News: The theatre is scheduled for a renovation and will
reopen as a music venue in 2022. Thaddeus Smith, once a partner in the
Music Box/Fonda, is teaming up with
guy Brian Levian and other partners. The owners, Essex Property Trust, have erected a
mixed-use building in the former
west of the theatre called The Wallace on Sunset and will be doing some
restoration of the theatre's exterior. More details are lower on
The exterior featured a 24-foot high neon silhouette of Beryl Wallace, one of the Earl Carroll girls and Mr. Carroll's long-time companion. The lettering around the silhouette said: "Thru these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world." Mr. Carroll's backer for the project was Ms. Jetta Schuyler.
A re-creation of the the famous neon face. Thanks to Brian Michael McCray for the post on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles. The neon, a project of the Museum of Neon Art, is on display at the Universal Studios City Walk.
Seating: 1,000, originally in a dinner-show arrangement with tables and chairs on six terraces. Later as the Moulin Rouge the capacity was up to 1,250. During the Hullabaloo area there was some seating at the rear and a dance floor near the stage. During the one-year Kaleidoscope era the seating was removed to make room for larger dance floor areas. The floor was redone in 1968 for installation of conventional theatre seating when the theatre was the Aquarius.
Architect: Gordon B. Kaufmann, with interior and exterior design work by Count Alexis de Sakhnovsky, Frank Don Riha and Kaufmann. Kaufmann also did the Palladium across the street. The cost of the building was estimated at $500,000. Ford J. Twaits was the contractor.
A detail from a 40s Sanborn map showing the asymetrical layout of the auditorium and lobby spaces. The kitchen was in the basement. A scene shop was later added on the back.
At the top of the stairs at the entrance, the Goddess of Neon held a 50' tube that swirled up to the ceiling to join a curving row of three-foot-long vertical tubes arrayed all the way to the proscenium. The auditorium was lit with over 1,800 of these tubes. The house left wall of the asymmetrical auditorium was covered with a faux wood grain wallpaper, house right draped with green satin.
The great stage: It featured a 70' revolve with separately operated inner and outer sections. There was also a water curtain, a two-section orchestra pit lift, a small circular lift downstage for a soloist (called a "girl lift" in 1938) and a revolving three-level tower stage right. The tower, with four ladies each at a piano, showed up in a demonstration of the stage's wondrous features in the 1940 film "A Night at Earl Carroll's."
Carroll planning a show. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library. They have over a hundred photos in their collection including exterior views as well as rehearsal shots and photos of various performances.
A view of Earl Carroll showgirls from a program page posted by Tam Tim O'Connor Fraser on the Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page. Tam's mother, La Gay Guistina, is in the upper right. She was with the theatre for a year or so around 1945. Also from Mr. Fraser on Vintage Los Angeles see program photos of Earl Carroll and Harry Revel and a promo photo of two Earl Carroll beauties.
A souvenir postcard of the theatre from the site Card Cow. They have thousands of great vintage postcards to browse. Also see another souvenir showgirl card on the site.
A souvenir photo folder. Like many nightclubs, the Earl Carroll sold photos to the happy couples attending the shows. This view of the cover of a 40s folder which contained the souvenir photograph comes from Marlaine Hysell's collection.
Inside the souvenir photo folder: "This photograph is a souvenir of a breathtaking visit to the Earl Carroll Theatre Restaurant in Hollywood. Yes, Earl Carroll IS an international celebrity..." The text declares him "America's premiere authority of feminine beauty." You can, of course, click on the image for a larger view. Thanks Marlaine! Also see: photo of the group | rear of the folder
An ad for a New Year's Eve celebration added to the Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page by Kliph Nesteroff.
Thanks to Eric Lynxwiler on Flickr for this matchbook from the Earl Carroll Theatre. It's in his extraordinary Paper Ephemera collection.
A flyer promoting the second show "World of Pleasure," which opened in June 1939. The third revue, "The World's Fairest," opened in December 1939. Thanks to Joshua Weisel for adding a photo of the flyer as a comment to a post on the SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook page.
The stars' autographs from the plaques on the facade were replicated on souvenir glasses that you could purchase. Thanks to Mike Hume for this October 2017 photo of some that were on display at an open house at the theatre.
Earl Carroll and Beryl Wallace died in a plane crash in June 1948. The theatre continued to operate but wasn't a viable venture without the leadership of Carroll and his star. It closed in October 1949.
A Times announcement of the 1949 sale. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding it for a post on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.
Later operators: The theatre had a difficult time finding an operator in the early 50s. CBS was using it in 1951. In 1953 it was re-opened by Frank Sennes as the Moulin Rouge nightclub. The theatre was also used for periods as a TV studio in the 50s and early 60s including for the "Queen for a Day" program. That program had earlier done radio broadcasts from the theatre in the late 40s.
A wonderful 50s billboard for a Moulin Rouge engagement of Louis Prima and Keely Smith. It's a Gary Leonard photo that popped up on Vintage Los Angeles as a post by Alison Martino.
A 1959 program cover from the GS Jansen collection he once had posted on Vintage Los Angeles.
From December 1965 until 1967 it was the Hullabaloo Theatre. In mid-1967 it became the Kaleidoscope, a project of Gary Essert along with Skip Taylor and the William Morris agent John Hartmann. Essert had intended to open at the Filmarte Theatre but the landlord, National General, put a stop to that. After a quick detour for a show at the Ambassador, the venture settled in at the Earl Carroll. Marc Wanamaker has commented about scraping paint off the glass columns in the lobby get ready for the theatre's reopening.
In late 1968 it was renamed the Aquarius Theatre for almost a two year run of "Hair." The floor was re-terraced and conventional theatre seating installed. Evidently the rear of the house got partitioned off at this point to make it a separate lobby. Mike Hume found a November 1968 building permit for 110' of non-load bearing wall.
A 1972 ad for a "Film Feast" at the Aquarius. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding it for the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. Later shows at the Aquarius included "Lenny" and "Purlie." In 1977 it was briefly known as the Longhorn
Theatre. In 1979 the theatre saw runs of "Oliver!" and "Ain't Misbehavin.'" Center Theatre Group was using it in the early 80s for "Zoot Suit" and other shows. In 1981 CTG was issued a building permit for construction of a $25,000 "sound wall."
In 1982 producer Martin Tahse had it with big plans for two restaurants and a separate theatre space at the back of the stage. He pulled out the theatre seating and went back to tables on the original terraces. One production of his was "I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road." Frank Sennes had continued to own the building until 1983 when it then became a TV production facility under the management of Sunset Gower Studios.
It went through periods of being called the Sunset Blvd. Theatre, the Star Search Theatre and (in 1993) the Chevy Chase Theatre. Other uses have included being a venue for Jerry Lewis Telethons and Filmex. It was used from 1997 until 2016 by Nickelodeon as their west coast production hub and known as the Nickelodeon on Sunset.
A rendering looking west on Sunset across the facade of the theatre toward the new building Essex was proposing for the parking lot beyond. It appeared with a 2014 Curbed L.A. article by Bianca Barragan on the project titled "Here's the Latest Look for the Sunset-Vine Mixed User." Richard Adkins of Hollywood Heritage noted at the time: "There are some good things to their plans for the new adjacent building. It has a facade on Hawthorne as well as Sunset in order to upgrade that street. They are borrowing rhythms and massing from the Carroll and they are restoring or returning elements of the vintage signage."
Initially there seemed little chance
would ever again be a public venue as the developers didn't want to
necessary parking requirements. Now, with some dedicated parking and a
new tenant, it'll once again be open to the public.
The theatre is scheduled for restoration and will reopen as a music venue. Thaddeus Smith, once a partner in the Music Box/Fonda and responsible for its 2002 rebirth, has teamed up with real estate guy Brian Levian. Word of the project had been swirling around in 2019 and it finally hit the media with "Earl Carroll Theatre restoration slated to open in late 2020," Bianca Barragan's September 25 story for Curbed L.A. Well, they obviously didn't make that opening date. Also see "Hollywood's Historic Earl Carroll Theatre is Coming Back To Life," the September 2019 story Chris Nichols did for L.A. Magazine.
The Wallace on
Sunset, the new mixed-use building to the west in the theatre's former
parking lot, opened in 2021. It contains 200 apartments and 4,700 sf of
commercial space. There's a "paseo" between the theatre and the new
Status: Look for a theatre reopening sometime in 2022. The interior work will be done by Thaddeus Smith and his partners. Work by Essex will include restoration of the exterior to its 1938 look, including the vertical neon stripes on the Sunset Blvd. facade and (eventually) the neon sculpture with the lettering "Thru these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world." No cement signature blocks, however.
The Earl Carroll in the Movies:
We see all the wonders of the great stage demonstrated in "A Night at Earl Carroll's" (Paramount, 1940). The plot is slim, but it doesn't matter. A mobster engineers a kidnapping of Mr. Carroll and the lead performers so there won't be a show. But quite a show we get!
The house left side of the proscenium revolves open to reveal a stack of four ladies playing four pianos in "A Night at Earl Carroll's." In addition to Mr. Carroll, the film features Ken Murray, Rose Hobart, J. Carrol Naish, Lela Moore and Forbes Murray -- and a cameo by Beryl Wallace. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for twenty more shots from the film.
Other early films of interest include "Earl Carroll Vanities" (Republic, 1945) with Dennis O'Keefe, Constance Moore and Eve Arden where Mr. Carroll is played by Otto Kruger. In "Earl Carroll Sketchbook" (Republic, 1946) with Constance Moore and William Marshall we don't see Carroll (either himself or as portrayed by an actor) but we do get a parade of various stagehands, agents, and even the Costello Twins. The latter were reported to be intimate acquaintances of Mr. Carroll at one time. "Murder at the Vanities" is also out there but it dates from 1934, before Mr. Carroll built the theatre in Hollywood.
We get quite a tour of the theatre in its Moulin Rouge days Douglas Sirk's "Imitation of Life" (Universal-International, 1959). The film stars Lana Turner, John Gavin and Sandra Dee. Here we get a look at the dropped ceiling added in the lobby area. Thanks to LAHTF member Alenoush for remembering the theatre from the film and to Escott O. Norton for the screenshot. See his post on the LAHTF Facebook page for eight more Earl Carroll shots from the film.
We get some nice aerial shots in the Jerry Lewis film "The Errand Boy" (Paramount, 1961). Here looking west on Sunset it's the Earl Carroll (here renamed the Moulin Rouge) on the left and the Palladium across the street. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for a Hollywood Blvd. aerial view and visits to the Fox Westwood Village and the Chinese.
Elvis takes the beat to Bagdad in Gene Nelson's "Harum Scarum" (MGM, 1965). Of course while in the Middle East to premiere his new desert-themed movie Hollywood filmstar Johnny Tyronne (Elvis) gets kidnapped, meets a princess, and falls in love. We wind up at the Earl Carroll for the final number, "Harem Holiday." See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots from that scene.
"The Big T.N.T. Show" (American International, 1966) was filmed at the theatre in November 1965. It features Bo Diddley, Petula Clark, Joan Baez, The Byrds, David Crosby, Ray Charles, Donovan, Roger Miller and many more.
A vintage exterior photo of the theatre as the Earl Carroll that's used at the beginning of "Zoot Suit" (Universal, 1981).
Another exterior image from the opening. The end credits of "Zoot Suit" note that it was filmed at the Aquarius Theatre, as it was then called. There are some shots of the audience in the auditorium during the film -- but we really don't see anything except seats. There are, however, some views of the lobby.
A lobby shot from "Zoot Suit" Thanks to Lanna Pian for the tip on this one. The Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post has several more lobby shots.
The Earl Carroll is one of a number of theatres brought back to a late 60s look by Quentin Tarantino for his epic "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" (Sony, 2019). Regrettably, the theatre doesn't appear in the finished film. Thanks to Zzub McEntire for this October 5, 2018 progress shot of the work. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies pages about the filming for 40 shots of the Earl Carroll as well as views of other theatres used including the Cinerama Dome, Vogue, Ritz/Pussycat, Grauman's Chinese, Bruin and Fox Westwood Village.
More exterior views:
1938 - A Herman Schultheis shot of the installation work on the famous neon on the exterior. The piece, a 20' high likeness of Mr. Carroll's companion Beryl Wallace, is ringed with the words "Thru These Portals Pass the Most Beautiful Girls in the World." It's in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. Thanks to Nile Hight for posting the photo on Vintage Los Angeles, prompting a look for it in the LAPL collection.
The portion of the sign up on the wall that said "theatre" was sequenced so that it first said "eat," then "at," then "the" and, finally, "theatre."
1939 - Thanks to Rick Watts for finding this one for a post on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.
c.1939 - A card from the site Card Cow. The L.A. Conservancy has a cropped version of this card on their "Earl Carroll issues" page. The number in the lower corner isn't the date -- it's earlier than that.
c.1939 - A view of the tire shop along the east side of the theatre. Thanks to Michael Hayashi for the photo, a post on Photos of Los Angeles. Parking at the time was 15 cents.
c.1940 - Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for this early postcard of the theatre from his Theatre Talks collection. There's also a version of this one on Card Cow. Card Cow also has another night postcard of the theatre from across the street.
1942 - The Wikipedia article on the Earl Carroll Theatre has this photo taken by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration. It's in the Library of Congress collection. Note the fire escape from the upstairs offices, added in 1941.
1940s - Thanks to Mark for including this card with his post about the theatre on the blog Having A Nice Time. It also appears in the Hollywood section of the site Penny Postcards of California.
The back of the card reads: "The Earl Carroll Theatre - Restaurant in the heart of Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard near Vine, is a favorite Nite Spot in the Film Capital of the World. Seating arrangements are terraced so all guests may enjoy an unobstructed view of the lavish stage production with 'Sixty of the Most Beautiful Girls in the World.'"
c.1945 - A Burton Frasher Card in the collection of the Pomona Public Library. There's also a higher resolution version on Calisphere.
1940s - A view of the theatre from "The Aquarius Theater," Alison Martino's 2009 post on her Martino's Time Machine blog. The photo also appears on the Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page and with her 2015 Los Angeles Magazine article "Uncovering a Secret Gem...."
1940s - A postcard view of the celebrity autograph plaque wall from Brian Michael McCray's amazing Hollywood Postcards collection, formerly displayed on Picasa. Thanks, Brian! Another version of this star wall postcard from the John Marshall collection appears on Photos of Los Angeles.
1946 - Big plans for a new film theatre were announced but never realized. The Los Angeles Public Library photo appeared on Vintage Los Angeles, where Brian Michael McCray offered details on the never-built theatre:
1948 - Looking west from El Centro St. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the photo for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. Chris Nichols notes that the Mark C. Bloome building we see snuggled up to the east wall of the theatre was by Arthur Froehlich and built in 1946.
c.1953 - The theatre became the Moulin Rouge in 1953. Thanks to Laura De Marco for this shot. It was once posted on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles but then vanished.
early 1950s - Thanks to Ken McIntyre for this "All New Show" shot on Photos of Los Angeles.
c.1954 - A great 3 minute compilation of Hollywood footage. Luke Sacher's "Hollywood 50s Neon" on YouTube features the Earl Carroll in its Moulin Rouge days, Grauman's Chinese, the Egyptian and lots more.
1961 - A lovely Moulin Rouge view. The show was "C'est la Vie" with Louis Armstrong. Thanks to Alison Martino for the post on Vintage Los Angeles. The image also appears with her 2015 Los Angeles Magazine article "Uncovering a Secret Gem..." It's also on Photos of Los Angeles.
1960s - Thanks to G.S. Jansen for posting this nice "Queen For a Day" view by an unknown photographer on his Noirish Los Angeles post #1506.
1963 - A lovely view from Tikbalang Douglas who posted it on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
1960s - A Moulin Rouge shot that Noirish Los Angeles contributor Ethereal Reality found on eBay for his Noirish post #23819. Also see several nice views of the theatre on his Noirish post #5759. Visit Noirish LA for a great ride around the "bright and guilty place" that is Los Angeles!
1965 - A look at the celebrity autograph slabs from the Richard Wojcik collection on Vintage Los Angeles. Note here we still have the Beryl Wallace neon on the building. Thanks, Richard! Also see Alison Martino's post of a 1966 L.A. Times photo of the Turtles at the Celebrity wall.
1966 - Thanks to Richard Wojcik for this photo taken in June of the Palladium and the Earl Carroll, here as the Hullabaloo. Hullabaloo had opened December 5, 1965. The photo was a post of his on Vintage Los Angeles. He notes that the dirt in the foreground is the site of the then recently demolished NBC complex at Sunset and Vine.
1968 - An April shot of the building as the Kaleidoscope. Thanks to Joshua Weisel for the photo he found, added as a comment to a post on the SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook page.
1968 - A look at the Kaleidoscope with lines for a Janis Joplin show. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for the photo on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.
1981 - Filmex at the Aquarius. Thanks to Philip Mershon's Felix in Hollywood Tours for the photo, a post on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles. It's also on Flickr from Gerald DeLuca. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Ethereal Reality for spotting that appearance for his Noirish post #50385.
2009 - A look east on Sunset Blvd from Argyle. That's the Palladium on the left. Photo: Google Maps | interactive version
c.2009 - The Nickelodeon signage. Thanks to Mark for the photo with his post about the theatre on the blog Having A Nice Time.
November 2017 - The work on the new building in the parking lot begins. Thanks to Chuck Weiss for the photo on the SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook page.
April 2020 - A rare unobstructed view of the east side of the building. The structures that had been here have been demolished and a new project will be rising on this side of the building as well. Photo: Bill Counter
April 2020 - The theatre is a long way from reopening but it's nice to see some of the readerboard neon still works. Photo: Bill Counter
Around the back:
The scene shop at the rear of the building. We're looking east -- the loading doors are at the other end. Photo: Mike Hume - October 2017. Thanks, Mike! Visit his Historic Theatre Photography site for lots of tech information and hundreds of fine photos of the many theatres he's explored in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
The southeast corner of the building. The big rollup gets you into the scene shop. Through the smaller doors on the right you're backstage and can take a left for the stage or dressing room stairs. Straight ahead gets you to the Circle Room. Photo: Bill Counter - February 2018
More Information: See Mike Hume's fine page about the Earl Carroll on his Historic Theatre Photography site. And don't miss "A Day at Earl Carroll's," his three and a half minute 2017 video tour of the building on You Tube.
The City of Los Angeles Department of City Planning has a 2016 Cultural Heritage Commission Final Report available as a 498 page pdf. On Facebook see the Beryl Wallace Homepage. The site Earl Carrol Girls has an extensive collection of photos of the building, the performers and memorabilia.
The L.A. Conservancy
has a fine page on the theatre and the adjacent new building. Hit the "our position" tab for
more information about their reservations about the project as
originally proposed. Also see the Draft Environmental Impact Report from March 2015 and a pdf with the Conservancy's comments.
Alison Martino's 2015 Los Angeles Magazine article "Uncovering a Secret Gem..." has some history of the venue. The Rock Prosopography 101 post about the theatre's Kaleidoscope era has a list of 1968 shows and images of poster art.
See the Bruce Torrence article on Frank Sennes and the theatre's years as the Moulin Rouge. Martin Turnbull has a fine article about the theatre on his website. You Tube has a nice 2 1/2 minute clip from Robbies Video Archives "The Hullabaloo Club, Hollywood, 1966" with a nice discussion of its transition from the Earl Carroll/Moulin Rouge.
The Wikipedia article on the Earl Carroll Theatre has an informative history on the Hollywood theatre and Earl Carroll Theatre in New York City. Also visit their listing for Earl Carroll. Earl Carroll also has a listing on Find A Grave.
Carroll also was involved in film production with credits as either producer or co-producer on the cult-classic "Murder at the Vanities" with Jack Oakie and Kitty Carlisle (Paramount, 1933), "Stowaway" with Shirley Temple (20th Century Fox, 1936) and "Love is News" with Tyrone Power and Loretta Young (20th Century Fox, 1937). "A Night at Earl Carroll's" with Ken Murray, Rose Hobart and Mr. Carroll (Paramount, 1940) shot many scenes at the theatre.
Later films revolving around Carroll's work were "Earl Carroll Vanities" (aka "Moonstruck Melody") with Dennis O'Keefe, Constance Moore, Eve Arden and the Woody Herman band (Republic, 1945) and "Earl Carroll Sketchbook" (aka "Stand Up and Sing" and "Hats Off to Rhythm") with Constance Moore and William Marshall (Republic, 1946). Carroll himself doesn't appear in either film. Carroll had co-written and produced Broadway shows called "Earl Carroll's Vanities" from 1923 to 1932 and "Earl Carroll's Sketch Book" shows in 1929 and 1935. See a lengthy IMDb list of his writing and producing credits dating back to 1912.
The Republic set for the interior of the theatre seen in both "Earl Carroll Vanities" and "Earl Carroll Sketchbook." Interestingly, they did a great job of contouring the front of the stage with the center stairs and narrow protrusions on each side to match the real theatre. On this set the band is in that recess we see in the house right wall. As far as exterior shots, both films give us only a couple of quick glimpses of the real theatre.
The book: A new book on Earl Carroll by Randy Schmidt titled "Impresario: Earl Carroll and Beryl Wallace" is in the works from the University Press of Mississippi "Hollywood Legends" series. There's an Indiegogo page up with information about the book and Mr. Carroll. A short video is included. Schmidt also has an Impresario page and an Earl Carroll Theatre page up on Facebook.
The Missing Plaques: The Earl Carrol had a whole wall of little plaques that were signed by the stars. In a June, 2011 story, L.A. Magazine's Chris Nichols answers a question about what happened to them:
"In 1968, a Dutch art collective known as the Fool replaced the nameplates with a psychedelic mural of Greek muses and stored the autographed pieces in the basement. They stayed there until 1979, when Magic Castle founder Milt Larsen acquired them for his Variety Arts Center downtown. Gene Autry lassoed them for his museum later that year. Finally, Butterfield & Butterfield auctioned off 104 of the plaques in 1989 and 1990. Two bearing the names of Norma Shearer and Amos ’n Andy had been left beneath the theater stage. They were put on display until 2006, when the property was sold again...and the owner gave the pair to the handyman." Thanks, Chris!
One story was as of 2015 some of the plaques were still in the possession of Milt Larsen. The February 2018 word is that about 80 of the plaques are in the possession of a San Diego theatre owner. Perhaps the same gentleman (Papa Alan) who commented back in 2011 on a post on the blog Dear Old Hollywood saying he had 80 to 100 of the plaques in his possession.
The Earl Carroll Theatre pages: back to top - history + exterior views | lobby areas | auditorium | stage | stage basement | sceneshop | ephemera |
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