Fred G. Schmuff Managed area theaters

February 24, 1991

A memorial service for Fred G. Schmuff, who retired in 198 as the executive film buyer for F. H. Durkee Enterprises after a 67-year career in the movie theater business, will be held at 10 FTC a.m. tomorrow at the First English Lutheran Church, North Charles and 39th streets.

Mr. Schmuff, a Baltimore native who was 88, died Feb. 15 of respiratory disease at his home on West University Parkway.

The Polytechnic Institute graduate gained a lifelong interest in the movies while attending the Orpheum in East Baltimore as a child.

He began working as a $1-a-night weekend usher at the Community Theater in Hamilton. His early work included caring for the film as it came out of the projector, before projectors were equipped with take-up reels, and sometimes playing piano for a silent movie.

He was promoted to night manager of the Community and worked in the Durkee offices before becoming the first manager of the State Theater on East Monument Street when it opened in 1927.

At the State, he presented vaudeville shows, including such future stars as Red Skelton, Donald O'Connor and Abbott and Costello.

He felt he boosted the careers of Abbott and Costello when he suggested to their agent that they be booked at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, an appearance that was a success.

After leaving the State in 1935, he served as a division manager for the theater chain and then, until his retirement, dealt with the film distributors to obtain movies for the theaters.

Frank H. Durkee III, a partner in the company, recalled Mr. Schmuff as a small man who for many years carried a big cigar and was known to the film distributors as a fighter.

He is survived by his wife, the former Elena Costa, who was dancing in a show at the Hippodrome Theater when he met her. He booked her for a show at the State, and they later married.

Other survivors include two sons, Fred G. Schmuff III of Towson and Gilbert F. Schmuff of San Diego; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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