Climbing the Mango Trees

Source: Madhur Jaffrey, Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India (London: Random House, 2005), pp. 94-95

Text: We liked all movies but going to Hindi movies had added benefits. These Indian films were particularly conducive to whetting and then satisfying our appetites. They generally lasted about four hours. Whole families, including infants, would come to view the mythological-historical-tragi-comical musicals. There was a great deal of yelling, crying, getting up, singing along and sitting down in the audience throughout the show. Certainly no-one minded the noisy unwrapping of paper cones containing chane gor jaram, small chickpeas that had been flattened and roasted, then flavoured with cumin, chilli powder, sour mango powder and black rock salt. We would much on the chickpeas as we watched Hanuman, the Monkey God, fly across a dark sky dotted equidistantly with hundreds of five-pointed stars, all cut from the same stencil.

During the intermission we would all go in a horde to buy potato patties, aloo-ki-tikiyas, from vendors who had carefully posted themselves outside the cinema doors. These patties were a Delhi speciality and their unique flavour depended partly on the way they were cooked and partly on the spices in the stuffing. They were not deep-fried or shallow-fried but pan-roasted instead.

Each vendor carried a brazier on which he had set up a large cast-iron griddle (tava). Patties that were ready to sell sat waiting on the outer fringes, staying warm until needed. Those that were still cooking were in the centre, sizzling away in a few tablespoons of oil that pooled in the middle. in one pot were the vendor’s seasoned mash potatoes, and in another the mashed potatoes, and in another the stuffing made out of highly spiced split peas that had been cooked until dry and crumbly. To make a patty, the vendor would pinch off a ball of mashed potatoes, flatten it into a small patty, pinch off a smaller ball of the stuffing and place it in the centre. Then he would cover up the stuffing with the potato and make a ball. The ball was then flattened and slapped onto the griddle.

The squatting vendor kept turning each patty this way and that until it was reddish brown and completely crisp on both sides. By this time our mouths could almost taste the tikiyas. As soon as he got the order, the vendor would place a patty on a leaf, split it open and smother both parts with sweet and sour tamarind chutney. We would carry these hot patties back into the dark cinema house and eat them as we watched Hanuman trying to rescue Sita, the good queen, from the clutches of the demon King of Sri Lanka.

Comments: Madhur Jaffrey (born 1933 is an Indian actress and cookery writer. At the time of this extract from memoirs of her childhood spent in India, it was the mid-1940s and her family was living in Delhi.

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Pictures and Films

Source: Dorothy Richardson, ‘Continuous Performance: Pictures and Films’, Close Up vol. IV no. 1, January 1929, pp. 51-57

Text:

American films, sharp as steel, cold like the poles, beautiful as the tomb, passed before our dazzled eyes. The gaze of William Hart pierced our hearts and we loved the calm landscape where the hoofs of his horse raised clouds of dust.

Quite so. True, true, perfectly true. Something, at any rate, did, pierce our hearts, and we did love the calm of the landscape whereon the wild riders flew, the dust-clouds testifying to their pace. Just those things and as they were, unrelated to what came before and after. And to whatever it might be that had preceded, and to whatever it was that might follow, the splendid riding in the vast landscape gave its peculiar quality. We were devotees of the vast landscape and the wild riding and all the rest passing so magnificently before our eyes.

But however devout our feelings it did not occur to us to express them quite so openly and prayerfully. And, I beg … has not the quoted tribute a strange air? An air at first sight of being an extract from an out-of-date hand-book on the year’s pictures, part of whose compilation had been entrusted to a youth with literary ambitions, and a somewhat exotic youth at that, and therefore a youth who properly should not have been the prey of the wild west film? And yet here most certainly is cri du coeur, with no question of tongue in cheek.

But young Englishmen of no period, and under no matter what provocation, are to be found gushing in these terms. Gush they may. But not quite in these terms. A young Englishwoman, then? An aspiring and enthusiastic young Englishwoman writing to suggest to other aspiring and enthusiastic young Englishwomen exactly what they think about the movies, and well understanding the heart-piercing and the adoration of the landscape.

But though the sentiments may be thus accountable, the expression of them remains a little mysteriously not an English form of expression until – turning the page to discover in whose person it was that The Little Review at any point in its thrilled and thrilling career should have waxed lyrical over the movies in their own right, as distinct from their glimpsed possibilities – one finds the signature of a French writer, one of the super-realists who had hoped the war would have rescued art from romanticism, had been disappointed and, having enumerated the few artists who in Europe were giving the world anything worth the having, looked sadly back upon the movies in their pristine innocence.

With the strange unsuitability of the English garb to the sentiments expressed thus cleared up by the realisation that the article was a literal translation, one could give rein to one’s delight in the discovery of this genuine feeling of the day before yesterday, even though immediately one was forced to reflect that this wistful young man, given the circumstances and the date, could not possibly have seen any FILMS.

Accepting, therefore, its French reading, I have set down this tribute in the manner of a text, first because with an odd punctuality it came to my notice immediately on my return, from a first visit to London’s temple of good films, to get on with the business of extracting forgotten treasures from a packing-case, and also because its sentiments chimed perfectly with certain convictions floating uninvited into my mind as I talked, on matters unrelated to the film (if, indeed, at this date any matters can be so described), with a friend encountered by chance on my way home from The Avenue Pavilion.

I had seen, in great comfort, and from a back seat whose price was that of the less valuable portions of the average super-cinema, The Student of Prague. This film, I am told, though excellent for the date of its production, a good play, well acted and likely to remain indefinitely upon any well-chosen repertory, has been out-done and left behind by films now being shown in Germany and in Russia. It is approved by the film intelligentsia, including psycho-analysts who delightedly find it, like all works of art, ancient and modern, fuller of wisdom than its creator clearly knows. And it was most heartily approved by a large gathering of onlookers, revealed when the lights went up, as consisting for the most part of those kinds of persons to be seen scattered sparsely amongst the average cinema crowd.

For me, personally, and before the human interest of the drama began to compete with whatever conscious critical faculty I may possess, it joined forces with the few ‘good’ films I have seen at home and abroad in convincing me that the film can be an ‘art-form’. There is much in it I shall never forget, and that much was supported and amplified in a way that no conceivable stage setting can compete with. The absence of the spoken word was more than compensated. Captions there may have been. I remember none. Clear, too, was the role of the musical accompaniment, though this was now and again a little obtrusive, and one grew intolerant of the crescendo of cymbal-crashing that accompanied every great moment instead of being reserved for the post-script, the final discomfiture of the wonderful devil with the umbrella, surely one of the best devils ever seen on stage or film? The same uniform cymbal-crashing did much, a week or so later, to spoil the revival of Barrymore’s Jekyll and Hyde, first seen in England to the tune of the Erl-könig, itself a work of art and fitting most admirably to Barrymore’s achievement.

But the rôle of the musical accompaniment was clear, nevertheless, its contribution to the business of compensating the absence of the spoken word, its support and its amplification that joins the many other resources of the film in deepening and unifying and driving home all that is presented. Conrad Veidt on any stage would be a great actor. Conrad Veidt moving voiceless through the universal human tragedy in surroundings whose every smallest item ‘speaks to the occasion’ has the opportunity that at last gives to pure acting its fullest scope.

I left gratefully anticipating such other good films as it may:be my fortune to see. Yet within and around my delights there were, I knew, certain reservations at work waiting to formulate themselves and, as I have said, taking the opportunity, the moment my attention was busy elsewhere, of coming forward in the form of clear statement.

The burden of their message was that welcome for the FILM does not by any means imply repudiation of the movies. The FILM at its utmost possible development can no more invalidate the movies than the first-class portrait, say Leonardo’s of the Lady Lisa, can invalidate a snap-shot.

The film as a work of art is subject to the condition ruling all great art: that it shall be a collaboration between the conscious and the unconscious, between talent and genius. Let either of these elements get ahead of the other and disaster is the result, disaster in proportion to the size of the attempt.

The film, therefore, runs enormous risks. Portraits are innumerable. The great portraits produced by any single nation are very few indeed. And the portrait that is merely clever or pretentious, be its technique what it will, is no food for mankind. But the snap-shot, and the movie that offers to the fool and the wayfaring man a perfected technique, is food for all. It can’t go wrong. It is innocent, and its results go straight to the imagination of the onlooker, the collaborator, the other half of the game.

The charm of the first movies was in their innocence. They were not concerned, or at any rate not very deeply concerned, either with idea or with characterisation. Like the snap-shot, they recorded. And when plot, intensive, came to be combined with characterisation, with just so much characterisation as might by good chance be supplied by minor characters supporting the tailor’s and modiste’s dummies filling the chief rôles, still the records were there, the snap-shot records that are always and everywhere food for a discriminating and an undiscriminating humanity alike. ‘Sharp as steel, cold like the poles’; of landscape calm or wild, of crowds and all the moving panorama of life, of interiors, and interiors opening out of interiors, an unlimited material upon which die imagination of the onlooker could get to work unhampered by the pressure of a controlling mind that is not his own mind.

I was reminded also that the Drama, for instance, the Elizabethan drama, became Great Art only in retrospect. Worship of Art and The Artist is a modern product. In the hey-day of the Elizabethan drama the stage was despised, the actor a vagabond and a low fellow.

It may be that the hey-day of the film will come when things have a little settled down. When the gold-diggers, put out of court, shall have ceased to dig, when the medium is developed and within reach of the vagabonds and low fellows, when writing for the film shall no longer offer a spacious livelihood. Then, by those coming innocently to a well-known medium, the World’s Great Films, the Hundred Best Films, will be produced. And, since history never repeats itself, they will probably be thousands, some of which, it would seem, have already been made in pioneering Russia.

But the movies will remain. The snap-shots will go on all the time. And there will always be people who infinitely prefer the family album of snap-shots to the family portrait gallery. And this is not necessarily the same as saying that there will always be irresponsible people, people who are happy merely because they are infantile. Much has been said, by those who dislike the pictures, of their value as evidence of infantilism. It is claimed that the people who flock to the movies do so because they love to lose themselves in the excitements of a dream-world, a world that bears no relationship to life as they know it, that makes no demand upon the intelligence, acts like a drug, and is altogether demoralising and devitalising.

Such people obviously know very little about the movies. But even if they did, even if they cared to take their chance and now and again submit themselves to the experience of a thoroughly popular show, it is hardly likely that they would lose their apparent inability to distinguish between childishness, the quality that has of late been so admirably analysed and presented under the label of infantilism, and childlikeness, which is quite another thing. The child trusts its world, and those who, in all civilisations and within all circumstances, in face of all evidence and no matter what experience, cannot rid themselves of a child-like trust are by no means to be confused with those who shirk problems and responsibilities and remain ego-centrically within a dream-world that bears no relation to reality.

The battles and the problems of those who trust life are not the same as the battles and problems of those who regard life as the raw material for great conflicts and great works of art. But only such as regard the Fine Arts as mankind’s sole spiritual achievement will reckon those who appear not to be particularly desirous of these achievements as therefore necessarily damned.

Comments: Dorothy Richardson (1873-1957) was a British modernist novelist. Through 1927-1933 she wrote a column, ‘Continuous Performance’ for the film art journal Close Up. The column concentrates on film audiences rather than the films themselves. The films mentioned are Der Student von Prag (Germany 1926) and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (USA 1920). The Avenue Pavilion cinema was in Shaftesbury Avenue, London, and specialised in showing foreign films. The Little Review was an American literary magazine.

Links: Copy at Internet Archive

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Newsreels

Source: Extract from Len England, Mass-Observation File Report 215: Newsreels (June), 19 June 1940, reproduced from http://bufvc.ac.uk/wp-content/media/2009/06/mo_report_215.pdf. Original file report held at Mass-Observation Archive, University of Sussex

Text: Mention was made in the last report of the horrifying effect that some newsreel sequences had upon members of the audience. This effect is becoming more obvious. An observer in Streatham heard one elderly working-class woman say ‘Gertie and I cried all through the newsreel. Those poor boys out there in all that. The pictures were terrible’. In a Watford cinema another observer heard one girl say to her friend ‘I don’t think they should show you this, do you?’ at shots of air raid havoc. In the Picturegoer (15.6.40) a letter was published as follows:

There has been much criticism in the past on newsreels showing us the horrors of modern warfare in China, Spain, etc., and although we felt strongly about these presentations they did not strike near enough to make us protest publicly. But the war newsreel of to-day is horrifying us. This week we went to our local cinema to see ADVENTURE IN DIAMONDS and SPATS TO SPURS, a light programme calculated to make us forget what might be happening ‘over there’. But did we enjoy our programme? No, because we viewed it through a haze of tears and the horrible quickening of nerves as we saw our boys moving up to the Belgian front.

As the war continues in all its fury, are we to be subjected to further horror, are we to watch our husbands bombarded, are we to see the shattered limbs of our brothers lying on the battlefield, the anguished bodies of our sons carried in on stretchers? No, unless the film distributors realise that we cannot sit in a luxury cinema watching these ghastly things, unless they relegate the war newsreel to its proper place, the New[s] Theatre, we will stay outside the cinema for the duration. This is our resolve and there are thousands of mothers and wives who feel the same.

A further letter commented on the same thing:

Some of the recent newsreels have been in very bad taste; an outstanding example being the showing of dead bodies lying outside a bombed Belgian hospital. Cannot the censor prevent the issue of these pictures which can only bring pain and suffering to those loved ones on active service. After all, we go to the cinema to be carried away from our troubles.

The main response to these shots continues to be a very high degree of comment and signs of horror at the most unpleasant shots. There is no indication in this that the shots are popular but they still constitute the bulk of newsreels and are accompanied by such remarks as ‘There are other sights too grim to show you’. To shots other than of air raids the response is increasing. In the British Movietone News, 13.6.40, an item called ‘The Italian Assassin’ began with close-ups of Mussolini. Obs watched this reel twice and on each occasion there was an immediate and widespread outburst of hisses, boos, catcalls and laughs. Obs has never seen this on any other occasion though twice at least the newsreels have contained shots of Hitler himself. The outcry lasted for nearly a minute on each occasion.

Response to political and military figures has increased; Reynaud, Weygand and Gort have been clapped every time they have appeared though none of the three have been applauded at all before the last two weeks. There has been very prolonged applause for Churchill every time, and at a West End theatre where response is usually very low a man called out ‘Well done’ when the Prime Minister appeared and clapping followed.

The royal family, however, receive less applause than before. The British Movietone reel mentioned above was observed with two very highly responsive audiences; the last item was a fairly long sequence of the King presenting medals at Buckingham Palace; the Queen was watching from the balcony. At the first showing of this the King was applauded for 2 seconds — Reynaud had received 5 seconds applause a minute before — at the second showing there was no clapping at all. On each occasion the shots of the Queen were greeted in dead silence.

The most important newsreel item in the last few weeks has been the Dunkirk evacuation; shots of this were obtained by cameramen on the spot, and by others lining the train route from the coast home. They could not, however, be released immediately and there was an opportunity by skilful cutting to exploit the dramatic possibilities of the situation. Paramount and Movietone in the main let the shots speak for themselves and did not give them much commentary; GB produced a patriotic commentary which will be mentioned further; and Pathe blended the shots into a sequence that gained a higher response of applause than anything else yet noted by an observer. The sequence began with soldiers marching into Dunkirk; then came a word of congratulation to the Navy and the Air Force for their assistance, this being illustrated with stock shots; the actual embarkation; then compliments to the French army, to the nurses and other women helpers, to the wounded, finally shots of the landing, the train journey, and a few words from the troops. The whole item lasted about four minutes; for nearly a quarter of that time, that is, a full minute, there was applause. Hitherto the loudest applause had been 10 seconds for the survivors of the Altmark.

Comments: Mass-Observation carried out a series of studies in 1930s and 1940s into how people in the UK lived, through a mixture of observation, diaries and invited comments. Cinema-going was included among its social surveys, and during 1939-1945 it paid particular attention to newsreels. Data from the original observers’ reports were collated into File Reports, and all of the film File Reports were compiled by Len England. This particular report is on audience reaction to newsreels in June 1940. The newsreels referred to are British Movietone News, Pathe Gazette, Gaumont-British News and British Paramount News.

Links: Copy of full file report at News on Screen

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The Journals of Arnold Bennett

Source: Arnold Bennett, journal entry 3 August 1927, in Newman Flower (ed.), The Journals of Arnold Bennett: 1921-1928 (London: Cassell, 1933)

Text: Wednesday, August 3rd.

Went to see the “Metropolis” film at the Élite theatre. Sickening sentimentality. Many good effects, spectacular, spoilt by over-insistence. A footling story. No understanding of psychology of either employers or workmen. “Adapted by Channing Pollock.” Good God! What captions. Enough to make you give up the ghost. The theatre was very nearly empty.

Comments: Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) was a British writer, best known for his novels of life in the Potteries with its ‘five towns’ that now equate with Stoke-on-Trent. The spectacular science-fiction drama Metropolis (Germany 1927) was directed by Fritz Lang and scripted by his wife Thea von Harbou. Channing Pollock was an American playwright and film scenarist who wrote a revised script for the film’s American and UK release, cut down significantly from its original release length. The Élite Picture Theatre was in St Leonard’s, Sussex.

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Asta Nielsen

Source: Paul van Ostaijen, ‘Asta Nielsen’, in Bezette Stad (Antwerp: Sienjaal, 1921), reproduced from www.dbnl.org/tekst/osta002verz02_01/osta002verz02_01_0119.php

Text:
asta1

asta2

asta3

asta4

asta5

asta6

asta7

asta8

asta9

Comments: Paul van Ostaijen (1896-1928) was a Belgian poet. His idiosyncratically-designed Bezette Stad (Occupied City) is a collection of poems influenced by Dadism and Expressionism which deals with his life in Antwerp during the First World War. Asta Nielsen was a Danish film actress and one of the leading cinema performers of the 1910s, chiefly popular in Europe. Paul Joostens, the poem’s dedicatee, was a Belgian Dadaist artist and a great lover of cinema. Dutch professor Thomas Vaessens writes of this poem:

The speaker in the poem especially seems to be interested in Asta’s looks. The poem is about the swaying of her hips, about the way in which she erotically puts a flower in her mouth, about her gorgeous balance, her legs, etcetera. Furthermore, Asta has characteristics of a prostitute: the men who enter the cinema have to pay only little and in exchange for that, Asta adjusts herself to their particular dreams and sneaky desires. The scenery of the poem is that of a metropolis by night; a world in which only the movies present true and honest love stories. The speaker seems to use this evocation of sensual city-life in order to provoke his Roman Catholic readers. In itself, the setting is provocative enough. But, to make matters worse, he shamelessly recites a litany in which this amoral Asta takes the place of the Virgin Mary … It is significant that Asta is called ‘Astra’ several times. This modification of her first name, which means ‘star’, can of course be related to the notion of a movie-star, but the Dutch word ‘astraal’ is another valid connotation. And that connotation leads us to the heavenly, the elevated. It appears that there is a relation between the everyday scenery of the metropolis and the transcendental.

My thanks to Karel Dibbets for drawing my attention to van Ostaijen’s work.

Links: Copy of Bezette Stad at the International Dada Archive at the University of Iowa Libraries
Copy of ‘Asta Nielsen’ at DBNL (source of the above images)
Thomas Vaessens, ‘”The downtrodden Christ in each and every one of us”: Modernity, Modernism & Metaphysical Aspirations: Paul van Ostaijen’s poetry’

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Mass-Observation at the Movies

Source: May Crawshaw, quoted in Jeffrey Richards and Dorothy Sheridan (eds.), Mass-Observation at the Movies (London/New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 128

Text: May Crawshaw (Mrs.), 14 Heaton Avenue (aged 40), regular cinema-goer (4 times a month), preference – both the same.

Comments: I like when going to the Cinema to see one long picture, with a little humour and a little pathos as long as it brings out the qualities of the actor, and a little love not overdrawn. Also a travel coloured picture, or a Mickey Mouse, and for a change, short musical revue. Then of course a good news reel with pictures of Royalty and not too much was news. I dont [sic] mind the ice cream advert, but hate to sit in semi-darkness watching adverts of housing estates, furniture, permanent waves etc.

Comments: Mass-Observation carried out a series of studies in 1930s and 1940s into how people in the UK lived, through a mixture of observation, diaries and invited comments. This comment comes from Mass-Observation’s research programme into cultural life in Bolton, Lancashire. The study began in 1938, and this comment is a response to a questionnaire issued in March 1938 asking Do you go to the cinema regularly? How many times a month do you go? Do you go regularly on the same day, if so which day? Do you think you see people on the screen who live like yourself? Which are the best films, British or American, or do you think both are the same? People were also asked to number the types of films they best, and to list what they would like to see more of in films. This respondee was a regular of the Odeon, Ashburner Street.

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British Cinemas and their Audiences

Source: J.P. Mayer, British Cinemas and their Audiences: Sociological Studies (London: Dennis Dobson, 1948), pp. 57-59

Text: AGE: 19; SEX: F.; FATHER: HEAD CLERK, SOLICITORS MANAGING CLERK; OCCUPATION: STUDENT NURSE; NATIONALITY: BRITISH

I have been considering answering your request for a motion picture autobiography ever since the May 26th Picturegoer fell into my grasping hands a week ago, until I could not resist the urge this morning and refused to be tempted by the thoughts of a luxury lay-in or even ‘mon petit dejeuner’, so please spare me the cruel information that you are accepting no more contributions as I could not bear the thought of so much wasted energy.

My interest in films was first awakened, when I was expected to accompany my elder brothers and sisters to the nearest cinema perched on a hill some two miles distant, so that my parents were free to choose their particular choice of entertainment on Saturday afternoons. We were ‘treated’ to the front stalls but even on Saturday pennies did not always provide sufficient odd cash to travel in style so the hike not only enforced an early start, but also a delayed return.

My superiors would converse very learnedly on the way about the respective merits of the film we were about to see and it always used to puzzle me how they knew so much about it when they had not even seen it. Tarzan was a great favourite of mine in those days although even then my fellow hero-worshippers were inclined to be slightly cynical as well as highly intrigued by his magnificent feats.

I must have reached the imposing age of eight years or thereabouts when I considered Alice in Wonderland a film worthy of a three hours’ wait in the pouring rain at the aforementioned cinema partly because I had had visions beforehand of myself playing the part of the heroine. These were inspired by my mother’s insistence that I was the image of the ‘real Alice’ for whom the studio was searching, but my photo only resulted in a letter of thanks, the news that the part had been allotted to Charlotte Henry and the rapid subsidence of my dreams of fame.

These have never returned to the same extent since I have realised that magnificent swimming pools, publicity and glamour do not necessarily make for happiness, although there are times when I envy the stars the projection of their personalities on the world at large.

There is a spark of vanity in most of us which is encouraged by being the centre of attraction in some sphere however small and it must be wonderful to know that strangers too are aware of that irrepressible charm.

The disadvantage however is that people are apt to think of their screen heroes and heroines only in terms of their screen personalities instead of men and women with the ordinary trials of life plus those of their unreal environment to face.

It is mainly because of this that I am satisfied with my obscurity in the work I have chosen and have no great desire to change places with the hard working people in the entertainment world.

I always used to imagine that Hollywood hair styles, clothes and make-up were well out of my reach, but since the advent of natural beauty has arrived, it has become apparent to me that the rest are only appendages to produce the desired effect.

Ingrid Bergman is far more truly glamourous [sic] than Ginger Rogers in all her films, in Lady in the Dark while Ginger herself has no need to rely on the artificial props.

Studios tend to bring out a sparkling new star and rely on his or her talents from the start, but then gradually fit those same distinguishing features into the old pattern, thus forming an entirely new, less exciting personality.

The screen world always appeared as a dream world and although it has given me the desire to travel it has not made me feel dissatisfied with my way of life.

Travel films, pictorial, nature study, documentaries all interest me as they have something to teach, while films made from books encourage my love of literature.

My time is obviously running short with the result that my reply is conforming to the conventional pattern set by the lecturer for ‘guidance’ only, which may have prevented many irrelevancies if they had been consulted earlier and provided more of the required information. Nevertheless I intend to conclude this autobiography which more rightly belongs to the readers column, with the information that films have given me vocational ambitions to become a soldier, lawyer or nurse etc: to be more precise The Lamp Still Burns was mainly responsible for my taking up student nursing at this hospital and I can only thank all the people concerned in the production for their moving portrayal of the characters, which so greatly influenced my decision.

Comments: J.P. (Jacob Peter) Mayer was a German sociologist at the London School of Economics. His British Cinemas and their Audiences collates motion picture autobiographies submitted through competitions in Picturegoer magazine. This contribution comes from the section ‘Films and the Pattern of Life’. Contributors were asked to trace the history of their interest in films, the influence films had on them (including if they were ever frightened by films), what they imitated from films, if films made them more receptive to love-making, if films made them want to travel or to be dissatisfied with their way of life or neighbourhood, and if films gave them vocational ambitions. The films mentioned are Alice in Wonderland (USA 1933), Lady in the Dark (USA 1944) and The Lamp Still Burns (UK 1943).

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Come and See the Pictures

Source: Donald McGill, ‘Come and See the Pictures’, postcard (not sent), 1910s, from the Nicholas Hiley collection

comeandsee

Comments: Donald McGill (1875-1962) was a British postcard artist who became famous (and at times notorious) for his ‘saucy’ seaside postcards. Postcards in the 1910s often portrayed the cinema as a place suggestive of sex, though not usually involving cinema staff.

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The Wonders of the Kinetoscope

Source: ‘The Wonders of the Kinetoscope’, Pall Mall Gazette, 18 October 1894, p. 7

Text: THE WONDERS OF THE KINETOSCOPE. MR. EDISON’S NEWEST INVENTION.

Mr. Edison is the miracle worker of the modern age. The newest of his inventions was on view at 70, Oxford-street, last night. It is not an easy task to describe the kinetoscope, but here is a general suggestion of the thing. The Kinetoscope is, in the first instance, photography, many times multiplied in point of speed. By Mr. Edison’s invention the movements of a given body are taken at the rate of forty-five a second. These movements are transmitted to a celluloid film forty-three feet long, and underneath the film shines the electric light. The result to the looker-on is that all these movements are co-ordinated after the natural fashion, and a representation of ordinary human movements is obtained in a manner little short of marvellous – if that. The idea is to wed kinetoscopy to photography. By this means the action of a speaker as well as his words will be made plain to the audience, and a record may be preserved for future generations. The phonograph will store up the tones and the kinetoscope the action of the orator. Thus two centuries from now the oratory and the action of Lord Salisbury or Mr. Gladstone may be effectively present to the people of those days. Mr. Edison hopes to be able to throw the results of the kinetoscope upon the magic-lantern screen, and this, accompanied by the phonograph, will, in the language of the halls doubtless be “a great popular” success.

Comments: The Kinetoscope peepshow was previewed to the press on 17 October 1894 by Edison agents Maguire & Baucus at 70 Oxford Street, London, and opened to the public the following day. A sound recording exists of Gladstone’s voice, but the only film of him shows his funeral. Film exists of Lord Salisbury (the then Prime Minister), but not a sound recording of his voice.

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The Spell of Japan

Source: Isabel Anderson, The Spell of Japan (Boston: The Page Company, 1914), p. 259

Text: Moving-picture shows are very popular in Japan as elsewhere. Once, when we were lunching at the hotel in Yokohama, a very pretty American woman made up as a Japanese came into the room, attracting a great deal of attention. We were quite unable to make out the situation, but were afterward told that she belonged to an American moving-picture company and had just come in from rehearsal.

Everywhere the “movie” is taking the place of the story-teller, who used to hire a room and tell over and over the tales of love and adventure which the people enjoy. Only the more prosperous can afford to see the geishas dance, but crowds flock to see them on the screen. They also see their native plays acted quite as realistically as on the stage, where the actors might as well be dumb since they do not speak the common language.

Comments: Isabel Anderson (1876-1948), born Isabel Ward Perkins, was an American heiress whose husband was US ambassador to Japan. I cannot find a record of any American film having been made in Japan at this period.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

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