Mr. JIM RANKIN, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

posted by LouisRugani on January 9, 2007 at 7:00 am

With the utmost regret, I must inform you of the passing of Mr. Jim Rankin of Milwaukee, a prolific contributor for decades to theatre history nationwide and in particular to the rich history of Midwestern theatres.

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 ongoing restoration projects and scholarly journals on the topic.

Those who knew Jim as a friend – there are many – will attest to his old-fashioned courtliness and courtesy to all, including (and almost especially) the rawest neophytes with a newfound interest in the trappings of theatre lore.

Jim’s many postings here 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.

Often vocal against the sort of elitism and “cliqueyness” that can creep into dedicated groups including theatre aficionados, 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.

Though Jim rarely complained, his health has been 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.

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.

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.


Services for our brother Jim Rankin will be Friday, January 12th, 2007 at 7 PM at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses – 12165 Layton – West Allis, Wisconsin.

Comments (17)

Patsy on January 9, 2007 at 7:32 am

Dear Louis: Friday will be January 12th. Thank you for posting your kind words to a wonderful CT member, Jim Rankin. He shall be missed by us all. And if you could post his obituary on CT, I think many would appreciate reading it.

carolgrau on January 9, 2007 at 8:22 am

Amen to that patsy, it was an honor to read his post.

William on January 9, 2007 at 11:04 am

Thanks Jim

For sharing your Knowledge here.

Rest In Peace

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on January 9, 2007 at 11:15 am

That is unfortunate news. I am very sorry to hear of this. Jim was first-rate.

Broan on January 9, 2007 at 1:23 pm

This is such a loss; experts with such detailed knowledge and insight are hard to come by and utterly irreplaceable. Jim’s posts were a crux of this community. I only wish I could have met him. At least his contributions here will go on teaching. Rest in peace.

Michael Zoldessy
Michael Zoldessy on January 9, 2007 at 8:37 pm

The services date has been corrected to Friday the 12th. Thanks for pointing that out.

TheaterBuff1 on January 10, 2007 at 2:29 am

This news comes as quite a surprise to me, as through the many conversations I had with him — both at this website and through private e-mail exchanges — I always sensed that he had a great deal of mileage left to go in him and that his greatest achievements still awaited ahead. But he has now gone on to see what no doubt will be the greatest cinema of all. But here on earth, where all cinemas still remain but works in progress, his vast knowledge will truly be missed. In the last e-mail conversation I had with him it appeared a proposed casino for Gettysburg, PA was threatening the future of its not that long ago restored historic Majestic Theatre (which President Eisenhower once attended regularly). But in December ‘06 the Gettysburg casino proposal fell through, and the theater’s fate appears to be fully secure now. I had been meaning to write to Jim and tell him my worries about it had all been for naught. Alas, the way it goes. We will really miss you, Jim!

Patsy on January 10, 2007 at 7:44 am

TheatreBuff1: Go to the Majestic Theatre CT link as I will post my comments about Gettysburg there. I, too, shared many personal emails with Jim which is when I learned of his health problems, but also learned of his personal bravery.

Bartstar on January 10, 2007 at 7:26 pm

While I had never talked with him personally, I was always aware that Jim Rankin was one of the outstanding members of Cinema Treasures. He freely shared his theatre knowledge with everyone here and on other theatre buff sites.

I recently stumbled across a site of theatre photographs and Jim Rankin has already been there and had written extensive comments about the architectural details shown in the photos. It was like unexpectedly running into an old acquaintance.

This community of ours that has gathered together online with our shared memories and dreams is now smaller by one. He will be missed.

Patsy on January 10, 2007 at 7:50 pm

Bart: Would you mind sharing the site with theatre photographs that Jim contributed to so we could see the photos and read his words as a tribute to him?

Bartstar on January 10, 2007 at 8:57 pm

Some of Jim Rankin’s comments are at “America’s Stunning Theatres – Photo Gallery by Noah Kern.

The photos are truly amazing. They may be the best theatre photos I’ve ever seen on the web. They have a choice of multiple sizes, camera data including EXIF data, and of course, people’s comments. Obviously Jim didn’t write comments for every photo, but the ones he did are very informative.

Patsy on January 11, 2007 at 7:19 am

Bart: Thanks for posting that familiar site to many of us and let us all take a moment on Friday to remember Jim and the contribution he made to Cinema Treasures and to all of our lives. Go with God on Eagle’s Wings, Jim.

LouisRugani on January 14, 2007 at 11:03 pm

Jim Rankin’s online Memorial is now ready at . Enter “James Harry Rankin” into the three Name Search windows. Online visitors have the opportunity to post memorial comments and images.

Several theatre buffs attended Jim’s well-attended memorial service on January 12th; I saw Hugh Swofford, Gretch Staudinger, Sean Kasuboske and Joe Zollner, and there may have been others. There was a collection of Jim’s articles and writings in the sanctuary.

Patsy on January 15, 2007 at 11:32 am

Louis: There are 3 name search windows. The first window is for the first name, the second is for the last name and the third is for Keyword so am having difficulty locating Jim’s obituary on this site.

LouisRugani on January 23, 2009 at 9:33 pm

Here’s Jim Rankin’s memorial page at Findagrave. Visitors may leave memorial comments. Thanks.
View link

Patsy on January 23, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Louis: Thank you for entering your recent post in regards to fellow CT member, the late Jim Rankin. He continues to be very much missed among the members of CT and to those who knew him personally. I know I had the distinct pleasure of communicating with Jim about many theatres featured on Cinema Treasures. I often think about what life was like before I found Cinema Treasures and do wonder, at times, how I ever survived without it. I know many others probably feel the same way and miss Jim’s vast theatre knowledge and friendship.

TLSLOEWS on February 24, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Always loved to read his posts.Hope hes at the big movie house in the sky!

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