Do You Remember?
"Cecil Spooner and
her Bronx Theatre"
from the Bronx Times Reporter January 12, 2006)
Few people are alive today who remember the
stage actress and feminist, Cecil Spooner.
She was both a popular and a controversial
figure in her day who dared to be herself
regardless of the cost. She opened her own
theatre in 1910 at the age of twenty-two at
961 Southern Boulevard off 163rd Street.
Aptly named the Cecil Spooner Theatre, she
ran the enterprise with her husband, Charles
E. Blaney, and both her mother, Mary Gibbs
Spooner, and her sister, Edna May Spooner
were cast in some of her stage productions.
Another actress of the day to perform in one
of her productions was Oscar Hammerstein’s
daughter, Stella. The Beaux-Arts theatre had
seating for over a thousand patrons and
matinee performances were priced at fifteen
and twenty-five cents while an evening show
ranged from fifteen cents to half a dollar.
One of her productions, “House of
Bondage” actually got her arrested. The
police were watching the advertisements and
didn’t like what they saw, so they attended
a performance with a stenographer and took
copious notes. Both Cecil and her manager
were arrested just as the next evening
performance was about to get underway.
Deputy Police Commissioner Newburger
believed it to be in violation of Section
1140A of the Penal Code. The play would
subsequently be altered in content with some
of the more graphic scenes deleted. Many
would come to Cecil Spooner’s defense
including the daughter of Mrs. Chester
Arthur who was president of the Practical
Mothers’ Association who endorsed the play
which had spread to other theatres in
Manhattan such as the Longacre at 48th
Street. Sometimes a little notoriety is the
best advertising you can get.
When Cecil Spooner’s lease expired in
1913, Loew’s took over the theatre. It was
expanded to 1807 seats and served the
neighborhood through the late 1960’s or
early 1970’s as a second-run movie house.
Loew’s kept Cecil’s name and called the
theatre Loew’s Spooner. They also owned the
Boulevard Theatre nearby on Westchester
Avenue and Southern Boulevard which had a
better location and served their
organization featuring first run movies.
That theatre opened in 1912 and had a
greater seating capacity than the Spooner
with 2187 seats.
The program shown (see above) has a
picture of the popular diminutive actress on
the cover. The play presented was “Ishmael,”
adapted from a Southern romance novel and
directed by Hal Carendon. The ticket stubs
pinned to the upper right of the program are
for orchestra seats for Saturday evening,
May 24, 1913.
Do You Remember