Hollywood Greats Signed Mayor’s Guest Book

Before Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Garner, there was Alfred Hitchcock and Dorothy Lamour.

It was Tuesday Oct, 9, 1951 when famed director Hitchcock, “Siren of the Sarong” Lamour an actress who starred alongside Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in their “Road” movies, and a contingent of their Hollywood colleagues arrived in the Mill City to great fanfare.

Lowell Sun society reporter Betty Reilly reported the movie stars’ caravan arrived at the city line on Gorham Street just before 11 a.m. They were met by city officials, local theater managers and a military escort.  Gawkers lined city streets to catch a glimpse as a parade of cars headed up Gorham to Central Street and up Merrimack Street to City Hall.

Lowell was a stop on the 68 city/town “MovieTime USA” tour, celebrating 50 years of motion pictures and designed to entice Americans to head back to movie theaters, as the industry feared the growing influence of television would keep people at home.

The vivacious Lamour, who The Sun referred to as “the girl who did for the sarong what Barnum did for the circus,” was a favorite in Lowell, having visited the city in 1942 selling war bonds.

“Once at City Hall, the group went into the Mayor’s office,” Reilly reported. “They entered at the side door of the building much to the satisfaction of the wise City Hall employees who had gathered there to catch a glimpse of all the goings-on.”

Lamour was the first to sign the guest register in Mayor George Eliades’ office. Her autograph was followed by those of: Casting director Billy Grady, a Lynn native who discovered Jimmy Stewart and Lamour; Debra Paget, a 17-year-old rising starlet; Margaret Sheridan, the lead actress in “The Thing”; Alfred Hitchcock, who at that time had directed “Rebecca” and “Spellbound” among other films, but had yet to film his biggest hits like “Psycho” and “The Birds”; Screenwriters Oscar Brodney and Wells Root; Thomas Breen, a handsome young actor who starred in “The River”; and Samuel Pinanski.

Who was Pinanski? He was the head of the Lowell Technological Institute’s (UMass Lowell) Board of Trustees in the 1940’s and the owner of the largest movie theater chain in New England. UMass Lowell’s nuclear reactor is named in his honor.

But back to the movie stars . . .

Reilly had a chance to sit down with Lamour, Paget and Sheridan while Hitchcock looked on. She asked him if he had plans for a new thriller. He said he was waiting for the right story to come along.

“I’m looking for my usual type of story,” Hitchcock said.  “You can’t ask a cobbler to change his last, you know.”

Upon returning to Los Angeles, Lamour told syndicated Hollywood columnist Earl Wilson she had very much enjoyed the extensive tour.

“It was wonderful and Lowell was the best of all,” Lamour said.

Before Hitchcock and his band of glamorous dames descended upon the city, a couple of funny guys popped in.

On Saturday April 17, 1948, the celebrated comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello visited the Mayor’s office and signed the guest book
(City Hall was open on Saturdays until March 7, 1953).

The duo was in town to headline two days of shows at the Lowell Auditorium. They performed at 2:30, 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Tickets were $1.20 (including tax) for the matinee shows, with a special price of 25 cents for school children for the Saturday matinee (with proceeds benefiting the Lowell Boys’ Club); $1.20 for balcony seats for the evening shows and $1.80 for orchestra and floor seats.

“They are billed as a brace of buffoons and their routines are strictly boff,” wrote Sun City Hall reporter Jim Droney. “They are top of the top in show business, but most importantly they are a couple of good sams (that’s short for Samaritans).”

Abbott and Costello had built a community recreation center and free health clinic in Los Angeles, which at that time was servicing 11,000 young people. It was named in honor of Costello’s son, Lou Jr., who had drowned in the family pool two days prior to his first birthday in November 1943.

7 thoughts on “Hollywood Greats Signed Mayor’s Guest Book

  1. Holy moly, I can’t believe I just got on this FABULOUS Lowell film history gravy train! Thank you SO much, Jen! I’m gonna spread the word about the Mill City’s brush with Tinsel Town, for sure! (PS: Don’t let anyone know how much I pawed those signatures!)

  2. Pingback: A Link To The Future: NSRL | Return to Room 50

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