Marlow Theatre • 1918-1972
46°35'14.47"N 112° 2'24.59"W

The Marlow Theatre, 1928
Beloved by generations of Helenans


COURTESY OF TOM KILMER

 

Location of the Marlow Theatre and Edwards St.

During Urban Renewal in the 1970s, Edwards St. was eliminated, and Broadway was extended west to Park Ave., passing through where the stage of the Marlow once was.



Early View of Edwards St.

Edwards St., looking west from near Main, ca. 1890. The Marlow Theatre would be built on the left-hand side of the street in 1918. Edwards St., along with the Marlow, would be eliminated by Urban Renewal in the 1970s. The destruction of the Marlow is a sad chapter in Helena's history.

 


Marlow Logo, 1918


 

April 3, 1918 Opening Night Program, Printed on Silk


COLLECTION OF TED KIRKMEYER, COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY

 



Marlow Theatre Employees, April 21 1923

The movie "My American Wife", starring Gloria Swanson, is advertised.

 


Built as a Roadshow House

Ad for The Earl Carroll Vanities, April 8 1927. Many stars of vaudeville appeared on the Marlow stage.



Young Myrna (Williams) Loy

It was on the Marlow stage that young Myrna Williams, who would later be known as screen star Myrna Loy, had her theatrical debut around 1918. Scroll down for photos and a clipping about Miss Loy's 1940 visit to Helena and the Marlow.

Myrna Loy

 

 

President Wilson

President Woodrow Wilson spoke to a capacity crowd at the Marlow during a brief visit to Helena on September 11, 1919.

 

 

Will Rogers



March 30, 1927



1928 Redecorating

 


"The Talkies" Come to Helena, 1929

 

 

The Marlow Marquee, Late 1930s


COLLECTION OF TED KIRKMEYER, COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

It appears that a policeman was needed for crowd contol on this occasion. A Deanna Durbin movie was featured on the posters, but I have been unable to find an image of that poster online to better date this photo.

 

The Ted Kirkmeyer Collection



Ted Kirkmeyer
1908-2003

The marquee image above, and numerous others of the Marlow and Rio theatres from this period, are from the collection of the late Ted Kirkmeyer, who managed the Marlow, Rio and Antlers theatres in Helena during the late 1930s. Mr. Kirkmeyer's collection is now owned by author and collector Tom Mulvaney, who is generously sharing many wonderful images via this website. Thanks, Tom -- and thanks, Ted, wherever you are.


Employees of Helena Movie Houses at the Marlow, April 2 1938

Several of these folks have been identified. Pass your cursor over the image for their names. There is more information about them below the photo...


COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD • CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VIEW IN A NEW WINDOW

Employees of the Marlow, Rio and Antlers theaters posed in the Marlow lobby for Les Jorud on April 2, 1938. The reason for the gathering is unknown.

UPDATE: Several people in this photo have been identified. Wanda Power e-mailed to say that the short man with the striped tie, third row back and third from the right-hand end, is Fred "Barney" Olson (1895-1977). A native of Red Lodge, Olson was employed by the Fox Theater Company for many years in various communities. And after moving to Helena in 1937, he was a motion picture operator for all the theaters in Helena. He also was employed as recreation director for Fort Harrison Veterans Administration for several years before retiring in 1966. "Barney" also did a ventriloquist act with his dummy "Jerry", and was a ham radio operator.

Standing on the far right is Ted Kirkmeyer (1908-2003), manager of the three theatres.

Daniel Sullivan has identified his grandmother, Charlotte "Lottie" McGowan, as third person from the left in the back row. She later married Dr. John Mitschke. Thanks, Daniel.

Deb Winston Bushnell of Helena has this same photo, and her mother, Thelma Barker Winston, is in the second row, second from the left sitting with her arms crossed. Thanks to Deb for e-mailing this info!

As seen on the Art Deco-style display behind the people, Disney's "Snow White" opened at the Marlow the following day. The other advertising display, featuring the large cutout of the smiling woman on the far left, was for "Alexander's Rag Time Band", with Alice Faye and Don Ameche.

Winfred McDonnell and Her Debutantes on the Marlow Stage, June 12 1938
Photo by Les Jorud


COLLECTION OF TED KIRKMEYER, COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

From the newspaper archives, we learn that Winifred McDonnell was teaching piano in Bismarck, North Dakota in 1937. After their summer 1938 engagement at the Broadwater in Helena, Winifred and the Debutantes played another extended engagement at the Hotel Witter in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.

Winifred toured with a trio in 1939-40, playing in Ohio and Pennsylvania. In 1949-50, Winifred was teaching music at the Laurel, Montana, High School.

Marlow Theatre Lobby, December 20, 1938


COLLECTION OF TED KIRKMEYER, COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

An excellent view of the original Marlow lobby area, taken by Les Jorud. After the 1949 remodeling, the candy counter occupied the space on the left, where the displays of donated food and merchandise are. The carpet is original from 1918, and was replaced in a 1939 upgrade.

 

Marlow Usher and Usherettes, 1939


COLLECTION OF TED KIRKMEYER, COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

From left to right: Mary McCarthy, Thelma Barker, Bill Bennett, Margaret Alice Ashton, Betty Brown.

 

Usherette Betty Brown at Work, 1939


COLLECTION OF TED KIRKMEYER, COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY



Ted Kirkmeyer on the Marlow stage, taken from the wings, 1939


COLLECTION OF TED KIRKMEYER, COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY

April 1, 1939 -- "Oklahoma Kid" Costume Contest


COLLECTION OF TED KIRKMEYER, COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

Contestants in front of the Marlow Theatre, Edwards Street, April 1 1938.

 


COLLECTION OF TED KIRKMEYER, COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY

Marlow Theatre manager Ted Kirkmeyer is "held up" by (presumably) the winner of the Oklahoma Kid costume contest.

Eddy's Bread Lone Ranger Promo Poster, 1939

Promotion for "Stagecoach", 1939
A View of Edwards Street


COLLECTION OF TED KIRKMEYER, COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY

1930s Promotional Ephemera


COURTESY OF WENDI KOTTAS PETERSON



1940s Ephemera

At the top, a 1940 pass to the Marlow for a benefit screening of "The Secret of Dr. Kildare". The coupon for the Dopey doll drawing likely dates to 1944, when "Snow White" was re-released by Disney.

Myrna Loy Visits Helena, March 1940
Appears at the Marlow

 

Mayor Albert James Roberts (1867-1944) Presents a Bouquet to Myrna Loy at the Marlow


COURTESY OF WENDI KOTTAS PETERSON



Myrna Loy on the Marlow Stage


COURTESY OF WENDI KOTTAS PETERSON




Noral Whittinghill and His Marlow Theatre Band, April 1 1941


COLLECTION OF KENNON BAIRD • THANKS STEVE!
CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A LARGER VIEW IN A NEW WINDOW

Helena native Noral Whittinghill (1913-2001), seen here lying on the Marlow Stage, would later gain fame as a popular radio host in Los Angeles under the name Dick Whittinghill. He also appeared in numerous motion pictures and television shows. He has a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame (6384 Hollywood Blvd.), and a statue in the Hollywood Wax Museum.


Noral "Dick" Whittinghill

Whittinghill's Helena band was broadcast live from the Marlow stage, via telephone line, on KPFA, Helena's first radio station...



The Cidney Munn School of the Dance "Swing Shift" Revue, May 20 1944


THE WES AND CAROL SYNNESS COLLECTION CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A LARGER VIEW IN A NEW WINDOW

This photo by Les Jorud was no doubt taken at a rehearsal for the May 24 performance, as advertised in the Independent-Record ad below.

The three girls kneeling in the photo above are, from left to right: Carol Lynch, Maureen Finstad and Mary Alice Gerard.


1949 Remodeling

The Marlow underwent several redecorations and upgrades during its lifetime, with a final remodeling completed in 1949. The extensive re-do included the addition of a loge section and new "Bodiform" seats throughout. New projectors, screen, sound system and curtains were installed. The concession and lobby areas were brightened-up, and kidney-shaped ceiling coves were added to the lobby area. It was also in 1949 that the vertical neon "Marlow" sign and lighted aluminum marquee, familiar to all who remember the place, were added. The renovation was celebrated in early 1950 with the world premier of the Warner Bros. release "Montana", starring Errol Flynn. Flynn was in India filming "Kim" at the time, and could not attend.

The Marlow lobby, 1950. Scan of a newspaper photo.

 

 


TICKETS COURTESY OF INEZ SLAYMAN



33rd Anniversary of the Marlow ~ April 1, 1951


THE WES AND CAROL SYNNESS COLLECTION

The uniformed girl on the left is Donna Hannick (now Donna Wise); the girl in the center, with the dark coat, is Gloria Smith (now Gloria Marovich); the uniformed girl on the right is Larie Murphy (now Larie Stoll). The man is likely Sid Page, manager of the Marlow. The girl in the light-colored coat is Alvina Hartman Blank

Many thanks to the Wes and Carol Synness Collection for sharing yet another wonderful piece of Helena's history!

 

January 12, 1958



COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

 


COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

 


COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

 


COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW





COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

 


COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

 

 


COURTESY OF TOM MULVANEY CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW

Montana Governor J. Hugo Aronson (1891-1978) with wife Rose and members of the Civil Air Patrol in the Marlow foyer. Can you find the Governor in the audience photos?

John F. Kennedy at the Marlow, June 1960

Presidential Candidate John F. Kennedy made an appearance at the June 1960 Montana State Democratic Party Convention in Helena. Kennedy showed up at events held at the Marlow Theatre, the Civic Center Ballroom, and at the home of Joe Reber, a Helena contractor and politician. Ted Kennedy and Sargent Shriver accompanied J.F.K. on this trip, and were in Helena with him.


FROM THE 1964 BOOK "WESTWARD I GO FREE - THE STORY OF J.F.K. IN MONTANA" BY EDMUND CHRISTOPHERSON

Kennedy in the Marlow lobby, his arm being gripped by Walter Marshall, local promoter and politico.



Kennedy in the Marlow Auditorium


FROM THE 1964 BOOK "WESTWARD I GO FREE - THE STORY OF J.F.K. IN MONTANA" BY EDMUND CHRISTOPHERSON

Kennedy addressed the convention, then returned to the Placer Hotel to confer with State party officials.

 

GENE BROWN, MANAGER OF THE MARLOW 1960-1962


COURTESY OF KERRY BROWN

Marlow manager Gene Brown (1926-2002) stands at the Edwards St. ticket window, 1960. Los Angeles native Gene was an accomplished musician and educator. He served in the Army Airborne in the South Pacific during WWII, received a degree in education from Eastern Montana College, and worked for Fox Inter-Mountain theaters for several years before coming to Helena to manage the Marlow in 1960.

In 1961, Gene produced at the Marlow the world premiere of Gary Cooper's last film, "The Naked Edge". Several photos of that event may be seen below.

After his Marlow gig, Gene taught music in Helena schools for many years, was a local radio and TV personality, and was very active in education and the community. For more about Gene, click here.

Your editor thanks Gene's son Kerry for sending in these great Marlow photos, as well as other interesting images for this site!

 

WORLD PREMIERE OF GARY COOPER'S LAST FILM
"The Naked Edge" - June 28, 1961

 


COURTESY OF KERRY BROWN

Gene Brown in the Marlow lobby, the day of the premiere of "The Naked Edge". The three posters on display at left are from 1930s Gary Cooper movies.



COURTESY OF JUNE VIRAG



COURTESY OF KERRY BROWN

Premiere-goers in the Marlow lobby.

 

 


COURTESY OF KERRY BROWN

Gene Brown and Helena politico/promoter Walter Marshall. Marshall and his wife Doris operated the Old Brewery Theatre, a summer stock playhouse on West Main St.

 



 


The Marlow's Final Days
Your Tax Dollars at Work

In July of 1970, Urban Renewal purchased the Marlow Theatre from Paul Holenstein's Diversified Realty, Inc. of Butte for $97,900. Diversified Realty was formed in 1963 as a consequence of the bankruptcy and reorganization of Holenstein's Prudential Diversified Services. Holenstein had numerous interests in Montana, and operated the Placer Hotel in Helena 1961-1965. He died in 1974.



The Marlow shortly before demolition, 1972
THE WES AND CAROL SYNNESS COLLECTION

 

The Marlow Seen from Fire Tower Hill, 1972


COURTESY OF J. M. COOPER - DETAIL OF LARGER IMAGE - ©2009 BY J. M. COOPER

 


From The Independent Record, May 21 1972
CLICK ON IMAGE TO OPEN PDF FILE

 


Demolition Photos, 1972


COLLECTION OF THE LATE HENRY W. JORGENSEN • CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A BIG VERSION IN A NEW WINDOW




THE WES AND CAROL SYNNESS COLLECTION

 


THE WES AND CAROL SYNNESS COLLECTION



THE WES AND CAROL SYNNESS COLLECTION



 

 

Site of the Marlow, taken from what was once Edwards St., June 2009


PHOTO BY KENNON BAIRD

 

Marlow Demolition Slideshow - WMV File
By Dick Alberts with Photos from Jan Brown

COURTESY OF PAM ATTARDO AND THE LEWIS & CLARK HERITAGE AND TOURISM COUNCIL

 



A Face From the Marlow Façade


COURTESY OF KERRY BROWN

Kerry Brown writes: "My wife and I went out to dinner tonight at Bert & Ernie's [the former Globe Clothing building] and as we were leaving I noticed the sculpture you see in the attached photo. This is one of the three, that are now owned by Toby Dewolf (owner of Bert and Ernie's), son of Bill Dewolf who owned the Union Market. These were proudly displayed on the front façade of the Marlow Theater, near the top of the Building. You can see them in some of the Marlow pictures."

Thanks, Kerry, for the great photo!


Go back to THEATERS

Charlotte McGowan Mitschke Fred "Barney" Olson Thelma Barker Winston Ted Kirkmeyer, Manager