Movies in Lansdowne
In 1893, the same year the borough was incorporated, a group of 15 residents formed a local chapter of the Pennsylvania Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. The members, known as “White Ribboners,” successfully lobbied the borough government to forbid alcohol from being sold in the borough and movies from being screened on Sundays.
Movies came to Lansdowne in 1912 when the Twentieth Century Club rented their clubhouse, known as Century Hall (today simply known as the Twentieth Century Club), to a film presenter who exhibited films on Thursday nights. The income generated from the ticket sales was used to pay off the mortgage on the building and to support the many activities of the club. The projector was contained in a portable asbestos projection booth, with films being shown in the main auditorium. After The Lansdowne opened in 1927, the Twentieth Century Club members worked with the operator of the theater to select films for the Saturday morning matinees.
Lansdowne has been the home of two Academy Award winners. David Goodman, a current resident of the borough, received the Academy Award for his 1985 documentary “Witness to War: Dr. Charlie Clements.” He is currently working on two new documentaries. David credits The Lansdowne as the place where his interest in cinema began.
Jack Eaton (1888-1968), the son of Seymour Eaton, the originator of the popular “Roosevelt Bears” comics and books, was raised at the mansion known as Athdara on South Lansdowne Avenue. He served as producer on 78 films and as director on 38 films between 1918 and 1953. He was nominated for five Oscars in his career and won the Academy Award in 1949 for his short film “Aquatic House Party.”
Raised in Lansdowne during the 1920s, Henry Leroy Willson (1911-1978) played a significant role in Hollywood. After college, he wrote a weekly gossip column for Variety. Later he wrote for the staff of Photoplay, The Hollywood Writer, and The New Movie Magazine. He then went on to become a movie agent, representing some of Hollywood’s best known actors and actresses, including Lana Turner, Tab Hunter, and Rock Hudson. Willson had a knack for renaming actors, and it he who renamed Roy Fitzgerald “Rock Hudson.” It was widely known that Willson, who was gay, represented gay actors who passed as straight. He often sought to dispel rumors about actors being gay, going as far to have Rock Hudson marry his secretary.