Mass-Observation at the Movies

Source: Phyllis Cann, quoted in Jeffrey Richards and Dorothy Sheridan (eds.), Mass-Observation at the Movies (London/New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 57

Text: Mrs Phyllis Cann, 44 Bradford St (aged 30), regular cinema-goer (4 times a month), preference – American films.

Comments: I attend the cinema regularly as an amusement and also as an inspiration to my mentality. It is interesting to see people living ordinary lives such as you or I, also the screen reveals the lives of people we do not come into contact with. The network of humanity is a very interesting study. In my opinion the American productions are far ahead of the English, there is something snappy and altogether definitely conclusive about an American film, while most of the English films are slow and absolutely vague and lacking in interest.

Comment: Mass-Observation carried out a series of studies in 1930s and 1940s into how people in the UK lived, through a mixture of observation, diaries and invited comments. This comment comes from Mass-Observation’s research programme into cultural life in Bolton. The study began in 1938, and this comment is a response to a questionnaire issued in March 1938 asking Do you go to the cinema regularly? How many times a month do you go? Do you go regularly on the same day, if so which day? Do you think you see people on the screen who live like yourself? Which are the best films, British or American, or do you think both are the same? People were also asked to number the types of films they best, and to list what they would like to see more of in films. This respondee was a regular of the Palladium Cinema, Higher Bridge Street.


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