee, 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 in 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 house every night.  Hollywoodphotographs.com has photos of C.E. Toberman, Josephine Toberman, Ernest Torrence and Catherine Torrence, sitting in the audience.

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Marie Wilson

Ken Murray highlighted many were remarkable acts, but his real star was Marie Wilson. Playing a dumb blonde, she pitched the laughs with Murray, whose jokes were usually directed at her well-endowed figure. Even though she was used in some rather provocative skits, (at least for those times), they never went beyond the bounds of good taste. She performed in 3126 consecutive performances without missing a single show.

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Other Blackouts Acts

Other personalities and acts which appeared in the blackouts were Jack Mulhall, actor; Renee Renfro and Daisy (the wonder dog); the Liphams, and acrobatic act; Fred Sanborn, pantomimist; and many other fine acts. 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, including, Rhonda Fleming, Cara Williams, and Mary Ford.

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Brown Derby Restaurant

It was not uncommon for members of the Blackouts audience to first go to the Brown Derby Restaurant, for dinner, and then walk or drive to see the show. Both the Brown Derby Restaurant and the El Capitan Theater were on Vine Street and only a block and a half from each other.

During the seven years, two months and three days that the show ran, it played 3844 performances, 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.

Hollywoodphotographs.com

Ken Murray Blackouts photos are on the hollywoodphotographs.com website and all are available for purchase.

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