Reviewed by Tom Gates for the Travel Smart Newsletter
The book’s subtitle explains it all – “New York’s Landmark Theatre From Broadway’s Beginnings To Live Television, Jack Paar, and Elvis.”
The history of this fabled New York City building turns out to be quite astonishing. >From its beginning in 1903 as a legitimate theatre to it’s recent restoration to its original glory – The Hudson represents nothing less than a time capsule of the 20th century. It’s first theatrical offering was Cousin Kate starring Ethel Barrymore and the procession of ensuing stars include Douglas Fairbanks, Eva Le Gallienne, Dorothy Gish, Edward G. Robinson, Helen Hayes, Alfred Lunt, Judith Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Barbara Stanwyck, Shirley Booth, Imogene Coca, Lena Horne, Celeste Holm, Boris Karloff, Geraldine Page, Maurice Evans, Ann Baxter, Maureen Stapleton, Jane Fonda, and Laurence Olivier.
In the 50′s and 60′s, when the theatre was used to televise shows hosted by Steve Allen, Kate Smith and Jack Paar, we get a roster of pop music stars including Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, Hazel Scott, Teddy Wilson, Oscar Peterson, and Dizzy Gillespie. Not surprisingly, the reader begins to wonder who didn’t perform at The Hudson.
Tiffany is another name prominently featured in the theatre’s history – thanks to the beautiful glass mosaics which, at one point, were painted and plastered over. Author Moorehouse credits Kwek Leng Beng, owner of the theatre’s parent company Millennium Hotels & Resorts, for restoring The Hudson to its former grandeur.
And what about Elvis, whose name appears in the book’s subtitle? It turns out that Mr. Presley balked at Steve Allen’s suggestion that he sing ‘You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Dog’ to a real live hound dog. He finally relented and gained national attention.
To quote UPI’s cultural critic-at-large, Frederick Winship, ‘No one is more qualified to write a history of Broadway’s landmark Hudson Theatre than Ward Morehouse III, a member of a family identified with the New York theater for generations and a theater columnist and historian in his own right.’
If you love the theatre, actors, TV stars and great architecture, you’ll love this social and historic presentation, written in the lively Morehouse style.