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Finding Aid for the Capitol Theatre (New York, NY) Collection of Silent Film Music ca. 1910-1930
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Historical Note
  • Scope and Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Capitol Theatre (New York, NY) Collection of Silent Film Music,
    Date (inclusive): ca. 1910-1930
    Collection number: 87
    Creator: Capitol Theatre
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Performing Arts Special Collections
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Abstract: The collection consists of published scores, mostly for piano, of music to accompany the showing of silent films. Includes some manuscript parts of music arranged for chamber ensembles.


    The collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights in the physical objects belong to the UCLA Performing Arts Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish if the Performing Arts Special Collectionsdoes not hold the copyright.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Capitol Theatre (New York, NY) Collection of Silent Film Music, 87, Performing Arts Special Collections, University of California, Los Angeles.

    Historical Note

    When the Capitol Theatre opened at Broadway and 51st Street in Manhattan, on October 24, 1919, it was touted as the "World's Largest and Most Beautiful Theatre," and with 5300 seats it maintained that claim for several years to come. Managed by Major Edward Bowes, the Capitol was one of the premier "picture palaces" of its era, and the luxurious theatre played host not just to movies, but also to elaborate stage revues and musical performances which complemented the films and ensured the Capitol's distinction among its rivals. In addition to an Estey organ constructed for the theatre, an orchestra of 71 musicians – a number that would rise over the years – was employed.
    In June of 1920, having established himself as New York's leading theatre manager at the Rivoli and the Rialto, Samuel "Roxy" Rothapfel took over the artistic direction of the Capitol, where he worked with some of the era's most distinguished theatrical musicians. In September of 1920, Hungarian-born conductor Erno Rapeé became music director of the Capitol, where he remained until 1923. Rapeé's subsequent books – Motion Picture Moods for Pianists and Organists (1924) and Encyclopedia of Music for Pictures (1925) – reflect the musical principals he developed at the Capitol and remain among the most important documents of silent film accompaniment practice in this period.
    Rapeé's successor, William Axt, had been assistant conductor at the Capitol since 1921; upon Rapeé's departure in 1923, Axt took charge of the theatre's music in partnership with David Mendoza. All of these musicians were responsible not only for selecting and conducting music, but also often for orchestrating, arranging, and composing pieces. The published Capitol Photoplay Series, comprising music written for the theatre, includes dozens of Axt's compositions, but Axt and Mendoza's best known achievement is their full-length score for Don Juan (1926), which was the first feature film to be screened (though not at the Capitol) in synchronization with the Vitaphone sound-on-disc process. Also associated with the Capitol's music department was Eugene Ormandy – first as a section violinist, and from 1926 as associate music director.
    In 1927, Rothapfel left the Capitol to manage the new and slightly larger Manhattan theatre which was named after him – the Roxy – where he was joined once again by Rapeé. But the Capitol remained in business for over 40 more years, making the transition to sound and later to wide-screen Cinerama, and continuing for much of that time to keep alive the mixed format of motion pictures and live entertainment. The theatre was demolished following a final gala stage show on September 16, 1968.

    Scope and Content

    The collection consists of published scores, mostly for piano, of music to accompany the showing of silent films. Also included are manuscript parts of music arranged for chamber ensembles.
    The collection principally consists of music intended for performance as film accompaniment – mostly the piano parts of larger orchestrations – but it also includes music used for other aspects of the theatre's varied programming. There are also manuscripts of compositions and arrangements by Rapeé, Axt, and others. The collection retains the organization of the Capitol's music library, in which selections were grouped either by genre or by what Rapeé called "moods," using the following categories: Appassionato; Bacchanale; Ballet; Barcarolle; Berceuse; Caprice; Characteristic; Children; Concert; Descriptive; Dramatic; Emotional; Festival; Galop; Gavotte; Grotesque; Gruesome; Humorous; Hunting; Intermezzo; Lullaby; Maestoso; March 6/8; March Concert; March Funeral; March Processional; Mazurka; Medley Overtures; Minuet; Movimento; Mysterioso; Nautical; Nocturne; Operatic; Oriental; Overture; Pathetic/Pathetique; Pastoral; Polonaise; Pulsating; Rags; Romance; Rube; Schottische; Selections; Serenades; Southern; Storm; Suites; Symphony; Valse Concert; Valse Lento; Valse Popular.
    Items are arranged alphabetically by title within folders.
    The collection is in the midst of being processed. The finding aid will be updated periodically. The collection consists of 31 boxes of materials.
    The collection is organized into the following series:
    • Series 1. Work Titles: A's
    • Series 2. Work Titles: B's
    • Series 3. Work Titles: C's
    • Series 4. Work Titles: D's
    • Series 5. Work Titles: E's
    • Series 6. Work Titles: F's
    • Series 7. Work Titles: G's
    • Series 8. Work Titles: H's
    • Series 9. Work Titles: I's
    • Series 10. Work Titles: J's
    • Series 11. Work Titles: K's
    • Series 12. Work Titles: L's
    • Series 13. Work Titles: M's
    • Series 14. Work Titles: N's
    • Series 15. Work Titles: O's
    • Series 16. Work Titles: P's
    • Series 17. Work Titles: Q's
    • Series 18. Work Titles: R's
    • Series 19. Work Titles: S's
    • Series 20. Work Titles: T's
    • Series 21. Work Titles: U's
    • Series 22. Work Titles: V's
    • Series 23. Work Titles: W's
    • Series 24. Work Titles: Y's
    • Series 25. Work Titles: Z's
    • Series 26. Works: Compilations
    • Series 27. Work Titles: Unidentified