Source: Hugh Walpole, extract from ‘Epikhodov’, in Winifred Stephens (ed.), The Soul of Russia (London: Macmillan, 1916), pp. 38-39

Text: Beside my quarters in Petrograd is a tiny cinema theatre. Because we hang over the still waters of a side canal, where trade is sleepy, the proprietor of the cinema has to go out of his way to attract the great world. In the vestibule of his theatre there plays every night a ghastly discordant band, his windows are hung with flaming posters of cinematographic horrors, and in the intervals between the pictures he has music-hall turns — the two dwarfs, the gentleman who sings society songs, the fat lady and her thin husband — all this for a penny or twopence. The little room of the entertainment is stuffy and smelly; about one is the noise of the cracking of sunflower seeds. Once and again the audience embraces the audience with loud, clapping kisses. During the musical-hall turns the door is open and you can see into the blue sunlight of the white night, the cobbled street, the green toy-like trees, the gleaming waters of the canal upon which lie the faintly coloured barges.

Comments: Hugh Walpole (1884-1941) was a prolific British novelist, best known for Rogue Herries and its follow-up novels. He spent much of the First World War in Russia, working for for the Red Cross and then as head of the Anglo-Russian Propaganda Bureau, based in Petrograd. This essay comes from a collection on art and society in Russia, produced in aid of Russian refugees, and deals with Russian drama (Epikhodov is a character in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard). Walpole also describes the mixture of cinema and variety in his 1919 novel The Secret City (qv).

Links: Copy on Internet Archive

Tickets, Please

Source: D.H. Lawrence, extract from ‘Tickets, Please’ in England, My England and Other Stories (New York: Thomas Seltzer, 1922), pp. 56-57

Text: After the dragons they went on the horses. John Thomas paid each time, so she could but be complaisant. He, of course, sat astride on the outer horse – named ‘Black Bess’ – and she sat sideways, towards him, on the inner horse – named ‘Wildfire’. But of course John Thomas was not going to sit discreetly on ‘Black Bess’, holding the brass bar. Round they spun and heaved, in the light. And round he swung on his wooden steed, flinging one leg across her mount, and perilously tipping up and down, across the space, half lying back, laughing at her. He was perfectly happy; she was afraid her hat was on one side, but she was excited.

He threw quoits on a table, and won for her two large, pale-blue hat-pins. And then, hearing the noise of the cinemas, announcing another performance, they climbed the boards and went in.

Of course, during these performances pitch darkness falls from time to time, when the machine goes wrong. Then there is a wild whooping, and a loud smacking of simulated kisses. In these moments John Thomas drew Annie towards him. After all, he had a wonderfully warm, cosy way of holding a girl with his arm, he seemed to make such a nice fit. And, after all, it was pleasant to be so held: so very comforting and cosy and nice. He leaned over her and she felt his breath on her hair; she knew he wanted to kiss her on the lips. And, after all, he was so warm and she fitted in to him so softly. After all, she wanted him to touch her lips.

But the light sprang up; she also started electrically, and put her hat straight. He left his arm lying nonchalantly behind her. Well, it was fun, it was exciting to be at the Statutes with John Thomas.

Comments: The British novelist and short story writer David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930) makes numerous references to the cinema in his writings, usually from a hostile point of view but clearly based on knowledge of cinemagoing. This passage from a short story (about a tramway inspector and serial seducer whose victims take revenge on him) features a visit to a fairground cinema show.