Indiscretions of the Naval Censor

Source: Douglas Brownrigg, Indiscretions of the Naval Censor (London, Cassell, 1920), pp. 215-217

Text: After dinner, spurred by ennui, my companion and I went, to the local cinema house, or barn, and, climbing up many stairs, we arrived among the local “knuts” and enjoyed a remarkably fine show. There were excellent films of the French infantry and cavalry training, followed by a full-blooded American business, “featuring” a lady on horseback being pursued headlong down a ravine by picturesque ruffians. I didn’t, however, see the pursuers follow her “over the top.” I suspect the merchant turning the handle had his dinner-hour then.

Somehow, and why I never understood, the next chapter of the story showed bandits taking the tyres off a motor (I don’t think it was a Ford) and putting the car on the railway lines, and — puff, puff, off they went in pursuit of the “Twentieth Century, Limited,” “operating ” between Chicago and New York. They overtook the train, and climbed in through the corridor window, and “did in” a gentleman sitting in the restaurant car, who can hardly have had time to compare his country unfavourably with this old place, where even on our South Eastern lines I think one of our expresses could have given the slip to a motor-car such as was shown on the screen.

And then came the climax, the ab-so-lute limit. I confess that my heart was thumping with excitement. Whether that denotes senility or childishness I don’t know, but it is the plain fact, and I believe everybody in the hall was likewise quivering with excitement, when on the screen was thrown the horrible and almost unbelievable words: “Final Chapter of this story — NEXT WEEK”!

That may be all right for the residents of Sligo, but what about two miserable devils from London? I could have torn the house down willingly. Even with the knowledge that “next week” would bring them the denouement of this hair-raising story, I was surprised that the young bloods of Sligo could stand it. Maybe they are inured to cinema shocks, as they were the only sort of shocks to which Ireland was exposed during the war!

Comments: Sir Douglas Egremont Robert Brownrigg (1867-1939) was the the Chief Naval Censor in Britain during the First World War. Despite the surprised tone of this account of an Irish film show, Brownrigg was well acquainted with the film industry, through his connections with propaganda filmmaking (as noted in his memoir, which is at times as indiscreet as its titles promises). A ‘knut’ was a slang term for a young person about town.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

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