Little Fugitive

Source: Alan Parker, ‘Little Fugitive’, in Geoffrey Macnab, Screen Epiphanies: Film-makers on the Films that Inspired Them (London: BFI/Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), pp. 127-128

Text: In Islington, there was an old fleapit cinema, the Blue Hall on Upper Street, just a bit further on from Angel, just past what is now called Screen on the Green, but which was called the Rex when I grew up. The Blue Hall was a classic fleapit. It ran anything they could get their hands on that was cheap to run – second run, third run, fourth run. I remember I was aged ten and I went to see this film, Little Fugitive, which was a black-and-white film shot in Brooklyn, about a little kid who ends up in Coney Island. It was so different to anything I had ever seen before. What I had seen before was either the very mediocre British movies or Hollywood movies. It was the very first film that was neither of those. It was a complete mistake, really, that I wandered in to see it. This fleapit running it wasn’t an arthouse theatre or anything like that. They didn’t exist in those days. I remember going to see this little film. It was the first film shot in a very naturalistic documentary style. It was the first film I had ever see that wasn’t manufactured to be a movie. I’ve looked it up since and I have seen quotes from Jean Luc Godard and Truffaut saying it influenced that whole era of film-making, which at the time I had no knowledge of whatsoever.

The film was made in 1953. I would have seen it a good year or so later. I remember being completely and utterly mesmerised by it. It was a classic moment of going back to school and telling everybody about it. I always remember I had to stand up in class and talk about it. In my ignorance, I couldn’t even pronounce the word fugitive because it is never said in the film. I remember standing up and I got a lot of laughs because I said I went to see this film, ‘Little Fuggitive’. ‘Fugg-itive’ sounded very rude. I was then put right by the teacher that it was actually pronounced ‘fugitive’. It’s an odd word, not a word that at ten I would have used in Islington.

The film was hugely influential. From then on, I went to see everything I could possibly see. Up to that point, cinema was just somewhere you went when you were bored.

Comment: Alan Parker (born 1944) is a film director and former chairman of the UK Film Council. Little Fugitive (USA 1953) was made by Ray Ashley, Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin. Screen Epiphanies is a collection of reminiscences by film directors of seeing films which had a transformative effect on them.

Minnie at the Movies

Source: Marian Bowlan, ‘Minnie at the Movies’, from City Types: A Book of Monologues Sketching the City Woman (Chicago: T.S. Denison, 1916 – copyright date of original piece 1913), pp. 231-235

Text: Minnie at the Movies

Character:
MINNIE MURRAY, an independent and emotional follower of the film drama.

SCENE — A neighborhood nickel theater.

MINNIE MURRAY charges down the aisle and expounds:

Go on down in front, Tillie, and never mind raspin’ about where that fly usher plants yu. Well, if there ain’t that sassy bunch o’ kids with Jimmie Casey from the flat below us amonopolizin’ the front row!

(Seating herself) What’s the name o’ the reel that’s on now? Oh, ya-ah, Elmer’s Fall! Jimmie Casey, you turn right around and the very next time you holler “Archer Avenue (or name local street of corresponding type) Belle” at me when I’m leavin’ for a dance, I’ll report yu to the station.

(To Tillie.) Ain’t it funny you never see any kids in real life like the children in the movin’ pitchers? Look at them two little boys in sailor suits asingin’ hymns on their mother’s knees in the twilight. One of ’em is hung in the last act? Don’t you get fresh and stuff me, Jimmie Casey, like the way you was tryin’ last week to tell me them western injun and cowboy pitchers was taken in Evingston (name local suburban town.)

Whatyuthink Gus and me did Sunday, Tillie? We took in all the fi’cent theeayters between (two widely separated streets embracing neighborhood of Archer Avenue type.) Honest! And the next mornin’ when I shows up to work, the Boss says what’s the matter with my eyes and before I got a chanct to answer that flip bookkeeper speaks up and says, Who, Min? Oh, she’s got the movin’ pitcher squint!”

What’s the name o’ this fillum? The Drama Of The Dessert Say, I wonder if A-rabs always wears white; the laundries must work overtime. Say, Til, how’dju like to wear a veil over your jaw like that there A-rab lady? — though there is some girls of my aquaintance [sic] that does need a gag for the mouth and no mistake. Ruby Clancy, fer instance. She’s sore because I met Gus at her house and he’s been just about livin’ at our flat ever since. There’s not a mornin’ I gets to the office but what Ruby dislocates her neck alampin’ my lef’ hand. Gus is in a awful unusual business. He makes costumes for circuses and has always got his pockets full o’ samples o’ dazzling red and green. Gus says he in’t acomin’ to the nickel show no more cause he’s gettin’ knock-kneed from fallin’ over the baby carriages out front.

I gotta yawn. These pitchers they got on now — a ancient ruined city it says — are turr’ble dry. The music is good, though; that’s the Chicle Rag. But who wants to look at a pile o’ old stones? My brother’n-law works in a quarry.

Here comes that swell baritone with all the diamonds, Tillie. Don’t his vest glitter, though? I’m just crazy about the way he sings Red, Red, Roses. Ya-ah, he rolls his eyes sump’n grand in the chorus. (Flustered.) He’s lookin’ straight at us. Til. (Nudging her.) Ain’t he, huh? Whatyu gettin’ so embarrassed about?

That fellah at the snare drum works in a boiler factory daytimes. He has awful pow’rful arms; the man’ger o’ the show is crazy about him because there’s the elevated and the night freight and the river tugs has to be drowned out while the show is goin’ on. I usta know the fella that played the coronet. He was a gen’lman — give me and Ma passes twice ever’ evenin’.

That girl at the piano remin’s me o’ the new girl who’s moved into the flat acrost the hall from us. She’s turr’ble entertainin’. Til. She’s a waitress, u-huh, a waitress in a restaurant. And say, some o’ the things she can tell about the way they cook in those swell places! Her advice to everybody that’s partic’lar is: “Cut out hash, don’t think o’ stew, and for heaven’s sake never touch a chicken croquette. “No,” she sez, “far better a cheese sandwich and a egg nog at home; you know what you’re gettin.”

This one is the big fillum that they’ve got them thrillin’ blue and yellow pitchers of outside, the Horse Thief’s Revenge. That’s it. There’s the hero-een with the long braid down her back. Ain’t she sweet? The girl’s brother is plotting against the cowboy because he seen him stealin’ the horse out of the coral. The cowboy- — ain’t he handsome in a dress suit? — is goin’ for a ride up the mountain and I bechu anything the bonehead brother’ull waylay him. I seen him on his hands and feet around them rocks a minute ago. Look at the dagger, will yu! (Covers face with hands.) Did they stab him, Tillie? (Muffled.) Did they? Oh, I wisht I was home! Is they blood comin’? (Taking hands down from face.)

Part II! She’s goin’ to him — the girl’s goin’ to him. Ain’t you crazy about the way she fixes her hair? I’m goin’ to try mine that way when I get home. Look at her horse goin’ licketycut. Yu can hear the hoofbeats just as plain. Do yu think she’ll get there in time? Say, Til, do yu? She does. Gee, I’m glad.

But it ain’t all over yet. There comes that half-breed sneakin’ out from those trees. He draws a gun. Look, Til, he’s goin’ to shoot. (She covers her face with her hands.) Gosh, I swallowed my gum! And the hero knocks the gun out o’ the half-breed’s hands. Then my gum went for nothin’.

(Rising.) That last reel just took ever’thing out of me. My forehead is wringin’ wet. Ever’time I come to this nickel show I gotta be almost carried to the drug store across the street. The man there allus expects me now. I feel it so. Now, I just imagined I was that girl in The Horse Thief’s Revenge. It’s awful.

(Starting for exit.) I sez to Gus ….. at the movies…… (exit).

Comment: This is a comic monologue designed for theatrical performance. Archer Avenue runs through Chicago (the reference to the elevated train further confirms the location). The Drama of the Desert and The Horse Thief’s Revenge are imaginary film titles.

Links:
Available from the Internet Archive

Family Life and Work Experience Before 1918

Source: Excerpt from interview with Mrs Dankworth, C707/263/1-2, Thompson, P. and Lummis, T., Family Life and Work Experience Before 1918, 1870-1973 [computer file]. 7th Edition. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive [distributor], May 2009. SN: 2000, http://dx.doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-2000-1

Text: Q: Did the Sunday school or the chapel organise anything else apart from the annual outing?

A: I think there was a tea at Christmas time. A tea, and you’d pay a penny to it. And sometimes they had a magic lantern that you’d pay a ha’penny for, you know, to go and see the magic lantern.

Q: When would that be?

A: In a weekday, you know.

Q: In the evening?

A: Yes, only from about 5 to 6, you see.

Q: And would you children be allowed to go to that?

A: Yes, that’s what we had to use our pocket money, our savings for that, our ha’penny for that. And we’d see all the … it was only like … it wasn’t cinematograph, it was just slides in a lantern slide, you know. Because, I mean, it was so different to what …

Q: Did somebody tell a story as the pictures came up?

A: No, you could just see what the story was, you know, from the pictures, you know. It was like a Mickey Mouse thing, really …

A: … Now and again my mother and father would go to the pictures.

Q: They would go to the pictures?

A: Yes.

Q: Really?

A: Yes.

Q: How would they?

A: They would go to the one at the Baker’s Arms. They were in that picture when the place was bombed in the First World War. They were in the pictures there. And we were at home, the children. And they locked the doors of the cinema so that they couldn’t get out.

Q: Why?

A: Because of rushing into the road with bombs, they locked the doors so they couldn’t get out and they kept them in there. Because they were the first bombs that … they were zeppelins that dropped the bombs, you see. When they got back to Midland Station there were dead bodies lying in the middle of the road. I do know that. And my father lost his hat there, his bowler hat in the pictures. Never found it.

Comment: Mrs Dankworth was born in Holloway, London in 1892, the second child of six. Her father was a contract carpenter, often out of work. She was interviewed in November 1970, one of 444 people interviewed by Paul Thompson and his team as part of a study of the Edwardian era which resulted in Thompson’s book The Edwardians: The Remaking of British Society (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1975).

The Land of the Dollar

Source: G.W. Steevens, The Land of the Dollar (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company), p. 289

Text: The anxious crowd outside surged denser and more terrible in its ungovernable weight. Thousands stood craning their necks to the walls of the huge buildings before them, faintly outlined against the deep sky. Search-lights spun round the horizon, lighting up signal-kites floating aloft. On the screens appeared scenes shown by the cinematographe, which were received with alternate delight and derision. When the first returns were shown the crowd lost mastery of itself. The City Hall Park is cut up by public buildings, with parallelograms and triangles of grass. The crowd broke against the wire fences, swept them down, and surged over the sacred enclosures. It could not help it. The laws of space and force were the only things that had not taken a night off for the election.

Comment: George Warrington Steevens (1869-1900) was a British journalist, and The Land of the Dollar is his account of an assignment in America in the late 1890s. The scene he is describing is crowds waiting in New York for the results from the 1896 presidential election, won by the Republican William McKinley.

Links: Available from Hathi Trust

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning

Source: Laurie Lee, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971), pp. 93-94

Text: After a supper of beans and mutton, served in a cloud of wood-smoke, I was invited out into the plaza to watch a midnight ciné. Here, once again, the aqueduct came into use, with a cotton sheet strung from one of its pillars, on to which a pale beam of light, filtering from an opposite window, projected an ancient and jittery melodrama. Half the town, it seemed, had turned out for the show, carrying footstools and little chairs, while children swarmed on the rooftops and hung in clusters from the trees, their dark heads shining like elderberries.

The film’s epic simplicity flickered across the Roman wall, vague and dim as a legend, but each turn of the plot was followed with gusto, people jumping up and down in their seats, bombarding the distant shadows with advice and warning, mixed with occasional shouts of outrage. The appearance of the villain was met by darts and stones, the doltish hero by exasperation, while a tide of seething concern was reserved for the plight of the heroine who spent a vigorously distressful time. During most of the film she hung from ropes in a tower, subject to the tireless affronts of the villain, but when the hero finally bestirred himself and disembowelled the villain with a knife, the audience was satisfied and went to bed.

Comment: Laurie Lee (1914-1997) was a poet, novelist, screenwriter, best known for his first volume of memoirs, Cider with Rosie. His second volume, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, covers his travels across Spain in the mid-1930s.

Clips from a Life

Source: Denis Norden, Clips from a Life (London: Fourth Estate, 2008), p. 17

Text: In the years before the Clear Air Act, fog could be a cinema-going hazard. On the Hyam Brothers’ circuit, whenever there was a particularly dense one, a commissionaire would go up and down the queue shouting, ‘Owing to the fog penetrating the hall, the clearness of the picture cannot be guaranteed.’

This was not a universally followed procedure. Indeed, a cinema in Norwood, known locally as ‘Ikey’s Bug Hole’, would put out a placard proclaiming, ‘It’s clearer inside.’

Comment Denis Norden (born 1922), later a humourous writer for radio and television, was a cinema manager in the late 1930s. The Clean Air Act was passed in 1956.

Seeing in the Dark

Source: Ivor Cutler, in Ian Breakwell and Paul Hammond (eds.), Seeing in the Dark: A Compendium of Cinemagoing (London: Serpent’s Tail, 1990), p. 18

Text: Mosspark Picture House. 1927. Saturday matinee. Age four. A gothic thriller. The tall lantern jawed villain in top hat and tails plays an organ. I am terrified and run home as fast as I can. Years of nightmare. Age thirty-four. I buy a harmonium – nearly an organ – and spent the rest of my life playing it, thickened with doleful dirges, vainly trying to lay the trauma, my only satisfaction the ashen faced, staring eyed audiences, staggering out at the end of the performances, primed, and ready to carry on the good work.

Comment: Ivor Cutler (1923-2006) was a Scottish poet, author, musician and humourist, whose doleful works were often accompanied by the harmonium. The film he recalls is presumably The Phantom of the Opera (USA 1925), starring Lon Chaney. Mosspark is an area of Glasgow. Seeing in the Dark is a collection of commissioned reminiscences of cinemagoing.

Seeing in the Dark

Source: Ivor Cutler, in Ian Breakwell and Paul Hammond (eds.), Seeing in the Dark: A Compendium of Cinemagoing (London: Serpent’s Tail, 1990), p. 18

Text: Mosspark Picture House. 1927. Saturday matinee. Age four. A gothic thriller. The tall lantern jawed villain in top hat and tails plays an organ. I am terrified and run home as fast as I can. Years of nightmare. Age thirty-four. I buy a harmonium – nearly an organ – and spent the rest of my life playing it, thickened with doleful dirges, vainly trying to lay the trauma, my only satisfaction the ashen faced, staring eyed audiences, staggering out at the end of the performances, primed, and ready to carry on the good work.

Comment: Ivor Cutler (1923-2006) was a Scottish poet, author, musician and humourist, whose doleful works were often accompanied by the harmonium. The film he recalls is presumably The Phantom of the Opera (USA 1925), starring Lon Chaney. Mosspark is an area of Glasgow. Seeing in the Dark is a collection of commissioned reminiscences of cinemagoing.