The TOWN CRIER and the Talkies: Jay Emanuel and Other Reel Fellows

The TOWN CRIER and the Talkies: Jay Emanuel and Other Reel Fellows

It was great fun to track down the authors and artists of Town Crier : (

Then the small print caught my eye. What about the people in the background—the publishers, the editor, the art director? It soon became clear that Eric M. Knight was not the only notable film figure to work on the magazine. Jay Emanuel (d. 1969), one of the publishers, had a film career in which Town Crier must have seemed like a hiccup. A former Inquirer reporter, he was in the business by 1911, and was involved with the Reel Fellows of Philadelphia (founded ca. 1914), along with Siegmund Lubin and Stanley Mastbaum. Unlike Lubin, he did not make films. He practiced, analyzed, and taught the art of getting movies to the public, and vice versa, running theaters and publishing for the trade, producing journals and, from around 1940, lavish annual Theatre Catalog volumes. In his own voice and through the reviews and awards given by his publications, he became an authority, whose opinions were sought, and respected, up to the 1960s.

Here are some early 1930s ads for Emanuel-Goodwin Publications. Emanuel’s partner was Charles H. Goodwin, who had also been involved with films since the 1910s, and had handled twenty theaters in Pennsylvania. He was also the other publisher of Town Crier. (The magazine’s headquarters were also at 219 North Broad Street.)

After Goodwin sold out his interest in the publications firm, Jay Emanuel Publications took over the work.


The editor of Town Crier in 1929‒30, and of Jay Emanuel Publications (Emanuel-Goodwin Publications?) in 1927‒29, Justin Herman (d. 1983), was a screenwriter who worked on forty-two films, a producer, and a director. He worked for Warner Brothers Vitaphone Studios and Paramount. His short subjects won a Peabody Award in 1943 and two Academy Award nominations in the 1950s. He also wrote captions for Richard Decker, whose drawings appeared in Town Crier and the New Yorker, and submitted his own artwork to the New Yorker.

Emidio Angelo (d. 1990), the Town Crier art director, whose work is prominent in the issue of May 19, 1930, was well known for cartoons both political and comical. An example of the comical is the widely syndicated Emily and Mabel. Philadelphia notes: the spinster twins in the strip, elderly but still on the lookout for men, were based on women Angelo met at a soda shop in South Philadelphia, and were impersonated in at least one Mummers Parade, in 1951. Comics impersonating comics―not Hollywood, but a touch of show business.

With such lively results, it seemed worthwhile to check every name, even the manager of the Town Crier circulation department, William Worthington Jr. Indeed, there were actors named William Worthington and William Worthington Jr. Unfortunately, we find Worthington Junior only in the film Polly Redhead (1917), in which he portrayed a baby known as “the Lump.” He might have been a precocious circulation manager in 1930. A better bet would be the William Worthington Jr. (d. 1934), who was division circulation manager at the Curtis Publishing Company.

Now to leave the office and go out to the streets. Emanuel owned or managed quite a few theaters, here and elsewhere. In 1917 he was managing the Park and the Jefferson here, and had been the manager of the Ideal, the Ridge Avenue, the Somerset, and the Windsor. In 1937, he was associated with five (unnamed) theaters here. We know that the Forum, the Grand, and the Jackson were among his theaters.

The search for locations and images for these theaters is greatly aided by the list in Irvin R. Glazer, Philadelphia Theaters (1994), and hampered by apparent inconsistencies between dates of operation and contemporary records (which may reflect the complications of remodeling, rebuilding, and renaming), and by the use of one name for several theaters. There were two or three Park Theaters in 1917, and there had been more than one Ideal Theater by that time.

Here are photographs of the buildings once known (fingers crossed here) as the Forum, Grand, Jefferson, Park, Somerset, and (maybe) Windsor (assuming that the former Ace, seen here, includes some or all of the 1915 Windsor), as well as the site of the Ridge Avenue, which was still standing in early October 2016.

I have no photograph of the Jackson, but thanks to PhillyHistory we can see an apparent side view of the Ideal (note the line of posters—by the way, the theater was on the triangular lot now known as Emanuel Weinberg Park, and the Jackson was across the street to the north) from 1935, and 1933 and 1934 shots of the Ridge Avenue in its prime.;

And here are 1936 listings for some of these theaters:

INQUIRER, 26 December 1936

It’s good that so many old theaters seem to have survived in some form. What’s better, one of Emanuel’s theaters, the Rajah in Reading, is still welcoming audiences, for live performances.

The Mayfair Theater was one of many managed by Goodwin.

You can see the theater in its prime in the engaging 1937 film short “It Happened in Mayfair,” brought to you, like so much else in these pages, by the Internet Archive: .

Now, flapping freely like a loose reel of film, I shamelessly include a photograph of Temple Ohel Jacob (1911), where Jay Emanuel and Bella Flock were married in 1917, because it is (like the Grand Theater) one of my favorite buildings. (Since at least 1997, when this photograph was taken, it has been the Greater Straight-Way Baptist Church.)

Former Temple Ohel Jacob, Seventh Street above C. B. Moore, Philadelphia, 1997

You can also find photographs of Jay and Bella Emanuel in the remarkable blog “Photobooth Journal”:

We end by returning to the starting point, the novel Kitty Foyle. ( As noted in the discussion of Town Crier and Philly, the fictional New Yorker imitation in the novel, Kitty and her friend Molly knew that Philadelphia, too complacent to want to be In the Know, was not likely to support the magazine. Philly flopped after four issues, just as Town Crier went under after, apparently, a few years. But Molly also says, “The New Yorker’s grand because it’s edited by a lot of boys who are both smart and ambitious, You haven’t got ‘em like that here. If they’re really peppy they clear out.” Molly is clever and perceptive. She is right about the Philadelphia audience, but not about the smarts and ambition of the “wide-awake and progressive” Emanuel and others in the local film industry, and about the talented artists and writers who were brought together for a moment by Town Crier.

“The Talkies,” TOWN CRIER OF PHILADELPHIA, 19 May 1930

For more on the world of Reel Fellows, Film Folks, and Film Row on Vine, please see

The Hexter Building: Hollywood on Vine and on Point Breeze


Here are Glazer’s locations and dates for the theaters shown or mentioned here:

Forum, 5231 Frankford, 1928‒

Grand, Seventh and Snyder, 1912‒62

Ideal, 2203 South Sixth, 1914‒58

Jackson, 513 Jackson, 1919‒63

Jefferson, 2217 North Twenty-ninth, 1913‒30

Mayfair, 7300 Frankford, 1937‒85

Park, Broad and Fairmount, 1869‒1968; Seventeenth and Ridge, 1876‒; 3235 Ridge, 1913‒27

Ridge Avenue, 1734 Ridge, 1919‒52

Somerset, Twenty-sixth and Somerset, 1914‒25

(The Windsor opened ca. 1915 in Frankford; it is not on Glazer’s list. The Ace Theater opened on an overlapping, or nearby, site [4204 Kensington] in 1922.)

The image at the top is from Motography, July‒December 1914.

The quotation in the last sentence comes from Artcraft Advance, 1917.

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