Monday, January 17, 2011

Hollywood's Earl Carroll Theatre

Earl Carroll Theatre, 6230 Sunset Blvd

In 1938, after getting his start in New York, Earl Carroll would move his dinner theatre business to Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. A show at the Earl Carroll Theatre, according to an early advertisement, included a chance to dance to "two famous orchestras, watch a CBS broadcast, and dine on superb dishes created by world-renowned chefs." For $3.50 you could enjoy all of the evening's entertainment plus a full-course dinner or for $1.65 without dinner.

Another advertisement exclaims the theatre features "sixty of the most beautiful girls in the world." These girls would perform elaborate stage revues usually led by a popular star.

During the 1940s, Hollywood was the nightspot destination for visiting servicemen. Like the Hollywood Canteen or the Florentine Gardens, the Earl Carroll Theatre welcomed many servicemen. You can imagine at the price of $3.50 you got more bang for your buck than you would have visiting some of the Sunset Strip nightclubs.

The Earl Carroll Theatre would continue to be a popular nightspot until June 17, 1948, when Carroll died in a plane crash. Afterwards the club would struggle for a few years. In 1953, Frank Sennes changed the club into the "Moulin Rouge." Still a theatre and restaurant, the Moulin Rouge featured more Vegas Style shows and would last into the 1960s.

6320 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, Ca

Above is an image of the Earl Carroll Theatre building as it appears today. The building is now occupied by Nickelodeon studios.

"Wall of Fame" Earl Carroll Theatre

Grauman's Chinese Theatre had celebrity hand prints, footprints and signatures in the sidewalk in front of the theatre. The Earl Carroll Theatre had celebrity signatures on plaques on their "Wall of Fame" next to the entrance of the theatre. Some of the names on the plaques include Don Ameche, Rosalind Russell, Joan Bennett, Ray Milland, and Myrna Loy. Does anyone know where these plaques are today?

Beryl Wallace

One of the stars of the Earl Carroll Theatre shows was the beautiful Beryl Wallace who also happened to be Earl Carroll's wife. Wallace also died in the same plane crash as her husband.

Earl Carroll Theatre Glasses

If you went to the Earl Carroll Theatre one of the souvenirs you could purchase was a set of "Hollywood Star Autograph Glasses." The set included eight different glasses with color embossed autographs of many of the popular actors and actresses of the time. The colors came in Red, Blue, Green, Orange, White, Maroon, Yellow and Black and each color had different celebrity signatures. Fred Astaire was on the green set, Humphrey Bogart on the orange, and Rita Hayworth on the red set for example. To purchase a set of these eight glasses would put you back $3.00. Does anyone still have a set of these glasses in their home? If you do, I hope they're on display and not being used!

Frank Sennes Moulin Rouge on Sunset Blvd

Above is an image of Frank Sennes Moulin Rouge. As you can see, the Wall of Fame is still on display outside the theatre. From the outside, the building did not change much from the change over from being the Earl Carroll Theatre to the Moulin Rouge, other than the signage. You can still go by the theatre today but now you will see all the Nickelodeon signage displayed on the building - and no Wall of Fame.

As I mentioned before, I always like reading the messages on the back of old postcards. On the backside of the very first Earl Carroll Theatre postcard displayed at the top of this post it reads, "We are about ready to start our long trip back - this place is pretty but we haven't seen any movie stars." Postmarked in 1947 to a Mrs. Rose Kellerman & Sister in Memphis, Tenn. Even back then tourists were disappointed to not have any star sightings.


Matt said...

Thanks for this wonderful post, Robby. The Earl Carroll Theatre also had a clever way of displaying their neon sign at night - the THEATRE part would flash EAT, then AT, then THE, then THEATRE. Wish I was there to see it in person!

Happy Mom Aim said...

Wow! Another fabulous post! Thank you so much for this one - I am thrilled to know the building still exists!! Next time I'm there I will definitely go take pics! There's an amazing book called Out With The Stars that describes this place and all the great old night spots very well. If you haven't read it, you have to as I know you would love it!

Robby Cress said...

Hey Matt, I wish I could be there to see that sign too. Better yet I wish I could time travel back to see one of those shows! Thanks for that tidbit.

Lucas, thanks for the suggestion. I have not heard of that book but sounds like something right up my alley. I will definitely be looking that one up.

rocket9 said...

Thanks for the informative posts..I learn a lot about the history of Hollywood and environs from you. And I love to see that some of the buildings and locations are still operating today albeit under a new name/ownership. Fascinating!

VP81955 said...

I've had a few entries on Earl Carroll's restaurant, specifically the wall, because Carole Lombard was one of those honored with her autograph:

In the late sixties, the celebrity slabs were removed to put up a mural:

Whatever happened to the slabs? I have no idea. I only hope they'll be found somewhere, just as those Grauman's Chinese Theater cement slabs were uncovered recently.

Robby Cress said...

VP81955, Thanks for the links! I especially like the one with the Life magazine cover of the soldier staring up at the slabs. What a great image.

I agree, I hope those slabs are discovered. If they haven't been destroyed it is a shame that they are hidden away somewhere.

I've added a link to your site on the right to make it easier to check out your site.

Philip Mershon said...

The Earl Carroll is another of the stops on my tour, and one of my favorites! I was just wondering about the autograph slabs aloud to some tour guests the other day. Would love to know if they survived. I do know that they were still on the building up until the mid-late 60s.

Robby, would love to have you (and all your readers) come on the tour.

niles said...

I believe that the plaques were finally auctioned off after several owners including Gene Autrey. Supposedly, two were found underneath the stage recently

Unknown said...

Does anyone know if the Earl Carroll Theater had cement plaques with both hand prints and a signature ?
My friend showed me two plaques the other day, one a James Stewart and the other a Jane Russell cement plaque that had both.

Papa Alan said...

I currently have possession of 80 - 100 of the original cement signature blocks fro the Earl Carroll Dinner Theater. I also have an original Earl Carroll Dinner Menu signed by Earl Carroll and Shirley Temple.

If interested or want to discuss, please email

Unknown said...

There is a facebook page dedicated to Earl Carroll and Beryl Wallace titled: Beryl Wallace Home Page.

Unknown said...

I have created a facebook page dedicated to Earl Carroll and Beryl Wallace. It is called "Beryl Wallace Homepage"
Scott Zone (nephew of Beryl Wallace)


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