The Bioscope

Source: ‘The Bioscope’, postcard, stamped Dover 21 August 1904, identified on reverse side as ‘4271 – London, after dark’, Luke McKernan collection

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Comments: This is an unusual example of a cinema-related postcard where the message on the back makes reference to the image on the front. The writer says, “This one is rather amusing I think Don’t you. They are quite the latest style here. Some of them are quite shocking.” The postcard show the audience at the screening of films in a variety theatre. A lecturer points out the image (mistakenly shown as a circle after magic lantern practice) and an orchestra plays while the audience reveal what they are saying to one another in the safety of the dark. The messages include “Kiss me quick, this is the last picture”, “Put your foot on mine, ducky” and “Remember I’m a married man”. The Bioscope was the name of a projector that became a generic name for early film shows. Though the postcard is meant to represent London the writer notes that such film shows are popular in Dover, so this entry has been classified under both places.

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4 Responses to The Bioscope

  1. What a lovely thing! I wish we could know the story and context

  2. A bit of detective work could reveal more. I can’t work out the initials of he (I’m certain it’s a he) who sent the postcard, but the recipient A. Brown, who was resident at Chelsworth Hall in Suffolk (owned by lord of the manor Lieut.-Col. Frederick William Scudamore), may have been a servant. There was an Arthur Brown living in Chelsworth at that time. The only variety theatre in Dover in 1904 was the Tivoli – details here: http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/DoverTheatres.htm – though the writer could have been referring to a Bioscope show in a town hall or fairground. The fact that the films of 1904, which occasionally displayed mild risqué humour, could be judged as being quite shocking, even while being the latest style, is what I find most interesting about the postcard. Or maybe life was just particularly unexciting in Dover.

  3. Golly, you found out so much! I imagined it was a card sent between two people with an ongoing flirtation. I thought it was a woman writing (one of my old school friends formed her letters in just the same way), and being a little provocative, inviting the reader to admire her avant garde lifestyle.

    And just because it was posted in Dover, doesn’t mean it was bought in Dover. She could have bought it in London, written it, then not had the courage until the very last moment (before getting on a boat) to send the card.

    Also – I’m not sure someone in service would have liked to publicly receive such a risque card (what with the working class being so respectable and all), so it could’ve been to a guest at the house.

    How funny, that we could think so differently of the same card.

    I so wonder what happened…

  4. Pingback: Out of the Darkness » Picturegoing

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