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Spensley Orpheum: 1940

Spensley Orpheum: 1940

April 1940. "Old Orpheum theater. Dubuque, Iowa." Today's double feature: Adventure in Diamonds and Viva Cisco Kid. Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon. View full size.


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Exactly 80 years ago

John Vachon wrote to his wife from Dubuque on April 16, 1940 ("Dear Penny"), the day of his arrival, and April 18, 1940 ("Dearest Frau"), the night before his departure. But his taste in movies was generally above the level of "Adventure in Diamonds" and "Viva Cisco Kid."

Vast expansion, but 100% still there

And if you go to the Five Flags Center website, there are pictures both period and modern of the theater; never been to Iowa myself, but looking at them, I'd love to get a seat in the balcony.

What's NOT still there are the buildings to the right of the theater; they've been turned into a vast expansion for the entertainment complex that was built to incorporate the theater. The pictures on Google of the complex with a set of huge temporary pools, monster truck rallies, concerts by Little River Band and Chicago, a gymnastics tournament, wrestling, and the ubiquitous "Disney on Ice" are interesting, but the star is the theater.

Also missing, alas, is that Steak place. It's making me hungry just looking at the Shorpy picture. And darn it, with Covid, I can't go out and get one!

Finally found one

A gentleman of the day, outside, without a hat.

I also noted the fix for the sign support that's at window height. And there's so much more to explore in this picture.

Oh Cisco!

The second movie on the bill, 'Viva Cisco Kid', is one of many appearances of the Cisco Kid, starting in movies in 1914 (Warner Baxter won an Oscar in 1928) and then in radio for 15 years, television for 6 years (said to be the first series to be filmed in color), plus comics. Cesar Romero played him in 'Viva Cisco Kid'.

The Cisco Kid was created by none other than O. Henry, as a murderous Mexican desperado. He soon switched sides and became a dashing caballero, picking up sidekicks, Lopez and Gordito, and eventually Pancho. Those of us of a certain age can cringe at the memory of their sign-off: "Oh Pancho! Oh Cisco!"

After the 1994 TV movie starring Jimmy Smits and Cheech Marin, Cisco presumably rode off into the desert of past stereotypes. Though not quite: there has been a series of graphic novels, including 'Wyatt Earp vs Cisco Kid' where Cisco has returned to his outlaw ways.

Addendum: How could I forget the song by War, which reached #2 on Billboard in 1972: "The Cisco Kid was a friend of mine/He drink whiskey, Poncho drink the wine."

I have compared two different pictures

I have compared two pictures with different ages and i can see that curbs weren't changed and they are still looking good. In addition, i think the breakwall in the modern photo looks like it has been painted, hasn't it?

Let's revisit it

Highway 61, that is. I mean, after we make a series of right turns in search of a place to parallel park, and get one of those sizzling steaks. I mean, it says they cater to tourists. And they have five-cent cigars, though I don't know if former Vice President Thomas R. Marshall would have classed them as "good" cigars. He wouldn't either, having died fifteen years earlier.

Still there

At the intersection of Main and 4th streets.

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