The Cinema

Source: The Cinema: Its Present Position and Future Possibilities (London: Williams and Norgate, 1917), pp. 198-201

Text: [Three South London schoolgirls were examined together].

22. THE CHAIRMAN. How often do you go to the cinema? — I don’t go very often, as it is very injurious to my eyes when I go.
23. Do you sit right in the front? — Well, if they put you there you have to go there.
24. What do you pay generally? — Fourpence.
25. Do you go only for entertainments which are for children? — Not always.
26. Are you a great cinema-goer? — Yes.
27. How often do you go? — Once a week. Sometimes I go once a week for six months and then have a rest, and then start all over again.
28. What seats do you go in; what do you pay? — Sevenpence.
29. You sit right in the front? — No, it is all according to how much you pay. If you pay a low price you go into the front.
30. With your sevenpence, is that not a first-rate seat? — Just about in the middle of the cinema, and I can see all right there.
31. And you don’t find your eyes hurt? — When I go out it generally gives me a headache.
32. How long do you sit in the cinema? — Two and a half or three hours.
33. Do you go very much ? — About once every three weeks.
34. What do you like best? Comic things? — I like pretty pictures about dancing and horses.
35. Do you like seeing people breaking into rooms and taking things? — Not very much.
36. It never gives any of you an idea that what you see you want to go and do yourself? — No.
37. How about your eyes? Do you get a headache? — No.
38. Where do you sit? — I pay fourpence and sit about two or three seats away from the front.
39. What part of London do you come from? — We are all from the middle of South London.
40. Have you any particular picture palace which appeals to you? — I used to go to the Oval Cinema, but now I go to the Queen’s Hall, Newington Butts.
41. Where do you go? — To the Palladium, Brixton, and the Arcadia, Brixton.
42. What kind of things do you have at the Arcadia? — They generally have very good pictures, and I went once and saw “___ ______ __ __ .” It is not a very good picture to go to.
43. Why, what was the matter? — Because I do not like the way they used the crucifix. They used the crucifix to hit one another with, and it might make children think less of religion.
44. That was the principal thing, and you did not notice anything else? — No.
45. Where do you go? — I go to the Queen’s Hall, Newington Butts.
46. Did you see “___ _______ __ __ ” ? — No.
47. Do the girls sit amongst the boys? — Yes, all mixed up, and the attendant comes round, and if the boys start whistling about and do that again he turns them out.
48. I suppose girls never do that sort of thing? — That all depends.
49. Do you go to the late entertainment? — No, mother won’t let me.
50. Do you go late? — I get out about 9 or 9.30. Very often it is 9.30. If I go to Brixton by myself and my sisters are that way they meet me, otherwise I come home by myself.
51. Do you feel the influence next day? — I do not feel any bad effects.
52. SIR JOHN KIRK. Is the place very dark? — Yes, very dark. You can see over it while the performance goes on.
53. What would happen if the boys started fighting? — They would not start fighting, because they are always too anxious to see the pictures.
54. MR. LAMERT. Have you any other amusement to go to beside the cinema? — Sometimes a theatre.
55. Do you pay to go to the theatre ? — Sometimes mother lets us go into the pit, as she doesn’t like us to go up the stairs to the gallery. The price is one shilling and twopence tax.
56. When you go to the theatre what do you see? — Pantomimes, and if there is a revue mother thinks we will understand she will take us to it.
57. At the picture palaces do you take any steps to find out what is on? — No, we take our chance.
58. MONSIGNOR BROWN. What sort of picture do the children like best? — When the cowboys and Indians come on they clap very loudly.
59. Do you like flowers? — No, not very much.
60. Birds’ nests? — No, they don’t like those.
61. Charlie Chaplin? — They like those.
62. Do you get tired when they begin to show views and landscapes? — Sometimes some of them do.
63. Are they short films? — Yes, and sometimes they are the topical budget, and then a lot of them go out.
64. Do they like a long drama? — Yes.
65. How many minutes do the dramas last? — Sometimes one and a half hours.
66. Do they like dramas with a lot of love mixed up? — We don’t care for them very much; some like them and some don’t.
67. Would many like them ? — I should not think many of them would like them. I think they would prefer other pictures.
68. How many different picture houses have you been to? — Sixteen.
69. How many have you been to? — Eight.
70. How many you? — Six in London and Manchester.
71. DR. MARIE STOPES. Have you seen any picture which you thought at the time was bad to see? — No, but I saw a picture once which I thought was vulgar. It was called “_____”
72. Supposing you went into a picture house and you met a fairy at the door who told you you could see any picture you
liked, what kind would you like to see? — I should like to see a picture about a circus.
73. What sort of picture would you like best? — I should like a good drama, but not a love drama. A drama like “Little Miss Nobody,” which I thought was very nice.
74. Why don’t you like love dramas? — There is too much fooling about in them, and there is always a hatred between two men and two women.
75. You don’t like to see two men hating each other? — Well, it is a lot of silliness. I do not think it would happen in real life.
76. You never got any disease at the cinema? — No, but once I got scarlet fever, but not in a cinema.
77. Did you ever get anything? — No, I did not catch my disease there.
78. DR. KIMMINS. What is the, nicest picture you have seen in the cinema? — I think it was “Cleopatra.”
79. And you? — “Little Miss Nobody.”
80. And you? — “The Prisoner of Zenda” and “Rupert of Hentzau.”
MR. NEWBOULD. These three were of British manufacture.
81. Do you like serials? — I have seen “The Broken Coin,” but I did not like that, although I liked the acting.
82. COMMISSIONER ADELAIDE COX. Did you see anything that frightened you? — I saw one picture where a man was in the cell, and he was supposed to have an apparition, which breaks through the wall, and the wall falls over. It was in “Monte Cristo.”
83. And when you went to bed, did you think about these things ? — No, I went to sleep.
84. What do you like the least? — I do not like the topical budget.
85. And you? — Love stories.
86. And you ? — I think the same — love stories.
87. Mr. Graves. Have you seen any pictures which help you at school? — I have seen the picture about Nero.
88. Would you like some singing in between? — I should like to have some singing.
89. MR. NEWBOULD. Are you quite sure it was a crucifix you saw in “___ ______ __ __”? — Yes.
90. Have you any idea why she hit the man with the crucifix? — She was a servant in his father’s house, and he wanted to be in love with her, and he started cuddling and kissing her, and she gets up the crucifix quite unconsciously and hits him with it.
91. Have you ever seen films you do not understand? — Yes, I can never understand pictures on general plays.
92. MR. CROOK. Have you ever had a man who wanted to pay for you at night? — No.
93. PRINCIPAL GARVIE. Have the boys ever been rude to you in the cinema? — No, but they have pulled our hair and taken our hats off.
94. THE CHAIRMAN. Do they only do that in the cinema? — No, and if the attendant is about he puts them outside.

Comment: The Cinema: Its Present Position and Future Possibilities (1917) is a report and summary of evidence taken by the Cinema Commission Inquiry, instituted by the National Council of Public Morals. It includes several passages taken from interviews with children where commission members asked them questions about their cinema-going habits. Here three girls (ages not given) from South London are interview. A.E. Newbould, who speaks up for British films, was one of the British cinema industry representatives on the Commission; one of its members was the birth control campaigner Marie Stopes. Topical Budget was the name of a British newsreel, though ‘topical budget’ is here being used as a generic name for newsreels. Filmed mentioned are The Count of Monte Cristo (USA 1913), The Prisoner of Zenda (UK 1915), Rupert of Hentzau (UK 1915) and Little Miss Nobody (USA 1916), all features. ‘Cleopatra’ is possibly Marcantonio e Cleopatra (Italy 1913) (it is not the Theda Bara film Cleopatra, which was released after these interviews took place). The film with a crucifix has not been identified. The Broken Coin (USA 1915) was a popular serial, mentioned by other interviewees.

Movies and Conduct

Source: ‘Female, 20, white, college junior’, quoted in Herbert Blumer, Movies and Conduct (New York: Macmillan, 1933), p. 132

Text: However, I received one of the greatest disappointments of my young life, I believe, when I went to a movie that ended sadly. I cannot remember what it was, but it surely revolutionized my ideas. I had always believed that no matter how badly things seemed, everything would turn out happily in the end. Some people had a long period of difficulties, and others were more fortunate, but both at some time would finally obtain their desires and would “live happily ever after.” I used to call that belief my philosophy (I liked the word), and comforted my playmates at every opportunity by telling them they just hadn’t reached the turning point yet. I had quite a group of followers who were the same friends with whom I went to the movies. I could always refer to the movies to confirm my beliefs until that fatal day. They asked for explanations and I couldn’t give any. I was almost heartbroken and finally went to mother and told her all about it. She didn’t laugh. I often wondered why. She talked to me for a long time and told me I must not take movies too seriously. They only showed a few experiences of lives of imaginary people, both pleasant and unpleasant. She told me I could pity people who must live as some did who were represented in the movies and at the same time by contrast appreciate my own opportunities. It was during this talk too that she impressed upon my mind that to obtain money was not the main aim in life, another idea I had gathered from movies. There were two parallel points she stressed, happiness for myself and happiness for others. I shall always remember that talk.

Comment: American sociologist Herbert Blumer’s Movies and Conduct presents twelve studies of the influence of motion pictures upon the young, made by the Committee on Educational Research of the Payne Fund, at the request of the National Committee for the Study of Social Values in Motion Pictures. The study solicited autobiographical essays, mostly from undergraduate students of the University of Chicago, and presented extracts from this evidence in the text. Most of the evidence relates to picturegoing in the 1920s. The interview extract is given in the chapter ‘Emotional Detachment’.

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