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And Now You Know: Orange Movie Playbill from May 4, 1951

Mike Louviere
And Now You Know

Orange, Texas in 1951 was changing from the shipbuilding boom of the World War II years. The population was dropping from a high of nearly 60,000 to about 30,000 plus. After a slump when the war ended, economy was on the rise.

DuPont had built a petrochemical plant and other chemical companies were looking at Orange as a site for their new plants.  The U.S. Navy had a “mothball fleet” of surplus WWII vessels in a storage facility on the Sabine River. Shipyards had changed from warships to civilian vessels and fabrication and all three yards were busy.

Orange was a prosperous town with pre-war small town values. It was a town that Norman Rockwell could have visited and found many subjects for his paintings of small town American life.

Entertainment in Orange was like that in many small towns; a night out with the family or with a date was likely to be a trip to the movies. Orange had four indoor theatres and one drive-in movie theatre. The managers were local people, but the theatres were owned by the Jefferson Amusement Company of Beaumont. The amusement company also operated theatres in nearby Beaumont and Port Arthur.

The playbills that ran in the papers gave information about the movies, and a times some “teasing” information about certain films. Friday, May 4, 1951 was one of those days when the playbill had information and a bit of “teasing.”

The Strand Theater on Friday and Saturday nights was showing “Stage to Tucson”, “the hottest haul in the West, in Color by Technicolor”. The stars were Rod Cameron and Wayne Morris. Along with the feature was the cartoon “Putty Tat Trouble”, and “Late News Events.”

On Fifth Street, the Bengal Theatre was featuring “Tarzan and the Leopard Woman—Priestess of Death”. Johnny Weissmuller and Brenda Joyce were the stars along with Johnny Sheffield and Acquanetta. There would also be news, a cartoon, and a serial.

In the block of Fifth Street, east of the Strand, the Royal Theatre was showing another western. This was the first Orange showing of the latest movie starring Johnny Mack Brown, “Man from Sonora”, with all new action thrills. This was the first of a double feature, the second film was Don “Red” Barry in “Texas Terrors.”

On the edge of town at the new MacArthur Drive-In Theatre, Friday and Saturday nights there would be two action hits. The first was Randolph Scott in “Fighting Man of the Plains, followed by Robert Mitchum in “Where Danger Lives.”

Sunday and Monday nights would be the first Orange showing of “The Flying missile”, starring Glen Ford and Viveca Lindfors.

Admission at these theaters was fifty cents for adults and nine cents for children.

Bridge City in 1951 had a movie theatre, The Bridge. It was advertised as being air conditioned with admission of forty cents for adults and nine cents for children. Their ad stated: “For the last time tonight, Stephen McNally and Alexis Smith in “Wyoming Mail” (In Technicolor), plus news and a comedy.

Saturday night “Fighting Stallions” with Bill Edwards, Doris Merrick, and Forrest Taylor, plus a serial and comedy.

Doors open weekdays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. “Plenty of parking space.”

At the Strand on Saturday May 5, there was a “Giant Fun Show for Kids” one show only, Saturday morning at 10 a.m., doors open at 9:30 a.m. 3 hours of fun and thrills. 5 cartoons with all your favorites. There will be Chapter No. 6 of “Invisible Monster”, followed by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in “Pardon My Sarong.”

There will be a free grab bag prize, “with candy for all.” Children under 12 admission twenty five cents.

Friday night, May 4, was a special night at the Royal Theatre.

“One show, Adults only, sensational midnight show.”

“One performance only, Gorgeous girls, Great Comedians, Glamorous dancers.”

“A night at the follies”—”Now see big time burlesque just as presented at the Famous Follies Theatre at Los Angeles, featuring the girl with the “Fifty Thousand Dollar Treasure Chest”, “Evelyn West, the Original ‘Hubba Hubba’ Girl.”

An extra added sensation was “The Battle of the Burlesque Queens.”

Doors open at 11:30 p.m.–All seats fifty cents.

The bottom of the playbill stated:” Imagine the value of your dollar if everything could be as cheap as a theater ticket”

A family of four could attend the theatres in Orange for the total admission price of $1.18.

To some the “Sensational Midnight Show” at the Royal was a fantastic bargain at the price of only fifty cents.

“And now you know.”