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

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.

Mass-Observation at the Movies

Source: Beatrice Hart, quoted in Jeffrey Richards and Dorothy Sheridan (eds.), Mass-Observation at the Movies (London/New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 122.

Text: Beatrice Hart, 47 Rose St, Manchester Rd. (aged 29), regular cinemagoer (12-16 times a month), preference – Both.

Comments: Dear Sirs,

The picture (Stella Dallas) was fine. It’s something you are never tired of watching, in fact I’ve been twice this week, as you have a change of news and I like the cinema, as the attendants are very pleasing and civil. The organ is another attraction. The playing simply thrills everyone. You ask how many times a month I do go. Well, it’s once a week I go to the Odeon and if there is any Picture that I enjoyed so much, go again later in the week. You see, you give a change of news. I go to other cinemas, and the total is 12 or 16 times in the month. You see I’m not a good letter writer.

P.S. I hope I’ve made it clear. I’ve just this one note.

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 1928 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 Odeon, Ashburner Street. Newsreels were issued twice a week. Stella Dallas, starring Barbara Stanwyck, was made in 1937. It was the second most popular film among Bolton cinemagoers, after Victoria the Great.

Mass-Observation at the Movies

Source: Beatrice Hart, quoted in Jeffrey Richards and Dorothy Sheridan (eds.), Mass-Observation at the Movies (London/New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 122.

Text: Beatrice Hart, 47 Rose St, Manchester Rd. (aged 29), regular cinemagoer (12-16 times a month), preference – Both.

Comments: Dear Sirs,

The picture (Stella Dallas) was fine. It’s something you are never tired of watching, in fact I’ve been twice this week, as you have a change of news and I like the cinema, as the attendants are very pleasing and civil. The organ is another attraction. The playing simply thrills everyone. You ask how many times a month I do go. Well, it’s once a week I go to the Odeon and if there is any Picture that I enjoyed so much, go again later in the week. You see, you give a change of news. I go to other cinemas, and the total is 12 or 16 times in the month. You see I’m not a good letter writer.

P.S. I hope I’ve made it clear. I’ve just this one note.

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 1928 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 Odeon, Ashburner Street. Newsreels were issued twice a week. Stella Dallas, starring Barbara Stanwyck, was made in 1937. It was the second most popular film among Bolton cinemagoers, after Victoria the Great.

Family Life and Work Experience Before 1918

Source: Excerpt from interview with James Malone, C707/245/1-2, 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: There weren’t so many other recreations for working men in those days were there? [meaning pubs]

A: Well the cinema was a penny, come out for a packet of sweets, and there was clubs and turns, you know, old time – what they used to call old time variety…

Q: … How did you spend Saturdays as a child?

A: Oh now I’ve got to think now. – Saturdays – oh I suppose Saturdays to me was a – oh I know, we used to go to a cinema called the Star cinema, a penny. And we used to wait – ’til the pianist came down the aisle. We used to call him curly and when he come down we all used to stand and scream, good old Curley. And I remember Saturday afternoons a penny …

Q: … Did she [mother] ever go out to enjoy herself?

A: She used to go to the cinema with my father. By the way she behaved and other women too in a cinema – they used to live with it, they used to talk to the actors. She used to say to ’em, look behind you, and – he never done it. He done it, you see, it was very good indeed. They lived with it. Well I remember my mother coming out of the cinema with my father and I was very – very young and I remember what she said to him she said, Jim – she should never have married that man, he’ll never be any good to her. Now that’s what I call – living with a picture, that is true. Yes.

Q: How often would they go to the pictures?

A: Oh once or twice a week. People used to really cry at the cinema them days, when the lights went up you look around – see ’em all tears down their eyes you see. Used to snivel.

Comment: James Malone was born in Highgate, London 1904, eldest of four. ather was carpenter and joiner, often out of work, and the family was extremely poor, frequently moving house after evictions. .Malone wrestled for Great Britain as a middle-weight in the Olympic Games of 1928 and 1932. He was interviewed on 2 and 26 March 1971, 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).