Friday, February 20, 2009

Uptown's Oscar Ties

As you settle in to watch the Oscars this Sunday, ponder these fun "Uptown Oscar Facts" sent in to us by a reader and amaze your friends:

Uptown Business Owner with Oscar Ties:

Mike Todd, who owned “Michael Todd’s Theater CafĂ©” (another business once inside the building where Rainbo Village Condos & Townhomes is now) went on to become a Director, whose film “Around The World in Eighty Days” won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Uptown Theater Costume Designer with Oscar Ties:

Vincente Minnelli (Liza’s father), who was an “assistant stage manager and costume designer, Balaban and Katz theatre chain, Chicago” (quote link below) went on to win the Oscar for Best Director, for “Gigi.”

This Year’s Oscars – Why We Care:

Will “Batman, The Dark Night” win one or more of the eight Oscars for which they are nominated this year? If so, our Uptown neighbor David Dastmalchian, who played one of Joker’s henchmen, will be an Uptown Oscar tie. He was the henchman who Harvey Dent questioned in the ambulance scene.

Uptown Landmarks in Oscar-Winning Films:

Rainbo Gardens - “Love Me or Leave Me,” starring Doris Day and James Cagney, was a movie about jazz age performer Ruth Etting’s life, featuring scenes in a Hollywood recreation of Uptown’s Rainbo Gardens Ballroom. (where Rainbo Village Condos & Townhomes are now being built)

Green Mill Cocktail Lounge“The Joker Is Wild,” starring Frank Sinatra, Eddie Albert, Mitzi Gaynor and Sophie Tucker is about the life of crooner Joe E. Lewis. His career started at the Green Mill, in the days that Al Capone’s right hand man, “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn was part owner. Scenes at the beginning of the movie take place in a Hollywood recreation of Uptown streets and the inside of the Green Mill.

Actors at Uptown’s Essanay Studios who also received Oscars:

Charlie Chaplin

Wallace Beery

Gloria Swanson (Nominated)


  1. great post, UU! i love reading these pieces of Uptown history.

  2. Yes indeed. From what i've learned, Gloria Swanson lived in the Aquatania building?
    Is that right?

  3. I heard that both Gloria Swanson and Charlie Chaplin lived in the Aquatania but don't have any facts to back that up.

    Also, I agree with Meghan. This was a terrific post! Thank you to the person who sent in the information!

  4. Here's an online biography of Gloria Swanson written by a local, with plenty of illustrations: Gloria Swanson.

  5. According to the Aquitania's web site and literature, George Spoor (the "S" in Essanay) built it to house the studio's talent. Both Gloria Swanson and Charlie Chaplin were Essanay stars, so I guess it's even odds that they may have lived there.

  6. Thanks, caring neighbor. I guess there just may be a little bit of truth in Uptown gossip afterall! ;)