Mass-Observation at the Movies

Source: Harold Walker, quoted in Jeffrey Richards and Dorothy Sheridan (eds.), Mass-Observation at the Movies (London/New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 83

Text: Harold Walker, 11 Regent St (aged 20), regular cinema-goer (10 times a month), preference – American films.

Comments: Regarding question 5 [i.e. which are the best films], I certainly am not a patriot, for in my opinion American films are far superior to British on every point: acting, direction, production, humour, yes, everything! (If I’m not mistaken, you know it!). As for your cheaply-made ‘Quota’ films – well -! Finally, I am eagerly awaiting the result of the combination of Hollywood and Our Gracie. Now what about question 7 [i.e. which of the following would you like more of in the films?] – I fail to see where either religion or politics should have any part whatever in films. In the same category I place ‘people like you and I’ and educational subjects for the simple reason that – we dont [sic] want what we know! or what we should know! no! first and last we want ENTERTAINMENT.

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. Quota films refers to the proportion of British films which had to be shown in British cinema, which led to a rash of cheaply-made features guaranteed a screening somewhere (‘Quota Quickies’). Our Gracie is Gracie Fields, born in Rochdale, Lancashire, who made the Twentieth Century-Fox-produced film We’re Going to be Rich in 1938.

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2 Responses to Mass-Observation at the Movies

  1. David Fisher says:

    Small amendment: Gracie Fields came from Rochdale.

  2. Whoops – correction made. Thanks for letting me know.

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