Court Theatre, Recollections from 1938
-from the WHEELING NEWS-REGISTER, March 20, 1938. © Ogden Newspapers; reproduced with permission.
THEATRE IN WHEELING
VETERAN STAGEHAND TRIO TELLS OF HEADLINERS WHO APPEARED IN WHEELING
Pop Warner, Elmer Tisher and Jack Lynch, Who Were With Court at Start, Now Handling Capitol Talent
Last week through a door facing Twelfth street just above Chapline passed many remembrances of what that door meant two decades ago.
The door was the stage entrance to the Court theatre which wrote the glamor to Wheeling's chapter of the amusement world.
From September 8, 1902, to the first days of 1925 the Court played all the greatest road shows in the days when Broadway was the most important avenue in entertainment.
Three of the men who "handled" the many stars that passed through that door in 23 seasons are handling the talent at the Capitol theatre. They are property men but one developed from pulling curtains to taking bows before the curtain.
Pop Warner, Elmer Tisher and Jack Lynch who were shifting scenery, arranging spotlights and pulling curtains in the first season of the Court intermittently worked the stage for the 23 seasons.
Jack Lynch pulled the asbestos on the Frank Daniels show, made a special trip to the Court lastTuesday night to pull the curtain after the last screen performance. thus opening and closing a place that meant more to him than a job.
Warner and Tisher worked out of the Court with great companies but they always came back.Lynch graduated from straightening borders (those pieces hanging down from the "ceiling.") to character roles and even returned for a season in his old house.
Reminiscing the other night these three recalled every big name in show business for the last 35 years having played the Court. Sarah Bernhardt came here in 1906 but her company showed at Wheeling Park.
Ziegfeld brought several editions of his Follies through the Twelfth street portal. There was Maude Adams in "Peter Pan" and Elsie Janis brought her "Overseas Revue" here following the war, the same company that was organized to keep up the spirits of Uncle Sam's fighters.
The real old-timers had the biggest shows and who but the property man can more easily remember. It took the Court crew all night and all day to set up the eight-car show of BlancheWalsh in "The Daughter of Hamlicar."
Blanche Bates in "The Girl of the Golden West," Ezery Kender in "Weather Beaten Benson"were some of the early hits. Margaret Illington, late wife of Major Bowes, played the Court in her greatest success.
Guy Bates Post, Granny Gilbert at 18, William Gillette, Blanche Ring, EvaTangway, MadameSchumann-Heink gave some of the most memorable performances the Court stage ever presented.
BORN IN McLURE
Henrietta Crossman, now of the movies, was born in the McLure hotel and 20 years later played at the Court. Bunny Granville, who claimed Wheeling as his home and whose daughter, BenitaGranville is now a starlet of the screen, was one of the best box-office attractions at the Court.
Mrs. Leslie Carter in "DuBarry" for David Belasco took Tisher on the road as a property man. Butone of the three survivors of the stage crew that opened the house was always "at home".
Warner recalled the great show William A. Brady brought here called "Southern Skies" and starring his wife, Grace George. On Broadway today Brady is readying a show which will co-starGrace George and Tallulah Bankhead.
William Farnum played the Court in one of the first masterpieces, "Ben Hur." George M.Cohannow on Broadway in "I'd Rather be Right" brought his first successful musical comedy here. It was "Little Johnny Jones."
FIELDS MINSTRELS LAST
Al G. Fields Minstrels which was the last great road show played the Court every New Year's Day for 23 consecutive seasons. And Eddie Cantor first came here as an end man in a minstrel show.Later he appeared as star of "Kid Boots."
All the great actors except Bernhardt took bows at the Court. There was Lawrence D'Orsay in"The Earl of Pawtucket" when real champagne was used; Kitty Gordon, a great emoter of her day; Ann Held in a "heavy" sketch; Charles Gillpin as "Emperor Jones" and David Warfield in1918 in "The Return of Peter Grimm." Marilyn Miller, Fay Templeton, May Robson, were stars 25 years ago. Amelia Bingham, Mildred Holland, Frank Baker, Tim Murphy and Robert Browning were the very first big names to be presented at the Court.
Ina Claire, a Broadway favorite for years and in a new play this season, played a minor role here when a child. AlJoslon sang "I Met My Avalon" in one of the first Dockstetter shows that ever came to Wheeling. The immortal Lillian Russell, one of the truly great actresses in the theatre's history, played the Court in 1914 in "Wildfire" after appearing here in the second season of the house.
Almost all of Shakespeare's works were presented at the Court and much of it by great names. Fritz Leiber played "Macbeth," Robert Mantell in "King Lehr" and Richard Mansfield in "Hamlet"were the greatest. George Arliss in "Disraeli" played a week at the Court in 1906 and Mme. Nazimova gave one of her great portrayals "The Doll House" in the same season.
All of the Barrymore's, Lionel, John and Ethel, were seen here between 1910 and 1925 and John Drew played opposite Mrs. Leslie Carter in one of her later shows in which Ernest Truex, film comedian had a featured part.
Ann Pennington's "million-dollar legs" were exhibited in a musical show at the Court and several editions of George White's Scandals in the says when White headed his shows came here. The greatest minstrel team, McIntyre and Heath were an old favorite with Wheeling theater goers.
And the novelty side of the theatre, Houdini, Keller, Blackstone and Thurston, the magicians all presented their tricks of magic for Wheeling's young and old.
Through the door that will soon be torn away to make way for a streamlined movie palace, trod the greatest in the days when Wheeling was better known for being a part of a great road show circuit than it was for stogies.