It featured some silent films and sometimes eccentric stage shows that were a vestige of Vaudeville.

Share story

THE ARABIAN, at 7610 Aurora Ave. N., opened in 1925, featuring some silent films and sometimes eccentric stage shows that were a vestige of Vaudeville. When the live performers were also North End neighbors, the theater seats might be full. For instance:

On Oct. 21, 1926, W.O. Hammer, accompanied by a brass band and a motorcar parade, pushed Tom Egan, secretary of the West Green Lake Commercial Club, in a wheelbarrow up Aurora Avenue to the stage of the Arabian Theatre. Hammer had bet Egan that boxer Jack Dempsey would keep his heavyweight crown. He was wrong. Gene Tunney won. Hammer paid in front of his neighbors.

The city’s new light standards were installed on Aurora in the spring of 1927 and celebrated with a “Light-Bearers Parade” to the Arabian Theatre. Our subject from 1925 or ’26 is too early to include them.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

During the fall of 1928 the Arabian Theatre ran Clara Bow’s “Ladies of the Mob” film and paired it with an onstage dance contest featuring the then-popular Varsity Drag:

“Here is the drag, see how it goes,

Down on the heels, up on the toes.

That’s the way to do the Varsity Drag.”

For another kind of “drag” the following April, 60 “substantial business and professional men” — Masons all — dressed and acted like Broadway chorus girls on the Arabian stage for a benefit show they named “Vampin Babies Frolic.”

Mabel Randall, the Arabian’s last manager, also gave its stage to neighborhood extras, like the theater parties and benefit shows that were matched with appropriate films. The Arabian screen went dark in 1954, but its stagecraft was resurrected late in 1955 when evangelist John H. Will’s Northwest Salvation and Healing Campaign advertised its opening services for Dec. 11 at the “Old Arabian Theatre.”

Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard’s blog at

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.