Louis R. Lurie collection of Curran and Geary Theater press books

June 19, 2019
Gurudarshan Khalsa
Advertisement for 'As Thousands Cheer', at the Curran Theatre, 1935

The Louis R. Lurie Collection of press books documenting the Curran and Geary Theatre productions (M1148) has been processed and is now available for research.  

The catalog record is available here: https://searchworks.stanford.edu/view/4769502

This collection consists of 804 press books covering 904 productions at the Curran and Geary theatres in San Francisco from 1923 to 1976. Real estate developer, theatrical producer and philanthropist, Louis R. Lurie donated the bulk of the collection to Stanford in 1970. The press books primarily contain newspaper clippings with feature stories, advertisements, interviews, columns, and critical reviews of the productions. There are also playbills, programs, posters, menus, lists, entertainment guides, photographs, and correspondence. The productions documented in the press books include plays, dance performances, ballet, variety shows, burlesque shows, Vaudeville shows, revues, comedy shows, magic shows, opera, concerts, and films. 

The collection covers a large number of productions including many Pulitzer and Tony Prize winners, such as A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Salesman, and Harvey. The productions featured well-known actors and performers, such as Gregory Peck, Ethel Waters, Paul Robeson, Helen Chinese language advertisement for 'The Spider' at the Geary Theatre, 1928Hayes, Mae West, Anna Mae Wong, Tallulah Bankhead, Edith Piaf, Claudia McNeil, Marlene Dietrich, Lucille Ball, Burt Lancaster, and many others.  The collection is a rich resource for research into theater, theater administration, the performing arts, and the history of San Francisco. 

 Some of the many interesting items in the collection are Chinese language advertisements and newspaper articles. An example of an advertisement in Chinese for the comedy-thriller The Spider, written by Fulton Oursler and Lowell Brentano in 1926. This play was booked at the Geary Theatre from August 13 through September 15, 1928. There are also newspaper clippings in German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and other languages.

Another set of interesting items that make this collection such a rich resource are menus and drink specials related to the productions. Wilson's Candies Shop advertisement for 'Journey's End'An example is this menus from Wilson’s Restaurant and Candies which features a special recipe for 'Journey's End', a play written by R.C. Sheriff which appeared at the Geary Theatre starting on December 2, 1929. An interesting side note to this menu is the story of Stanford graduate Ernest ‘Sticky’ Wilson (as illustrated in the advertisement below). Wilson was from Salem, Oregon, and after enrolling at Stanford in 1896, he began working at a student owned candy store on campus. He bought into ownership of this candy store, which eventually grew to become multiple stores spread throughout Northern California.

We have also processed a number of other related theater collections: The Samuel Stark Theatre Program collection (M1149), San Francisco Players Guild records (M1150), Theatre Organizations: newsletters (M1151), and Theater and film ephemera collection (M2506). The Samuel Stark Theatre Program collection in particular contains a large number of programs for productions at the Curran and Geary theatres that are also documented in the Lurie Collection.

Advertisement for Wilson's Candies and Restaurants