Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Biograph

I spent some time thinking about famous places today, because I visited one. Not in the same league as, say, the Eiffel Tower or Ayer’s Rock or even the Alamo, but still it’s known the world over: the Biograph Theater on the North Side of Chicago.

Later I will go into greater detail about how I came to be there, and what I saw -- and it wasn’t a movie, because they aren’t shown there any more. In the future, the Biograph will be a playhouse, a significant regional theater. But whatever else happens there in the future, the world will always know it as the place where, on July 22, 1934, bank robber John Dillinger saw his final movie. The FBI nailed him outside after the show.

This evening when I came home, I read a little about Dillinger to refresh whatever musty bits of information I knew about him, and I came across (among many other sites) a “famous cases” file on the FBI’s web site.

One thing I learned from the FBI site that I didn’t know before was that Dillinger and his female companions that evening might have gone to another Chicago theater, the Marbro. It too was a movie palace, but one long gone physically and becoming more obscure with each passing year. What if they had gone there, and the FBI gunned him down there instead of the Biograph? Would the Marbro now have the fame that the Biograph has? I can only speculate, but it does make me suspect that much fame – places, people or things – depends on chance.


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