By the 1920s, Kansas City was a thriving commercial and rail hub with 400,000 inhabitants. The Republican National Convention was staged there in 1928, but the city administration of Tom Pendergast was notorious for corruption, and gangsterism was rife, culminating in the 1933 ‘Kansas City Massacre’ involving ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’. The city’s first movie theatres were makeshift ‘nickelodeons’ used by itinerant film exhibitors, but by the 1920s its centre was becoming colonized by exuberant, and vast, ‘movie palaces’. The Isis (1918) employed the teenage Walt Disney as a commercial illustrator. The Midland and Granada both designed by famed local theatre designers, the Boller Brothers, were ‘atmospheric’ theatres, with twinkling stars, imitation drifting clouds and flitting mechanical birds. The ‘palaces’ were prestige constructions: the Uptown imported a celebrated Austrian architect. The Midland seated 3,500, incorporated 500,000 feet of gold-leaf and housed 3,600 light bulbs in its vast copper and gold marquee.
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