A Childhood at the Cinema

Source: Voldemars Puce, ‘Kinojauniba’ [A Childhood at the Cinema], Literatura un Maksla, 10 September 1982, p. 16, quoted (and translated) in Yuri Tsivian, Early Cinema in Russia and its Cultural Reception (Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 114

Text: The viewers were never at a loss for pithy interjections: they shouted, applauded loudly, egged on the heroes and booed the villains. Whenever they thought a picture lacked sound or text they did their best to provide their own sound effects. In the love scenes they would encourage a faint-hearted lover and express their approval of decisive action. When lovers kissed on the screen loud smacking noises resounded all round the auditorium and people tried to time their kisses to synchronise exactly with those on the screen. When this happened there would be laughter and applause throughout the auditorium.

Comment: Voldemars Puce was a Latvian film director. The period describes appears to cover the 1910s.

Movies and Conduct

Source: ‘Female, 19, white, college sophomore’, quoted in Herbert Blumer, Movies and Conduct (New York: Macmillan, 1933), pp. 75-76

Text: My very earliest recollection of a movie is vague in a way and yet one part is very vivid. I do not even know where I saw my first movie, but it was in some very small theater in Englewood. I do not know who the heroine was, but I do remember that at the most dramatic part she was bound, laid on a pile of sticks and burned. At this point, I became hysterical and had to be taken from the theater. I never knew if the unfortunate girl was rescued or burned to death, but I never forgot the smoke and flames curling around her slender body. This little episode characterizes to a great extent my reactions to my early movies. I never could be convinced that the actors were not really suffering the horrible tortures depicted in many films and my sympathy knew no bounds.

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 above comes from the chapter ‘Emotional Possession: Fear and Terror’.

Links: Copy on Internet Archive