At the corned of Broadway and 46th Street, in the heart of the hustle and bustle of Times Square, is a hidden gem of theatrical history.
It isn't a theatre, or the office of a bygone stage mogul--it's the old supply company that used to provide Broadway with its shoes.
I. Miller used to be the go-to place for theatrical footwear. You can still read the company's motto: "The Show Folks Shoe Shop Dedicated to Beauty in Footwear."
Though the store shuttered in the 1970s, the building remains. For a long time it housed a T.G.I.Fridays. Now an Express clothing store occupies part of the structure. I'm not sure which is more depressing.
But what isn't depressing is that the four statues that adorned the building are still there. Each depicts a famed actress from the early 20th century in a well-known role. (Well-known in the 1920s, that is.) The actresses were chosen in a vote by the public in 1927 to represent the apex of female performance in drama, comedy, motion picture, and opera. You can read about it in an article The New York Times did in 2014.
People often complain about the lack of female statues in New York City. Generally historical figures (Joan of Arc, Eleanor Roosevelt, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Harriet Tubman) are supposed to count, while fictional and allegorical figures (Alice, Mother Goose, Lady Liberty) do not. But where do these statues fit into the scheme? They are all both historical figures and the fictional roles they portrayed. (Of course, they also are on private property, which makes them not count for people just considering statues on public land.)
Ziegfeld girl in the teens. After numerous memorable performances in the Ziegfeld Follies, and a starring role in the Ziegfeld-produced musical Sally, she broke with Florenz Ziegfeld and went on to star in Peter Pan and later Sunny. Though Miller is mostly unknown today, she was a favorite of the early 20th century, and Judy Garland even played her on screen in the 1946 movie Till the Clouds Roll By about the life of Jerome Kern.
The statues were designed by the sculptor Alexander Stirling Calder, father of the famous mobile artist. They were recently restored, and now can be seen in their full glory, though few people probably notice them.