James Harry “Jim” Rankin

Photo added by Louis Rugani

James Harry “Jim” Rankin

Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, USA
Death 3 Jan 2007 (aged 60)
Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, USA
Burial Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, USA
Plot Grave 18, Block 1, Section 17
Memorial ID 17420656 View Source
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Mr. Jim Rankin of Milwaukee, Wisconsin was a prolific and well-respected author for decades on topics directly and indirectly related to theatre architecture and cinema history worldwide (and in particular to the rich legacy of Midwestern theatres), and his many articles and notes have been published in a number of scholarly journals. Restoration experts often called upon him over the years for consultation, and his rich output of both written and verbal contributions are often the only remaining histories of specific architectural legacies, including many that would otherwise have long been forgotten.

Jim may have been one of the world's most knowledgeable experts on draperies and tassels, and was often called upon to share his knowledge with planned and in-progress restoration projects and treatises on the topic.

Jim's many writings are often the only remnants of the rarest stories that surround so many of the long-lost and mostly-forgotten theatres of decades past.

Jim Rankin very often talked about the need to raise a voice on behalf of any endangered theatre - and yet he still managed to keep a practical mind towards all foreseeable eventualities and outcomes in each case.

A "realistic dreamer" was Jim.

Many could attest to Jim Rankin's old-fashioned courtliness and courtesy to all, including - and almost especially - the rawest neophytes who shared an interest in the trappings of theatre lore. Jim was vocal against the sort of elitism and "cliqueyness" that can form within some dedicated groups including theatre aficionados, and Jim made certain his personal approach to all who met him was filled with all the personal warmth and welcome that is called for when making new friends with similar interests.

Jim Rankin loved all theatres, including the most modest small-town houses that dotted the American landscape in the past century. But Jim really did favor ostentatiousness and opulence above all, and would joke, punctuated by his loud and memorable laugh, that the Roxy and San Francisco Fox were far too plain for his tastes.

Jim was very devout in his religious beliefs and lived his exemplary, too-brief life with a sense of dignity, honor and responsibility to himself, his friends and his interests. Though Jim rarely complained, his health was poor for decades. His father died at sixty - Jim's age, when he passed just before the New Year of 2007 of kidney failure, the result of diabetes.

I know that Jim will forever dwell among the beauty and majesty of his Heavenly Father's mansions, to which our greatest and most magnificent earthly palaces pale in comparison.

by Murdock Pemberton

From midnight till the following noon
I stand in shadow,
Just a splotch of white,
Unnoted by the cleaning crew
Who've spent their hours of toil
That I might live again.
Yet they hold no reverence for my charms,
And if they pause amid their work
They do not glance at me;
All their admiration, all their awe,
Is for the gold and scarlet trappings of the home
That's built to house my wonders;
Or for the gorgeous murals all around,
Which really, after all,
Were put in place as most lame substitutes,
Striving to soothe the patron's ire
For those few moments when my face is dark.
Yes, men have built a palace sheltering me,
And as the endless ocean washes on its stretch of beach
The tides of people flow to me.

All things I am to everyone;
The newsboys, shopgirls,
And all starved souls
Who've clutched at life and missed,
See in my magic face,
The lowly rise to fame and palaces,
See virtue triumph every time
And rich and wicked justly flayed.
Old men are tearful
When I show them what they might have been.
And others, not so old,
Bask in the sunshine of my fairy tales.
The lovers see new ways to woo;
And wives see ways to use old brooms.
Some nights I see the jeweled opera crowd
Who seem aloof but inwardly are fond of me
Because I've caught the gracious beauty of their pets.
Then some there are who watch my changing face
To catch new history's shadow
As it falls from day to day.
And at the noiseless tramp of soldier feet,
In time to music of the warring tribes,
The shadow men across my face
Seem living with the hope or dread
Of those who watch them off to wars.

In sordid substance I am but a sheet,
A fabric of some fireproof stuff.
And yet, in every port where ships can ride,
In every nook where there is breath of life,
Intrepid men face death
To catch for me the fleeting phases of the world
Lest I lose some charming facet of my face.
And all the masters of all time
Have thrummed their harps
And bowed their violins
To fashion melodies that might be played
The while I tell my tales.
O you who hold the mirror up to nature,
Behold my cosmic scope:
I am the mirror of the whirling globe.