2016-02-24 / Star Journal

King Tut, Motion Pictures And Radio All The Rage In 1924

The Greater Astoria Historical Society presents pages from the Long Island Star Journal.

Welcome to February 1924!

“King Tut’s 3,000 Years of Sleep Comes to an End,” proclaimed the International News Service from Luxor, Egypt on February 13, 1924. Deep inside the ancient sepulcher, full of wonder, mystery and some say, a curse, Egyptologist Howard Carter lifted the granite lid from the tomb to reveal the earthly remains of King Tutankhamun, laid to rest some 1,000 years before the birth of Christ.

Back in the United States, former President Woodrow Wilson passed away in his Washington, DC home after suffering his second stroke in five years. Mourners across the nation turned out to bid farewell to their beloved former leader, who was serving as President of the American Historical Association at the time of his passing.

In Queens, the Stars and Stripes flew at half-mast from public buildings, private homes and factories throughout the borough as news of President Wilson’s death spread. Word of his passing came from church pulpits and picture houses as Sunday matinee performances were interrupted with “President Wilson is dead” flashing on the screen.

When the sad news broke, theatre-goers at the Loew’s Astoria on Steinway Avenue may have been watching Half a Dollar Bill, a “Swirling Drama of the Sea” starring Swedish actress Anna Q. Nilsson, or the feature length Charlie Chaplin drama, A Woman of Paris. With Daily Star ads trumpeting, “London Has It – New York Had It… Now Astoria is Going to Have it,” Lon Chaney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame also played to packed audiences that February at the Broadway Theatre on Broadway and 3rd Avenue.

Rudolph Valentino in 1924. 
Wide World Photos Copyright not renewed. Rudolph Valentino in 1924. Wide World Photos Copyright not renewed.

The stars really were out that month in Astoria. With filming of Monsieur Beaucaire set to begin, the Famous Players – Lasky Company studio in the neighborhood held a reception for supporting cast and the news media to meet the star of the silent film, none other than Rudolph Valentino. The great lover from the silver screen had recently returned from a trip to Europe with his wife where they went to do historical research for the romantic drama, which was set among 18th century French and English nobility.

One distinguished Queens resident would never see a Charlie Chaplin or Rudolph Valentino film. When the talkies hit the theatres, she would never enjoy the added dimension of sound coupled with the magic of moving pictures. Helen Keller of Forest Hills never allowed physical limitation to limit her joy and enthusiasm toward life. That February, Ms. Keller “heard” music for the first time as she held her fingers to a radio diaphragm while an orchestra played Beethoven. She expressed her newfound joy in a letter to the conductor, which partially read:

“I have the joy of being able to tell you that, though deaf and blind, I spent a glorious hour last night listening over the radio to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. I do not know whether I can make you understand how it was possible for me to discover that I could feel not only the vibrations, but also the impassioned rhythms, the throb and the urge of the music! … Of course, this was not ‘hearing,’ but I do know that the tones and harmonies conveyed to me moods of great beauty and majesty. I also sensed, or thought I did, the tender sounds of nature that sing into my hand – swaying reeds and winds and the murmur of streams. I have never been so enraptured before by a multitude of tone vibrations.”

That’s the way it was in February 1924!

For further information, contact the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718- 278-0700 or visit our website at www.astorialic.org.

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