The Glove Theatre celebrates its 100th season in 2014 and, according to Richard Samrov, you’d need an exhaustive and fact-filled book to really do justice to the place’s long and glorious history.
Fortunately, Samrov, a Gloversville native who went to the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked as a designer in New York for years, is working on what he hopes will be such a book.
Now 75 and the volunteer executive director and historian at the Gloversville Performing Arts Center — which houses the theater — Samrov is involved in a serious labor of love when it comes to the 100-year-old building at 42 N. Main St.
“I could go on and on about this place,” said Samrov, who served as an usher at the theater during the 1950s when he was in high school. “This was a grand old theater in its day, and it will be again. I’m old enough to remember. It used to be lovely.”
Opening in 1913
Dr. Henry Cady, a veterinarian, began building the theater in 1913. In October of 1914, he and a business partner, George Dartch, opened the place to the public. In 1920, the Schine Brothers, J. Myer and Louis, purchased the building and brought in vaudeville acts from around the country.
The two brothers had immigrated from Russia as young boys and spent much of their early adult life working in factories around the Mohawk Valley before getting into the movie and vaudeville business. They eventually purchased two other theaters in Gloversville, leaving only the Darling Theater out of their control.
“They had been looking to get into the theater business, and when they came to Gloversville they decided this would be a great place to do just that,” said Samrov.
“The Darling family wouldn’t sell, but the Schines ended up with three of the theaters in the city. They went on to build an empire with 160 theaters around the country, and hotels and other business interests. They lived here for a long time, but they had enough money to have a few homes in different parts of the country.”
Samrov’s grandfather, Harry King, worked for the Schines for years. Also a vaudeville performer, King was showing silent films at the Hippodrome when the Schines approached him and offered him a job.
Selling the business
“My grandfather had the lease on that building and the Schines said to him, ‘Give us the lease and you’ll have a job for life,’ ” said Samrov. “My grandfather said, ‘I’d love that,’ and he worked for them until he died in 1965.”
That happened to be the same year the Schine family got out of the theater business, the descendents of J. Myer and Louis selling the family holdings for $150 million. J. Myer Schine had married a Johnstown girl, Hildegarde Feldman, and the couple had a son, G. David Schine, who took over much of the family business in 1957.
Along with being an executive producer on the Oscar-winning 1971 film “The French Connection,” G. David Schine also earned some notoriety for his part in the 1954 McCarthy Hearings dealing with communism in the U.S. Army. Schine, who served as a chief consultant to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, had in 1952 written a six-page anti-communist paper, “Definition of Communism,” and had ordered that copies be placed in every room of his family’s chain of hotels.
Schine had dated actresses Rhonda Fleming and Piper Laurie. In 1957, he married Hillevi Rombin of Sweden, Miss Universe of 1955. In 1968, Schine was killed at the age of 68 when the private airplane he was in crashed. Also killed were his wife and their son, Berndt.
Saved from demolition
The Glove Theatre closed in 1975 and was scheduled for demolition before a group of concerned citizens stepped in and saved the day in 1995.
“The place was a disaster,” remembered Samrov. “There was water all the way up to the stage area, and there was a piano floating in the water with animals in it. They wanted to make it a parking lot, but some citizens got together and said, ‘We can’t have that happen.’ ”
The Glove Theatre Restoration Project and the Gloversville Theatre Corp. incorporated as a community-based, not-for-profit corporation and has been holding sway ever since.
Restoration continues to be a long work in progress. Among the projects on tap for Samrov is replacing the permanent seats that were taken out of the theater in 1996 and making repairs to the interior walls and the marquee.
“We’re not going to become a Proctors like they have in Schenectady,” said Samrov. “But we do have our own community theater group that puts on productions, we do things for the community, and it’s a wonderful little complex we have here. A lot of people don’t really realize what we have here.”
Stars of the past
Along with shows put on by the Hand in Glove Players and the Ful-Mont Repertoire Theatre Company, Samrov’s group rents out office space in parts of the building, and does have a small museum complete with old newspaper clippings, movie posters, pictures of stars and an old-style film projector from the 1920s.
“My grandfather was on the same bill as Mae West once,” said Samrov, showing off a signed autographed photo of West.
“Jack Benny performed here, Buddy Ebsen, Ann Rutherford. We had a premiere for ‘Drums Along the Mohawk’ in 1938. Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert weren’t here but other members of the cast were, and they were presented with gloves to take back to the two stars. There’s a lot of great history connected to this place.”