It took nine tailors

Source: Adolphe Menjou and M.M. Musselman, It took nine tailors (New York/Toronto: Whittlesey House, 1948), pp. 16-17

Text: Perhaps the years have added glamour and magnitude to my recollection of the Casino, for I still think of it as a Taj Mahal among restaurants. I have dined in some of the finest eating places in the world, but in my memory none ever compared with Father’s coup de maître. It must have been quite a place at that, for today my mother’s face still lights up when it is mentioned, and many other old Clevelanders recall its cuisine, its wine cellar, and its multiplex grandeur with that heart-felt nostalgia commonly reserved for such turn-of-the-century frivolities as bock beer, bicycles built for two, and the bird on Nellie’s hat.

The Casino was located at 325-327 Superior Street in downtown Cleveland. It was really several cafés in one. On the main floor was a bar and grill for gentlemen only. On the second floor was a subdued ladies’ café, which did not mean that it was for ladies only, but that it was for gentlemen escorting ladies. On the third floor was a more sumptuous dining room where a gypsy orchestra played sentimental music from an overhanging balcony. The top floor was given over to Cleveland’s first roof garden, which was open from eight until midnight. It was more like today’s night clubs with one exception, as my mother points out — the music, the entertainment, and the dancing were as refined as you could want in your own home.

Shortly after the Casino opened Father became one of the first motion-picture exhibitors in Cleveland. He rented a projector and some films from New York to show his roof-garden customers this interesting novelty that, up to that time, most of them had only read about in the newspapers.

On the night when the first pictures were shown at the garden, Mother allowed Henry and me to view this amazing new phenomenon — pictures that moved. We gaped in amazement at our first view of Niagara Falls in action; we fell in love with a beautiful creature who performed a “skirt dance”; and when the Empire State Express appeared on the screen and thundered straight at us, we almost jumped out of our skins.

The audience merely applauded politely at these sights; but when Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders rode onto the scene, fresh from the Battle of San Juan Hill, they were greeted by a spontaneous ovation.

In the ten or fifteen minutes it took to unreel the series of short subjects that made up the bill that night, I became an inveterate movie fan. And I am still one of Hollywood’s best customers. Some movie actors like to brag that they never even go to see their own pictures. Perhaps I’m naive, but I like the movies; I even stay for the second feature.

The day after the movies had been shown at the Casino Father reported to Mother and Grand’mère that the customers had been highly entertained by the novelty of the night before, but that they had all agreed that moving pictures were just a passing fad — like automobiles.

Comments: Adolphe Menjou (1890-1963) was an American film actor of French ancestry. His films included A Woman of Paris (1923), The Front Page (1931) and A Star is Born (1937). His father was a restauranteur, whose Casino venue opened in Cleveland around 1898. The films Menjou recalls appear to have been Biograph productions, and include Empire State Express (1896) and probably Roosevelt Rough Riders (1898). The Battle of San Juan Hill was part of the Spanish-American War and was fought on 1 July 1898. The Biograph film showed Teddy Roosevelt’s military unit galloping towards the camera, filmed before the battle.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust