Sociology of the Film

Source: Unnamed 17-year old female, quoted in J.P. Mayer, Sociology of Film: Studies and Documents (London: Faber and Faber, 1946), pp. 213-215

Text: Have Films Ever Appeared in Your Dreams?

Yes, films have often appeared in my dreams.

I think films are a wonderful medium of entertainment, one which we should think about a great deal. When I see a beautiful film, as when I see a beautiful play or hear a lovely piece of music at a concert or on the radio, I like to think about it by myself and when I go to bed I dream about them.

For me to think about and therefore to dream about a film, it has to be one of the first class or else to be very unusual. The acting must be good, the voice arresting for me to see or hear them in my dreams. I never dream of slapstick comedy, or even a thrilling murder. When I see a film it may interest me during the couple of hours I am in the cinema, but I may forget it promptly on leaving it. Sometimes, however, I see a film which I like very much, one
which I could see again perhaps, on the way home from the theatre I think about it, and at night, asleep, certain scenes will come back to me. Perhaps it will be a line spoken by one of the actors, maybe a glance or gesture.

I can always remember, when I was a child seeing The Great Ziegfeld. In those days it was considered spectacular, and in my dreams for many nights afterwards I dreamt of the revolving stage, the glamourous (glamorous) girls and those lovely dogs. In those days too I used to see Shirley Temple a great deal. At night I used to re-live her adventures and unhappy moments. Wonderful things like films have a strange impression on a child’s mind, and now
that I am seventeen, films still have a great fascination for me.

I went to see The Man in Grey some time ago, a picture which I found thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating. At night I kept seeing the terrifying look on James Mason’s face as he beat Hester to death. I could not get it out of my dreams for some time.

After I had seen the picture The Great Waltz, I did not dream of scenes or people but of the haunting Strauss waltzes. It was the same with Love Story when parts of the Cornish Rhapsody appeared in my dreams. Also The Great Victor Herbert and A Song to Remember.

A week or so ago I saw Madonna of the Seven Moons. I enjoyed it and thought about it quite a bit. When you think about a thing a lot before going to sleep, it is likely that you should dream about it. But no! For some reason or other I kept hearing Patricia Roc say when she saw her mother — ‘It isn’t possible, no one could be so lovely’. While on the subject of split minds, I always remember going to see Dr. Jeckyll [sic] and Mr. Hyde on a foggy night, and having the most terrible nightmare afterwards. I kept seeing the face change from good to bad and vice versa.

After seeing Blossoms in the Dust, lilies kept appearing in my dreams. The night after seeing Since You Went Away the scene in the hay was re-lived in my dreams.

Rebecca was one of the best films I have ever seen, and therefore quite natural that I should think and dream about it a lot. I often saw in my dreams Joan Fontaine’s shy face. And in many of my dreams I saw Laurence Olivier’s expression when he told his wife about Rebecca. I heard that wonderful voice saying: ‘Do you think I killed her, loving her; I hated her.’ It was a wonderful piece of acting.

I think the him I dreamed about more than any other was Gone with the Wind. I could see it over and over again and still dream about it. How often did I dream I saw Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara climb the stairs at Twelve Oaks after telling Ashley that she loved him, she was so proud, so beautiful. How often did I see her treading her way among the wounded in Atlanta. And I could see Melanie’s face when she was so ill. A scene I shall never forget was of Scarlett on her return home, standing in the desolate garden and saying ‘As God is my witness, I’m never going to be hungry again’. You could not see her face only her silouhette (silhouette).

I dreamed of her also standing in the windy orchard almost at the end of her tether. I saw over and over again Clark Gable’s eyes as she fell down the stairs. I dreamt I saw Scarlett entering Melanie’s party, in her red dress and her head up, ready for anything. I saw the sweet smile of Bonnie, Mammie’s disapproving face, and Gerald’s expression as he opened the door to Scarlett.

The scene I saw most was the last one where she lay on the stairs thinking everything she loved most in the world had gone, and she heard the voice of her father, Ashley and Rhett coming to her telling her that Tara was left. I saw her stiffen and say ‘After all, tomorrow is another day’. What a lovely ending for a film!

I could go on for ever telling of all the films I have dreamed of, but it would take too long. Films take my mind off things and I can always relax in a cinema. They make me forget this world and live in another. Therefore I like to dream of good films and sometimes I dream that there were more good films to dream about. Don’t you?

Comments: J.P. (Jacob Peter) Mayer was a German sociologist at the London School of Economics. His Sociology of Film draws on a large amount of evidence gathered through questionnaires and submissions received through invitations published in Picturegoer magazine. The above response comes from the section ‘The Adult and the Cinema’, and is the first half of of the picturegoer’s response. She is described as Age – 17 years, Profession – junior clerk, Nationality – British (London), Sex – female, Profession of father – furrier.

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