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What’s Playing on Bay Street?

Source of picture: Florida State Archives

You could get an eyeful just by walking by the Casino Theater in Jacksonville. These posters were for “Wild Women,” a flick that played during the early 1950s.

CHEAP THRILLS OF YESTERYEAR — In pre-cable days, some people still got their kicks from tantalizing schlockers that sacrificed plot for shock. The movie shown in these posters was called “Wild Women,” aka “Bowanga Bowanga.” It played at the Casino Theater in Jacksonville during the early Fifties. The posters screamed, “THIS NUDE WORLD!” “NOTHING TO HIDE! DETAILING THE EMOTIONAL LIFE OF A CANNIBAL GIRL!”

“Wild Women” told the story of an African safari of white men ensnared by a tribe of white jungle sirens. (The principle cast members had to be white, for at the time, a film that depicted sexual relations between the races could probably never have been openly advertised on an American city street.) “Wild Women” starred Lewis Wilson, the screen’s first Batman in 1943 and the father of the executive producer of the James Bond movie series.

THE FISH HOUSE — The Casino Theater, with its provocative fare & gaudy posters, attracted business in a downtown section full of travelers & visitors. It stood in front of the old Greyhound Bus Station at the southwest corner of Bay & Hogan streets. Within two blocks were numerous hotels, including the Mayflower, the Westmoreland, the Earle, the Aragon, & the Seminole. A large railroad yard lay just 1/2 block in front.

Nearby businesses also tried to profit from the traffic flowing through. A tavern, a palm reader, and an amusement arcade operated within several doors of the Casino Theater.

The Casino had once carried on in grander circumstances, passing for elegant. It opened as the New Casino Theater prior to 1920. Many Jacksonville residents, though, later referred to the moviehouse as the Follies or the Fish House. (One longtime Jax resident says that this was probably due to the way it smelled.) By the 1950s, the Casino had obtained a seedy reputation, being one of the few Jax theaters that offered scandalous flicks.

The spot of the old theater is now occupied by the BB&T Building, sandwiched on the block between the Bank of America Building and the BellSouth Building.

-written by Glenn Emery

Copyright © 2019 by Jacksonville Historical Society