The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


September 10, 2013

The Lillian Russell Movie Premiere

Throngs of people descended upon our railway depot on Wednesday, May 15th, 1940, to catch a first glimpse of four 20th Century Fox movie stars’ arrival. It was perhaps the biggest crowd in Clinton history, and they were enthused with joy at the World Premiere of The Lillian Russell Story being held here.

It was the biggest assemblage of citizenry in Clinton history as the streamliner “Treasure Island” chugged into town at 11:30 a.m., May 15 of 1940. Elsewhere, the world was abuzz with the dark clouds of war hovering ominously. Yet, here all that was briefly brushed aside, as a carnival spirit spread throughout the community. It had begun early the previous weekend and would reach a crescendo this wondrous day. Don Ameche, Alice Faye’s co-starred in The Lillian Russell Story was coming to Clinton, along with Hollywood colleagues Caesar Romero, Arlene Whalen, and Mary Healy.

The famous four were to lead a parade, judge several look-alike contests, rule over a gala premiere evening at both the Capitol and Rialto theaters (so large were the crowds), and then attend a sumptuous celebration at the Coliseum’s elegant Modernistic Ballroom. At length, they led the cotillion in a grand march around The Mod’s parquet dance floor -- before being whisked away again, into the night, by the streamliner.

How did all this come to be? It seems that a group of Clinton promoters had talked Hollywood studio heads into having a world premiere in “Nellie’s” home town. However, Pittsburgh said “me too” and arranged a premiere of its own -- complete with Alice Faye, who played the title role, and some lesser luminaries. These were carried out simultaneously, in addition to one in Hollywood. THIS WAS A VERY BIG MOVIE!

Over the years Don Ameche became known as an arrogant, Hollywood snob who could scarcely stomach being stuck in a “hick town;” however, evidence seems to belie that characterization. He was most cordial at our depot and joked throughout a ceremony there that might otherwise have proved embarrassing. Later, as he sat waving in an open convertible, a lull in the parade’s movement happened to cause then-15-year-old Dick Herrity to cross paths with the star. Herrity, who is over 80, was on his way to the ballpark with his bat and ball and, as he stood on the corner, he noticed Don Ameche sitting right in front of him, and he hollered, “Hi, Don” in the familiar manner a small town boy might meet even someone famous. Ameche called back, “Hey, you going to play some ball? Wish I could come along!”

Text Only
  • 4-14-14 Longman service Clinton hero laid to rest

    ROCK ISLAND, Ill.-- After 70 years, Lt. Louis L. Longman, of Clinton, finally has been laid to rest with full military honors in the Rock Island Arsenal National Cemetery. First Lt. Chaplin Jacob Grenier, of Muscatine, performed Catholic burial rite

    April 12, 2014 4 Photos

  • Drive-in theatre dominant Clinton's own drive-in theater Spring brings many thoughts, but taking the family out to see a big-screen movie at the Clinton Drive-In Theatre on Iowa 136 and North 16th Street is sadly no longer an option. Large families were thirsting for family activities after World War II.

    April 11, 2014 2 Photos

  • Longmann 70 years in the making: WWII soldier to be honored Imagine three boys, orphaned in the midst of the Great Depression, moving from Minnesota to an adjacent state to live with extended family. How hard it would be to lose both parents and, then, have to move away and take up a new life in a strange tow

    March 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dale Gardner astronaut collage Let's celebrate our successful people There are many famous and successful people who have called Clinton home. We need to celebrate their lives as well as all of their contributions. Recently, former astronaut Dale Gardner, 65, died. He and two other astronauts have connections with Cli

    March 14, 2014 3 Photos

  • Lyons photo for Herrity column HERRITY: Residents have pride in neighborhood

    To this day, thousands of Clintonians say, "I was born and raised in Lyons." Founder Elijah Buell first set foot on the banks of what would become Lyons, Iowa in 1835. He built a cabin, laid out a town, platted the community, raised a family, sold

    December 6, 2013 1 Photo

  • Dem Convention.jpg Famous Clinton Lawyers

    Clinton lawyers in our history are a group of hugely contributing citizens.

    September 27, 2013 1 Photo

  • slides0-R1-E042.jpg Dances in Lyons and Clinton

    Remember when people danced and they actually touched? There are still a few folks left who can “cut a rug.”

    September 27, 2013 1 Photo

  • The Roundhouse.jpg Railroads Made Clinton Famous

    Most people would associate Clinton history with sawmills; however, without the railroad, no sawmills would ever have existed in this community.

    September 27, 2013 1 Photo

  • Albany ComCntr.jpg Historic Albany, Illinois

    Albany historian and journalist Helen Hanson is gone, and with her, many thoughts and memories about her lovely, historic hometown of Albany, Illinois.

    September 27, 2013 1 Photo

  • Volckmann at Surrender.jpg “We Remained” and “We Won!”

    It is incredible that Colonel Russell Volckmann survived at all, let alone as Public Enemy Number One of the Japanese, who hunted him like a dog!

    September 27, 2013 1 Photo