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Edgewater Beach Hotel Chicago: A Magnet for Hollywood Celebrities

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I have a fascination with hotels that started at a very young age. Growing up, we didn’t have the money to take expensive trips to places like Disneyland, but my sisters and I were perfectly happy going on smaller trips to places nearby. Often times we would just stay at a hotel to enjoy all its amenities, which for us kids meant mostly the swimming pool!

I grew to love staying in hotels during our trips, and my favorite hotel which we stayed at several times was the Leilani Hotel in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Sadly it is no longer there and it’s hard to find information about it, but I did find an article that shows an illustrated picture of the hotel’s layout, which was quite unique. The article mentions that Frank Sinatra may have even entertained there at one time, which would have been cool to see.

Anyway, to this day I love staying in hotels, looking at pictures of hotels, and reading about hotels old and new. So when I read an article about the former Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago and found out it had strong ties to the classic film community, I was intrigued!

I immediately headed to eBay to see if I could find a postcard of the hotel, which I love to do on occasion when the inspiration strikes. I purchased the following postcard, which shows an actual picture of the hotel, but there were many illustrated postcards that I thought were really cool and would like to buy someday.

Edgewater Beach Hotel Chicago

In researching the history of the hotel, I discovered that it was once an extremely popular destination for classic movie stars, which I never would have guessed about a hotel in Chicago, far from the bright lights of Hollywood. The more I read about it, the more I wish I were alive when it was in its heydey, just like I do when I hear about the Copa Room in the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Well, it did still exist for a few decades after I was born, but the exciting days of the Rat Pack performing there were over.

Here are few facts about the history of The Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago:

  • Built in 1916 and designed by famed architects Benjamin H. Marshall and Charles E. Fox, the hotel was built in the form of a Maltese Cross so that as many rooms as possible would have a view of Lake Michigan.
  • The hotel boasted a 1,200 foot private beach where guests could sunbathe during the day and dance at night. It also had its own barbershop, beauty parlor, drugstore, liquor store, photographer’s studio, and gift shop along with many other amenities. Continue reading »
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Concert

Earlier this year ISaxophone3 mentioned that I play the saxophone in a community band and had a great time at our spring concert playing the tune “But Not for Me,” which was composed by George Gershwin. Yesterday during our fall concert, we played two more pieces by Gershwin so I thought why not do what I did then and discover what, if any ties they had to classic movies.

I hope you won’t mind though if I share a little story with you first. As I was getting ready for the concert, I was feeling way more nervous than usual (I could barely eat my lunch!) and was not feeling at all confident in my playing abilities.

But a funny thing happened as soon as we walked onto the stage, sat down, and started playing our first piece. All my nervousness seemed to vanish in an instant, and I realized that I love to perform on stage in front of an audience!

Now that might not sound like a big deal, especially to those of you who have any kind of stage experience, but as a once extremely shy introvert who has struggled my whole life with social awkwardness, unhealthy perfectionism, and a fear of doing pretty much anything in front of large groups, I never would have expected to find myself in that situation, especially since I don’t exactly possess a ton of musical talent. I’m not quite sure why I never felt that way at previous concerts, but it was quite an exhilarating revelation and now I can’t wait for our next one!

As for the two Gershwin pieces we played, the first was actually a medley of the songs “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “Bidin’ My Time” and the other one was “Strike Up the Band.” They weren’t quite as fun to play as “But Not for Me” but it is always satisfying to play tunes that I am familiar with, so I really enjoyed performing them. Continue reading »

George Gershwin’s “But Not for Me” is Definitely for Me

Mickey Rooney Judy Garland Girl Crazy 1943

Yesterday I performed in a concert with my band (I play the saxophone in a community band), and by far my favorite of all the pieces we played was the jazz standard “But Not for Me,” which was composed in 1930 by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin.

I think it might be the most fun piece we’ve ever played. Well except for maybe the time we played songs from the musical Hair. “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” especially was an absolute blast to play!

Anyway, when I got home I decided to look up the history of “But Not for Me,” and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it has ties to classic film. Turns out it was originally written for the 1930 musical Girl Crazy, a play that by most accounts made Ginger Rogers a star and helped launch the career of Ethel Merman. On opening night of the play, the pit orchestra included the likes of Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Glenn Miller, and Jimmy Dorsey. Boy, would I have loved to have been there for that!

The song was also performed by Judy Garland in the film version of Girl Crazy from 1943, and it appeared in the movies Manhattan (1979), When Harry Met Sally (1989), and Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). Continue reading »

Saturday State Post: Classic Movie Actors from Minnesota

For this week’s Saturday State Post, I decided to highlight some actors and actresses from my neighbor to the west, Minnesota since I recently watched a few movies with two of the actors on this list, Lew Ayres in Remember? (1939) and The Unfaithful (1947) and Warren William in The Case of the Howling Dog (1934).

A few of the actors and actresses from the state of Minnesota are:

Actor Warren William

Warren William

Born: December 2, 1894 in Aitkin, MN

Died: September 24, 1948 (age 53)

Married once – to his wife Helen for 25 years before his death in 1948

Known for the Movies: Three on a Match, Employees Entrance, Gold Diggers of 1933, Lady for a Day, Imitation of Life, Satan Met a Lady, The Wolf Man

My Favorite Warren William Movie: Three on a Match

 
Interesting Facts About Warren William:

  • He was the first actor to portray the character of defense attorney Perry Mason on the big screen, the first time was in the movie The Case of the Howling Dog (1934) which I recently watched on TCM. He played the character in a total of four movies.
  • He is sometimes referred to as “The King of Pre-Codes” because of his frequent portrayal of amoral, ruthless, and heartless businessmen in movies made in the early 1930s before the advent of the Production Code.
  • He was an amateur inventor who created items such as a lawn vacuum, a recreational vehicle, a rolling picnic table, and custom barbecue grills, receiving patents for a few of his inventions.
  • If you would like to learn more about Warren William, be sure to check out Cliff’s blog devoted solely to the actor! Continue reading »
Gene and Fred Kelly in Deep in My Heart (1954)

This post is an entry in the Gene Kelly Centennial Blogathon, hosted by the Classic Movie Blog Association. Please visit the CMBA site to read all the other great entries.

I was fortunate to become a member of the CMBA earlier this year, and when I discovered they were hosting a blogathon honoring Gene Kelly, I jumped at the chance to participate.

I mean who wouldn’t want a ready made excuse to watch another Gene Kelly movie? Well okay, I guess people who don’t know or like Gene Kelly. :-) But thankfully that’s not me. I love him as an actor, and he is my favorite dancer. I truly could watch him dance all day long!

When I saw that all of the Gene Kelly movies I was interested in covering had already been spoken for, I chose to watch the movie Deep in My Heart (1954) just because I had never seen it before. Excited to see Gene in something new, I was disappointed to say the least when I checked out the DVD from the library and realized that he is only in the movie for a whopping 2 minutes!

So I admit, I struggled with what to do for this post since it is meant to honor Gene Kelly, and to devote the whole post to a movie he barely appeared in didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Yes, I know I could have picked a different movie, but as long as I had it in my possession and didn’t have much time to find something else, I decided to stick with it, especially when I discovered all the talented actors, dancers, and singers that star in the movie.

So I decided to write the following review of the movie and then follow it up with a list of some of my favorite Gene Kelly dance partners. Continue reading »