Beloved Member Jim Rankin Passes Away

posted by Ross Melnick on January 9, 2007 at 12:02 pm

Longtime member and historic theater expert Jim Rankin has passed away.

We count ourselves among the lucky ones who had the opportunity to speak with Jim on many occasions over the years. As one of our earliest and most passionate users, the site has lost one of its most knowledgeable voices and one of its fiercest advocates. On a personal level, though, all of us who keep this site humming have lost something far more important — a good man and a good friend. Jim was always in our corner, looking out for our best interests, and keeping us and our theater pages in check.

His passion for Milwaukee and its theaters was also plain to see. If you haven’t had a chance to read some of his exquisitely detailed entries on the Pabst, Alhambra, and other Milwaukee theaters, please take a little time this morning to read some of his work.

Jim’s knowledge and theater entries truly set the gold standard.

As Louis Rugani tells us in his post, Jim will be laid to rest on Friday. Wherever you are during that day, please take a moment and reflect on his life and his contribution to the cause.

Jim’s loss will be felt today, tomorrow, and forever here at Cinema Treasures. The honor of knowing him, and the knowledge he shared with us all, are some of the lasting gifts of his life.

Comments (21)

Patsy on January 9, 2007 at 12:27 pm

Dear Ross: Your tribute to Jim Rankin were very well expressed. I know I speak for hundreds of CT members when I say that Jim will truly be missed. I had the pleasure of receiving a few private emails from him from time to time and knew that he was in poor health though his love of theatres kept him going and for that we are forever thankful. His theatre knowledge did set the gold standard for all of us. Rest in eternal peace, my friend. And I would like to think that perhaps you could attend his funeral on Friday, but would understand if you aren’t able to do so.

HowardBHaas on January 9, 2007 at 1:05 pm

By very detailed emails, Jim Rankin assisted Friends of the Boyd ( in our understanding and retrieval of our original Lighting Control Panel.

He also inquired about the non-original, but interesting grillwork on the Yeadon Theater (no demolished) in suburban Philadelphia.

I’ve enjoyed his many postings on so many theaters on this site!

Rest in peace!

HowardBHaas on January 9, 2007 at 1:06 pm

The Yeadon “no” should read “now demolished.

carolgrau on January 9, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Many a great and rewarding post was written by jim, a most knowligable person. I for one will miss him allot. Rest In Peace Pal.

ERD on January 9, 2007 at 4:05 pm

I was greatly affected to read of Jim Rankin’s passing. He was a true gentleman and scholar. Like many other members, I shall miss his wonderful comments on Cinema Treasures.

ggates on January 9, 2007 at 4:57 pm

He was an expert, on every phase of theatre history and we’ll probably never find someone who could teach us so much. I remember the time I posted a photo of a GCC back bar, and he noticed the plastic grillwork and explained that it was Sculpta Grill, Persian Latticed Pattern. I doubt there was anyone else in the world who would have known that.

IanJudge on January 9, 2007 at 6:27 pm

Perhaps the organizers of this website could consider a annual or semi-annual award named for the greatly knowledgeable Mr. Rankin – some kind of essay or research contest, maybe? It would have to be held to high standards, since Jim was as eloquent as he was informative.

Ross Melnick
Ross Melnick on January 9, 2007 at 6:39 pm

Ian, that’s a great idea and certainly something we should do. Thanks for the wonderful idea and thanks to all of you for remembering Jim.

jon6444 on January 9, 2007 at 8:43 pm

We all have gained from his knowledge…I can only hope one day I can be as knowledgeble as this fine gentleman…He will truly be missed.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on January 9, 2007 at 9:21 pm

The great joy of reading Jim Rankin’s postings on Cinema Treasures was the depth of knowledge he shared with us on the subject of theatres. Most importantly was the accuracy of his remarks, there was never any need to doubt.

A great loss to historic theatre research and to Cinema Treasures.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 10, 2007 at 12:05 am

I am deeply saddened to learn of Jim Rankin’s passing. I didn’t know him personally, nor did I have the pleasure of even a casual email exchange, but his amiable and most learned presence on this site was most appreciated. While his invaluable input surely will be missed on these pages, I think it was his civility and exquisite eloquence that I respect most about him and will endeavor to honor by holding my own small contributions here to the same high standard. Perhaps we can ALL honor Jim in this manner and carry a bit of that civility and respect towards each other as we go forward in the new year and beyond. Seems to me that would be something that might have brought a glint of pride to Jim’s eyes.

atmos on January 10, 2007 at 12:09 am

I have only been involved with Cinema Treasures in recent years but have much admiration for Jim Rankin’s knowledge of theatres and particularly his amazing writing skills.If only I could write half as good.
His passing is a great loss for all those connected with Cinema Treasures and the Theatre Historical Society of America.
Graeme McBain.

PGlenat on January 10, 2007 at 6:19 am

Jim Rankin provided a wealth of knowledge and information to Cinema Treasures that will not soon be equalled. He will be truly missed by all on this site. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting him personally I feel that I have lost a close friend as well as a great teacher.

Cariad on January 10, 2007 at 2:37 pm

I enjoyed reading his posts and the knowledge his shared for the benefit of all.

andygarner on January 10, 2007 at 6:12 pm

A true theatre scholar whos knowledge and enthusiasm always shone through in everything he wrote about....God bless you Jim, I didnt know you personally, but feel like I have lost a friend today.

hstorybuff on January 11, 2007 at 12:29 pm

Ian and Ross you might be interested to know that Theatre Historical Society already has an annual research contest/award called the Jeffery Weiss Literary Award Competition. Jim Rankin submitted articles to this contest more than once. Jim wrote the 1st Place entry in the 1989 competition titled “Theatre Passementerie” and took 2nd Place in the 2002 competition with “Ornamentation Old and New: Grillework in Theatres” (published in THS’s Marquee® Vol. 36 #2). Jim also wrote an article on the Airway Theatre (Milwaukee) that appeared in Marquee® Vol. 27 #4. To order a copy of these publications or for more information on the Jeffery Weiss Literary Award Competition visit the THS website at or call their headquarters at 630-782-1800.

GWaterman on January 25, 2007 at 1:34 am

I just learned of this by reading about the memorial site on the home page. God rest you, Jim! Thanks for the wonderful bits of knowledge you passed along to us. We will miss you!

GWaterman on January 25, 2007 at 1:34 am

I just learned of this by reading about the memorial site on the home page. God rest you, Jim! Thanks for the wonderful bits of knowledge you passed along to us. We will miss you!

LouisRugani on January 24, 2009 at 2:36 am

Here’s Jim Rankin’s memorial page at Findagrave; memorial comments are welcome. Thanks.

View link

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on March 6, 2010 at 12:12 am

I hate i got on CT too late to be able to write to Mr. Rankin.A CT member told me to check out this site and he seemed liked a very informed theatre person.

TLSLOEWS on March 6, 2010 at 12:16 am

He knew his stuff.

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