The Technicolor melodrama movie, “Tulsa”, was released 65 years ago this month. Its world premier was right here in downtown Tulsa and boy, was it a BIG deal. The stars of the movie, Robert Preston, Susan Hayward and Chill Wills- all flew in for the activities that were planned, namely the largest parade in the city’s history. Then-governor Roy J. Turner proclaimed April 13, 1949 as “Tulsa Day” in which downtown shops had Tulsa Day Sales.
Children were let out of school to attend the mammoth parade which, along with the stars, included miles and miles of oilfield equipment.
A full-size portable drilling rig was set up in front of the Orpheum. Crowd number was estimated at 100,000. Can you imagine that many people downtown today?
The premier was scheduled to be shown only at the Ritz and Orpheum theaters but with those tickets selling out in minutes, Tulsa’s other two premier theaters- the Majestic and Rialto- were also opened for ticket sales and seats filled immediately. This presented a problem because there were only the movie reels for two theaters to show the film.
So this happened: The film was started first at the Orpheum and the Ritz while the stars toured the stages of the other two movie houses to keep the audiences from getting too restless. Thirty minutes later, the first reel was then delivered from the Orpheum to the Majestic and from the Ritz to the Rialto, and so it went the rest of the evening.