Friday, May 16, 2008

Johnny Tough at the Capitol

The first, last and only time I ever saw a movie at the Capitol Theater was sometime in the mid-seventies when my mom and I saw
Johnny Tough! together. The tagline: "He's bad...he's black...he's beautiful...He'll steal your heart!" It was summer; downtown was empty; and there were only a handful of people in attendance. I remember the theater manager actually standing in the lobby wringing his hands and sweating. He knew he'd be out of a job soon.

Johnny Tough! was a wildly ambitious low-budget attempt to make a blaxploitation version Francois Truffaut’s masterpiece The 400 Blows. It didn't quite work, but you have to admire first-time director Horace Jackson's lofty aspirations.

My mom's attempt to help me experience the Capitol of her youth, where she often spent entire Saturdays and watched hundreds of films, was probably even more ambitious...and impossible to achieve.

Film stills courtesy of Moon in the Gutter, a very addictive film blog.


  1. Ah, the Capitol Theatre! The very first movie that I ever seen at the Capitol was "Viva Las Vegas" starring Elvis Presley and Ann-Margaret!

    Here are a couple of other memorable movies that I got a chance to view from the balcony seats at the Capitol -- "Bonnie and Clyde" and "2001: A Space Odyssey".

    Not only was great fun to go to the Capitol to see a movie -- I made sure that every visit there that I had a couple of quarters in my pocket to get a Sealtest Ice Cream sandwich from the vending machine -- the best ice cream sandwiches ever made.

    I have some other memories of the Capitol....such as seeing Joe Cocker and Ian Hunter (with Mick Ronson) performing live...and the Capitol Theatre was the place where Michael Moore, WWCK and WTAC organized the memorial for John Lennon.

    The Capitol...and the Palace...they don't make theaters like them anymore.

  2. Rich, I think you certainly had better cinematic luck than I did at the Capitol.

    And I read the post on your blog about your mom. It was very moving. She sounds like a great lady who had kids who really loved her.

    You should keep blogging. You're a great writer! And don't give up wearing the Tigers cap.

  3. Greetings,
    Jeremy here from Moon In The Gutter. Very nice reading your memories of this film...while I don't think it was totally succesful, I really respect how ambitious and well meaning it was.
    Glad you liked the screencaps and could use some. Feel free to take any more you would like...I love making them and think its great when others can use them as well.

    Haven't been to Flint in years but have some warm memories of it. One of my best friend used to live outside of Detroit in a town I think called Holly and we would drive to Flint sometimes...great post and I will add your blog to my blog links!

    Thanks again...Jeremy

  4. Anybody remember the Capitol Reck in the basement below the theater?


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at