Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spanish Flu and Entertainers

Our first resident professional, entertainer that is, was a man by the name of Henry Lindley. Lindley was a prominent theatrical figure in Canada in the early 20th century. He had a company that performed plays around Canada. These productions had names like In The Cariboo and A Scene on Hastings.

Lindley's company every year Lindley and his company would perform in various cities around the country. One of the productions was a play written by the Prairie playwright and journalist Kate Simpson Hayes. And Lindley would take such plays as this, The Duplicate Man, on tours through select US cities. Not only was he supporting Canadian talent, he was showcasing it outside the country.

You may be thinking that these productions were small affairs but they weren't. One touring production of Ben Hur played at the Vancouver Opera House and the cast was 275 people strong. There was even a real chariot race with four live horses for each chariot. The horses ran on a treadmill and people vacated the wings in case there was an accident.

The 'movies' came to Vancouver on August 2, 1897. Well, sort of. The Edison Kinetoscope was at an exhibition at Market Hall however, the technology was too crude to be considered movies and it was more of a novelty than a valid form of entertainment.

Just over a year later, on October 8, 1898 Vancouver's first, and perhaps Canada's, movie theatre opened on Cordova Street. Not much was heard of it after the opening though. The same thing happened in 1902 when the Edison Electric Theatre opened. It may have been Canada's first permanent cinema but not much is known of it.

In 1904, Frank Kerr opened a movie in New Westminster. In 1909 Larson's Pavilion in North Vancouver welcomed its first movie house in June.

Although the Province newspaper had begun publishing daily on March 26,1898 there were few advertisements for theatres or any other entertainment events. A few years later though and there were three theatres advertising. The VOH, the People's Theatre at Pender and Howe and the Imperial at Hastings and Gore. The Imperial mentioned in a 1904 ad that there were showing moving pictures but no other description was given.

The precursor to the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE), the Vancouver Exhibition, began on August 16, 1910. It was a major event and was opened by none other than our Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier.

In 1917, Fred and Adele Astaire danced at the Orpheum. They made quite a stir because at that time people danced on the floor. Not Fred and Adele. The Astaires danced up the stairwells on the tabletops.

1918, was a year that was monumental in Vancouver history. Like many cities in North America Vancouver was hit by the Spanish Flu epidemic. More people died during the years of World War I due to the flu than in the war itself.

However, there was also good things that happened here in 1918. Sarah Bernhardt returned for the third time and the Marx Brothers also performed here during that year.

These stories and facts that I am getting from History of Metropolitan Vancouver website are part of a story that leads to the construction and emergence of the present day Orpheum theatre. Being a writer and part of the entertainment business, I find it interesting to see how the 'biz' came to be in Vancouver.
Some of these photos are of the Mountain View Crematorium, which was built in 1912 and was the first crematorium in Western Canada.
I hope you find the beauty around you.

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