Astor – Harmonie

Source: Frank Kessler, ‘Astor – Harmonie’, in Arthur Knight, Clara Pafort-Overduin, and Deb Verhoeven (eds.), ‘Senses of Cinema-Going: Brief Reports on Going to the Movies Around the World’, Senses of Cinema, issue 68, March 2011, http://sensesofcinema.com/2011/feature-articles/senses-of-cinema-going-brief-reports-on-going-to-the-movies-around-the-world

Text: Growing up in the town of Offenbach, Germany, just across the river Main from the much larger city of Frankfurt, my memories of going to the movies as a child and a young teenager in the late 1960s and early 1970s are in fact more about the theatres than the films. Or rather, when I do remember a film, I almost always recall the cinema where I saw it, while I do have quite vivid memories of the theatres anyway, even when I only have vague recollections of the films I went to see there.

When I was first allowed to go to the movies without a grown-up by my side, mostly accompanied by a friend from school, I must have been twelve or thirteen years old. We had a preference for films with soldiers in them, ancient Greeks or Romans, but sometimes also World War II battles (Catch-22 [1970], which we saw even though we were under age, turned out to be an utterly disturbing and confusing experience). The cinema we usually attended was an already relatively run-down theatre that has now been closed for many years. It was called the Astor and situated quite conveniently in the centre of Offenbach, directly opposite the bus stop. The somewhat faded charms of the Astor, together with the program consisting mainly of action movies, Spaghetti Westerns, and comedies (Catch-22 was actually shown in the more up-market Universum), had a paradoxical effect on me: alongside the excitement and the curiosity about what the film would bring, there was also a feeling of a certain uneasiness, a tension as if I was about to do something illicit. I am sure that many others will have similar recollections of going to the movies during puberty. There was of course the occasional nudity and, more generally, a confrontation with images that made me wonder, “do I actually want to see this?” — the violence, the sensuality, the things that a child definitely was not meant to behold. And thus there was deep inside a realization that movie-going somehow was related to moving out of childhood into something else that was both attractive and repulsive, both exciting and threatening. The Astor, for me, was a curious place, one that both promised and refused a sense of belonging.

A few years later, when the Astor had probably already closed down or was about to do so, my taste in films had changed considerably. I was a student by then at the University of Frankfurt, had managed to live through fifteen months of military service, had my driver’s license and could use my parent’s car in the evening. This newly acquired independence and mobility took me regularly to a cinema that was the first art house in Frankfurt, the Harmonie. Once a neighborhood theatre, it had ended up showing X-rated movies before being taken over by a cooperative of five young cinephiles. So it was not only a place where one could watch an ambitious mix of newly released art films and classics from the repertoire, but it was also perceived as something like a political experiment, a collectively owned cinema where people associated with what was then called “the non-dogmatic left” went to see films that often told stories about unconventional lives. Among the most successful films, which had runs of several months and re-appeared regularly in the program afterwards, were Alain Tanner’s Jonas qui aura 25 ans en l’an 2000 (Jonas Will Be 25 in the Year 2000, 1976), Coline Serreau’s Pourqui pas! (1977) and Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude (1971 — it must already have been a re-run when I first saw it) — and, not to forget, the almost always sold-out Saturday night cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). The Harmonie had (and still has) a balcony where one tried to get a seat, preferably in the first row. The Harmonie was also a door to something else, to another way of life maybe, even if that only happened on the screen. However, there was nothing threatening about that. Going to the Harmonie clearly was about “belonging” as well, but this was where one wanted to belong.

In the end, of course, the difference in my experiences of movie-going at the beginning and at the end of the 1970s was only partly due to the cinemas as such. Obviously, the Harmonie could not have existed in Offenbach in the early 1970s, but even if it had, it would have been as ambivalent a place to me as the Astor. At that point in my life, it was the age much more than the films or the theatres that determined the way I felt about going to the movies — as something both alluring and frightening, or, later, as something I wanted to be part of. So when, and where, exactly does one become a cinephile?

Comments: Frank Kessler is professor of media history at Utrecht University. His recollections of cinema-going in Germany in the 1970s were originally published in a special issue of the online film journal Senses of Cinema. I am grateful for his permission to reproduce the piece here.

Links: Senses of Cinema-Going: Brief Reports on Going to the Movies Around the World

The World of Yesterday

Source: Stefan Zweig (trans. Anthea Bell), The World of Yesterday (London: Pushkin Press, 1992 – orig. pub. 1942), pp. 232-234

Text: In the Spring of 1914 I had left Paris, with a woman friend, to spend a few days in Touraine, where we were going to see the grave of Leonardo da Vinci. We had walked along the banks of the Loire in mild, sunny weather, and were pleasantly weary by evening. So we decided to go to the cinema in the rather sleepy town of Tours, where I had already paid my respects to the house in which Balzac was born.

It was a small suburban cinema, not at all like our modern picture palaces made of chromium and shining glass. Only a hall perfunctorily adapted for the purpose, and full of labourers, soldiers, market women, a crowd of ordinary people enjoying a gossip and blowing clouds of Scaferlati and Caporal tobacco smoke into the air, in definace of a No Smoking sign. First on the screen came a newsreel – ‘News From All Over the World’. A boat race in England; the people talked and laughed. Then a French military parade, and again the audience took little notice. But the third item was entitled: ‘Kaiser Wilhelm Visits Emperor Franz Joseph in Vienna’. Suddenly I saw on the screen the familiar platform of the Westbahnhof in Vienna, an ugly railway station building, along with a few policemen waiting for the train to come in. Then a signal was given, and old Emperor Franz Joseph walked past the guard of honour to welcome his guest. As the old Emperor appeared on the screen, stooping slightly and not entirely steady on his feet as he passed the line of men, the audience in Tours smiled kindly at the old gentleman with his white side whiskers. Then there was a picture of the train coming in, the first, the second and the third class carriages. The door of the saloon car was opened, and out stepped Wilhelm II, the ends of his moustache bristling, wearing the uniform of an Austrian general.

At the moment when Kaiser Wilhelm appeared in the picture a storm of whistling and stamping broke out entirely spontaneously in the dark hall. Everyone was shouting and whistling, men, women and children all jeering as if they had been personally insulted. For a second the kindly people of Tours, who knew nothing of the world beyond what was in their newspapers, were out of their minds. I was horrified, deeply horrified. For I felt how far the poisoning of minds must have gone, after years and years of hate propaganda, if even here in a small provincial city the guileless citizens and soldiers had been roused to fury against the Kaiser and Germany – such fury that even a brief glimpse on the screen could provoke such an outburst. It was only a second, a single second. All was forgotten once other pictures were shown. The audience laughed heartily at the comedy that now followed, slapping their knees loudly with delight. Only a second, yes, but it showed me how easy it could be to whip up bad feeling on both sides at a moment of serious crisis, in spite of all attempts to restore understanding, in spite of our own efforts.

The entire evening was spoilt for me. I couldn’t sleep. If it had happened in Paris, it would have made me just as uneasy, but it would not have shaken me so much. However, seeing how far hatred had eaten into the kindly, simple people here in the depths of the provinces made me shudder.

Comments: Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) was an Austrian novelist and journalist. He committed suicide the day after he completed his memoir The World of Yesterday (originally published in German in Stockholm as Die Welt von Gestern). Kaiser Wilhelm II arrived in Vienna on 26 March 1914.

Sociology of Film

Source: M.B., quoted in J.P. Mayer, Sociology of Film: Studies and Documents (London: Faber and Faber, 1946), pp. 119-120

Text: My Criticism of Films

On the whole I like most films.

I like the films adapted from Conan-Doyle[‘]s books. They are about Sherlock Holmes, who is a detective, and Doctor Watson, Holmes’s helper. Two very good films of them are Sherlock Holmes Faces Death and The Hound of the Baskervilles. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, which takes place near a wild and lonely moor, somebody lets out a hound which is nearly mad with hunger, and this hound is often the cause for some exceedingly perilious [sic] happenings.

I like murder films. I also like the Saint pictures and the Falcon pictures. They are both detectives but I do not think either of them are as good as Sherlock Holmes.

I like films in which Bing Crosby stars. I thought he was very good in Going My Way. In that he sang ‘Three Blind Mice’ as a round with some boys. In this same film was a clergyman, with whom Bing Crosby stayed, he was played by a new star, who I thought was a very good actor. His name is Barry Fitzgerald.

I like most funny films. Especially if any of these people star Arthur Askey, Charlie Chaplin, Will Hay, Bob Hope and Bud Abbot[t] and Leo Costello [sic] and many more. I like funny films about the army and the navy, especially if Joe Sawyer takes the part of a sergeant.

I like Fred Astaire but I don’t think he has very good partners.

I like History films, for example Lady Hamilton, Lady Hamilton was in love with Nelson. It showed you the Battle of Trafalgar. Lady Hamilton was played by Vivien Leigh and Nelson was played by Laurence Olivier. Both are very fine actors.

I like animal films such as My Friend Flicka and Lassie Come Home. I hope many more such films will be made. I think Roddy McDowall is very good in this sort of film.

I like true films about the Army, Navy and Airforce. Of the army I liked The Immortal Sergeant, I think, the best airforce film I have seen is Target for Tonight, a film which I liked and was mostly about the navy was We Strike at Dawn. Some other good films are Gung Ho, The Way Ahead and Coastal Command and The First of the Few.

I liked Women Coragous [sic] which was about The Womans [sic] Auxiliary Ferrying Service. Sometimes I like The March of Time which is a monthly programe.

I like cowboy films but the trouble is the stories are all so much alike. I also enjoy films like North West Mounted Police.

I prefer technicolour [sic] to ordinary black and white.

I like Nelson Eddie and Jeanette Macdonald together. Eddie Cantor and his goggly eyes makes me roar with laughter.

I do not like sloppy films.

I do not like films in which there are too many bands. I did not like Sensations of 1945 because it had about six jazz bands and there were also some negroe [sic] singers which I detest.

I like a film to have a fairly possible story. I do not like all singing and dancing and no story.

One thing I do detest, which is not really about the films themselves but about the cinema, is little boys who make rude remarks and keep hissing and booing at things.

(Time taken, 1 hour 45 mins.)

Comments: J.P. (Jacob Peter) Mayer was a German sociologist at the London School of Economics. His Sociology of Film draws on a large amount of evidence gathered through questionnaires and submissions received through invitations published in Picturegoer magazine. The above response comes from the section ‘Children and Adolescents and the Cinema’ and is one of twenty-two essays submitted by girl not old than 12½ from a ‘semi-state’ school in Hampstead. The films mentioned are Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (USA 1943), The Hound of the Baskervilles (USA 1939), Going My Way (USA 1944), That Hamilton Woman (USA 1941), My Friend Flicka (USA 1943), Lassie Come Home (USA 1943), Immortal Sergeant (USA 1943), Target for Tonight (UK 1941), We Dive at Dawn (UK 1943), Gung Ho! (USA 1943), The Way Ahead (UK 1944), Coastal Command (UK 1943), The First of the Few (UK 1942), Ladies Courageous (USA 1944), The March of Time (USA news magazine series), North West Mounted Police (USA 1940), Sensation of 1945 (USA 1944).

The attitude of high school students toward motion pictures

Source: Clarence Arthur Perry, The attitude of high school students toward motion pictures (New York: National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, 1923), pp. 41-44

Text: Slapstick or vulgar:
I do not like the vulgar comedies that are sometimes shown.
It is most disgusting to watch these people throw things at each other and act silly.
I do not like comedies in which the principal characters spend a great deal of time bombarding each other with cakes, pies, etc.
I dislike many of the so-called comedies which are humorous only to the feeble-minded.
I like comedies when they are really funny, but the ones where they fight and throw pies in people’s faces are absolutely silly.
I dislike those comedies in which they rush you all about most of the time.
I don’t like foolish, silly comedies that are meant to make you laugh at any cost, even resorting to certain vulgar experiences and actions.

Not true to life:
Pictures that do not happen in every-day life I do not like.
I don’t like pictures where the hero is always having hair-breadth escapes and never gets hurt.
I don’t like comedies where a man runs over a bank and has a sensational fall and comes out alive.
Pictures showing impossible feats do not appeal to me.
I don’t like pictures in which the worthy but poor young man, against impossible conditions, wins the hand of the young millionairess.
I don’t like pictures with real slush and unnatural plots, involving divorce, suicide and all sorts of utterly impossible stunts.
I don’t like a picture in which a small man attacks about a half dozen men larger than himself and throws them off of houses and bluffs.
I don’t like the dime novel brand of thriller where the hero is always in great danger at the end of each episode.
Those stories in which the hero comes out without a scratch and gets the girl he wants are the bunk.
I don’t like pictures that seem unreal in everyday life; for example, a blind man gets back his eyesight, a thing that hardly happens every day.
I dislike pictures where the hero can do nothing wrong, and the villain is so mean he can do nothing good.

Mushy or over-sentimental:
I don’t like stories where they are always hugging and kissing during the whole show.
Of course everyone enjoys a love story once in a while, but there is too much hugging and kissing usually in the shows.
I don’t like those mushy pictures where the fellow falls over himself for the girl.
I don’t like silly love stories which don’t build up character.
I don’t like love stories with a lot of fuss.
I don’t like slushy pictures with too much display of affection.
I loathe and detest that sentimental wishy-washy stuff.

Artistically bad:
The kind of picture I do not like is the kind whose plot is old and has been told and retold and each time is but the warmed-over edition of the previous story.
I do not like these long-drawn-out senseless pictures that can be told in half an hour instead of two and a half hours.
I don’t like pictures that are made to give one thrill after another; the facts are too easily comprehended and thus spoil what good there might be in the picture.
I don’t like pictures which are padded.
I don’t like pictures where there is no plot, or no main idea to them.
I don’t like pictures without a plot, for instance, “Neptune’s Bride.”
I don’t like pictures where the whole plot consists of a girl who dances before a cheap audience.
I don’t care for the average “clever” picture that has no plot, background, purpose or scarcely any other of the essential qualities of a good film.
Pictures such as “Back Pay” should not be released; they are not interesting, educating or entertaining and only wreck the reputation of a good theatre. Many pictures like those are given harmless names and passed off on the public, while such as “Male and Female” as directed by Cecil de Mille drive crowds away from a good show by a suggestive name.

Immoral:
I don’t like a picture that shows the vamps and such like.
I don’t like pictures that are vile and that you have to be ashamed of.
I do not like pictures that are so personal that they are embarrassing for a boy and girl to go together to see.
I absolutely despise the over-emotional love story and bedroom scenes because to sit and watch them is embarrassing besides demoralizing.
I do not like pictures like the “Affairs of Anatol” that deal with such demoralizing types of people supposedly in society.
I don’t like stories with bedroom and harem scenes.
I dislike pictures where there are vulgar displays made by women, and pictures on questionable topics.
I do not like a play where the actors are not dressed properly, for instance, “Foolish Wives.”
I do not think it necessary for some actresses to wear so little clothing as they do.
I do not like those stories in which the words or actions can be taken in an immoral way as well as the way in which probably they were meant.
I don’t like stories with sex as their only excuse for being.

Murder and shooting:
I don’t like pictures where everybody gets shot.
I don’t like pictures with very much murdering.
I don’t like pictures having murdering or killing scenes in them.
I have no taste for the picture in which so many of the players get killed.
I don’t like pictures which involve murders and are taken down in Chinatown.
I don’t like murder stories that get you too excited to sleep or to concentrate on anything but the picture you have just seen.
I greatly dislike horrible picturizations which include numerous murders and terrifying incidents.

Brutality:
I do not like pictures of the villainous kind where the heroine is mistreated.
I do not like stories of hideous crimes.
I don’t like pictures that show prison life, or anything of hardship or cruelty.

Comments: Clarence Arthur Perry (1872-1944) was an American sociologist and town planner. His study The attitude of high school students toward motion pictures (1923) is based on a questionnaire circulated by the National Committee for Better Films, working with the National Board of Review. The questionnaire was sent to 600 high schools across America in May 1922 and received 44,000 responses. The questions included filmgoing habits, favourite actors, picture preferences and dislikes, attitudes towards educational films, and whether and films served as a stimulus to reading. The report is filled with interesting and useful data. The responses quoted here are a selection of those given in answer to the question “Mention any kinds of picture you do not like”. The films referred to are Neptune’s Bride (USA 1920 d. Leslie T. Peacocke), Back Pay (USA 1922 d. Frank Borzage), Male and Female (USA 1919 d. Cecil B DeMille), The Affairs of Anatol (USA 1921 d. Cecil B. DeMille), and Foolish Wives (USA 1922 d. Erich Von Stroheim).

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

Bioscoop

Source: Louis Couperus, ‘Bioscoop’, Haagsche Post, 2 December 1916, English translation by Ivo Blom in ‘North and South: two early texts about cinema-going by Louis Couperus’, Film History vol. 20, issue 2 (2008), pp. 127-132

Text: The contrast between North and South manifests itself in many different ways. At the Bioscoop, too. First of all, in the South the Bioscoop is called Cinematografo in Italy or Cine in Spain. Well, this difference is negligible. But in both southern countries the difference is great as compared with cinema in Germany and the Netherlands. As soon as we go North, the cinema becomes something of a theater, becomes pretentiously heavy. You are received by employees in braided frocks, your coat and stick are taken from you, you are allocated a certain, fixed seat, you are not allowed to stand up, you notice everyone around you in the shimmering darkness in their seats for hours, there is an intermission … Nothing of all this in Italy or Spain. Not only is the cinematografo or the cine much cheaper than the bioscoop, but the whole interior is more light-hearted, comfortable, accommodating. The illuminated foyer which you can see from the street is inviting, with a salon orchestra (albeit not very attractive to me personally), and a reading table. To enter when it rains, when I don’t want to go to a bar, when I have paraded around enough, when I am tired, bored … I pay 30 centimes and whenever I want to look rich, 50 centimes. I cannot go above that, unless for a world famous film such as Quo Vadis? Even for 50 centimes – both in Italy and Spain – my seat is too chic, so terribly chic, that I prefer to pay 30 centimes … Around me are casual, very decent people, so decent that if I want to see the less decent, I need to descend into places where I pay only 20 or 15 or 10 centimes. I see the same films, but … one week later. But everywhere the experience is light and capricious, an ephemeral joy, while in the North cinema has shut itself inside an impenetrable shell. Really, when I walk into a cinema I want to do it in a light-hearted and casual way. I’ll stand up for a quarter of an hour if necessary, just to see Max Linder or a scene of the war, and then leave again. Dear heavens, you really notice when you are in the North, as soon as you are away from Italy: in Munich or … The Hague. There is no question of standing up; everything is so solemn and heavy, that your first casual impulse to see a film is immediately crushed. In Italy I saw the whole war in Tripoli screened before me, surrounded by a decent officer-with-family audience, without reserving seats and always for 30 centimes each day. Here, I am hesitant to go and see The Battle of the Somme because I don’t want to reserve a seat. I want to keep my coat on, even keep my wet umbrella with me; I’d rather stand than sit; in particular I don’t want to turn my cinema joy into a solemn visit; rather I desire an unpretentious, casual ‘walking in’, a passing pleasure, which should not last more than twenty minutes at the most.

Oh North and South, not even in the bioscoop and cinematograph do you have anything in common.

But now the analysis. Why is it so different in the North and the South? Because of the heavy soul of the Northerners? Of course, but also because ‘street life’ does not exist in the North and because in the South ‘walking into a cinema’ is a part of everyday life. Just as in the North it is not allowed in a lunchroom bar to toss off a little glass of vermouth standing up, so it is not normal to consider the cinema as a short halt in your flanerie, as a shelter from the rain, as a short, oh, so short, distraction from the melancholy which can so affect the flaneur when he is lonely, wandering among the busy crowd. And so he longs for Max Linder or Charles Prince; yes, even some lively pictures of actuality, whose photographic ugliness, teasing and screeching, scratch the silently suffering soul of the purposeless street wanderer when the winter twilight hour nears, when the shopping lights and street lanterns are starting to flame and the pain of wistfulness hurts him, without really knowing why …

It is then that you lose yourself – not in a bar where the electric light shines mercilessly – and where you need to drink something; it is then that you lose yourself, in the South, in the cinematograph, where you can watch pictures as if still on your mother’s lap.

Comments: Louis Couperus (1863-1923) was a Dutch novelist and poet and is considered one of the leading figures in Dutch literature. He wrote about films in his regular ‘Bioscoop’ column for the Dutch newspaper Haagsche Post. The films referred to are Quo Vadis? (Italy 1913) and The Battle of the Somme (UK 1916). Max Linder and Charles Prince were French film comedians, the latter known on-screen as Rigadin. Bioscoop is the Dutch word for a cinema building, taken from the English word Bioscope. My thanks to Ivo Blom for his permission to reproduce his translation, and to Deac Rossell for alerting me to the Film History article. Ellipses are as given in the Film History translation.

With the Silent Workers

Source: Alexander L. Pach, extract from ‘With the Silent Workers’, The Silent Worker, October 1919, p. 20

Text: Mrs. Terry, the famed Californian writer also has an article in The Nugget deploring the tendency of the deaf (and the hearing too) of going to the Movies and neglecting good books and other reading.

There’s another phase of the matter. We deaf people must thank the screen-art for the one biggest offset to our infirmity. Good pictures, and by good pictures I mean the kind that educate and elevate, are the levers that lift us from the deadly dullness and monotony of total deafness, to the highest pinnacles of delight. They restore our hearing as nothing else does. We know every word that is spoken as well as the hearing do, for they are all projected on the screen. We miss only the music, and this is such a slight loss it doesn’t count. Of course there is a great deal of trash shown on the screen, but we do need need to pay our money to see trash. All the best plays of the spoken stage that have delighted millions of hearing people find their way to “Screenland”, and such big hits as “Common Clay”, “Daddy Long-legs”, “The Thirteenth Chair”, “Secret Service” etc. etc., are ours through this media. An evening at a good picture house now means one of those hits of the drama; a News-Weekly that has the whole world for its field, and shows us one moment the great Pacific Fleet going through the Panama Canal; Andrew Carnegie as he was in life, and the last honors paid him when all that was mortal was laid to rest; General Pershing reviewing a parade in company with the King and Queen on England, General Haig and Admiral Beatty, and as they advertise it, twice a week “The World Before Your Eyes”. Then we have a more or less “funny” picture that makes us laugh whether we want to or not and then Burton Holmes shows us the people, the customs and the homes of some far away denizens of the other side of the earth. After an evening of delightful entertainment of this order one may go home utterly forgetful of the fact that an important sense is missing. He has come away refreshed. The tedium of the every day work of store, office of factory has been relieved in great measure, and we feel it’s a bully good little world after all, and that we are not so bad off – certainly all that puts cheer into otherwise dulled lives is most welcome joy. Of course one may have the Movie habit to excess, just as one might read too much, or more than he could assimilate, but I would not find fault with any deaf person for seeking and finding the joy of the cinema. Besides there is the old saw that has to do with meat being poison, and there you are. I do not suppose things are any different on the Pacific Coast from what they are here, but I find here that my fellow Movie Fans are the cream of the people. The deaf man in New York whose strong of college degrees is longest of all, gets there oftener than most any one else that I know of.

Take away the Movies from the Deaf, and you will take away a most prolific source of joy. A lot of money that used to be squandered on billiards, card-games and more harmful things now goes to the “movies” with profit to all concerned.

Comments: The Silent Worker was an American journal for the deaf, published 1888-1929. Most of its articles were written by hearing-impaired authors. The plays Common Clay, Daddy Long-Legs, The Thirteenth Chair and Secret Service were all filmed in the USA in 1919. The businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie died in August 1919. Newsreels were commonly issued once or twice a week. Burton Holmes was a producer of film travelogues (a term that he coined).

Links: Copy at Gallaudet University Library (part of complete digitised archive of The Silent Worker)

Mass-Observation at the Movies

Source: Sidney Smith, quoted in Jeffrey Richards and Dorothy Sheridan (eds.), Mass-Observation at the Movies (London/New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 68

Text: Sidney Smith, 30 Green Way, Hall-i-the-Wood, Bolton (aged 40), regular cinema-goer (4 times a month), preference – American films.

Comments: Our main requirement is comedy that is comedy, not the absurd stuff that we get now. If you cant [sic] give us the real thing, at least do not force on to us a poor imitation. Most supporting items, except news and cartoons, are very poor, and annoying to see. You should dispense with this obvious padding and let us have either longer main feature items or shorts of main feature quality. Cut out entirely the refreshment interval and next week’s trailers, and if you must have cinema organs and advertisements, use them only in the intervals between programmes. Even the people who are musical do not care for too much organ music and many people dislike it intensely. Do something to stop people from talking while the show is on.

Comments: 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, Lancashire. 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 Crompton, Crompton Way.

British Cinemas and their Audiences

Source: J.P. Mayer, British Cinemas and their Audiences: Sociological Studies (London: Dennis Dobson, 1948), pp. 182-184

Text: NO. 15A
AGE: 18 SEX: F.
PARENTS’ OCCUPATION: FATHER – SOLDIER, MOTHER – HOUSEWIFE
OCCUPATION: G.P.O. EMPLOYEE
NATIONALITY: BRITISH

When I go to the cinema, I go to be entertained, and having seen the film I like to feel convinced, and satisfied with my entertainment. I enjoy quite a few types of films but in nine cases out of ten the draw is the star in the film. The sort of film I like best has plenty of outdoor scenes, and children. Always, I look for a sense of freedom in a film, something refreshing, something that really might happen in real life. Children too, seem to be the embodiment of freedom and happiness. One of the most refreshing, charming, film [sic] I have ever seen was Sunday Dinner for a Soldier. Here the children, the elder sister, the grandfather, the animals, the houseboat all seemed so real, and their experiences might happen to anybody. For that reason too I enjoyed National Velvet and the beautiful refreshing scenes shot by the sea.

On the more serious side I like a good film taken from a novel whether modern or old but to convince me the acting must be at a very high standard. Here, the stars attract me, Bette Davis, Ida Lupino, Joan Fontaine, Ingrid Bergmann [sic]; and as I watch them I think how wonderful it must be and how satisfying to them to be able to act like that. What an achievement to really be able to convince the audience that you are happy, sad, indifferent, cruel, etc. I like a film of a serious nature to have an unhappy ending although I can never remember crying in a cinema if the hero or heroine died.

Then too, I like a film in which one scene stands out above all others so that I remember it for a long time afterwards, such as King Henry wooing the French Princess in Henry V, the duel scene in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, of Agnes Morrcheat’s [sic] performance in The Magnificent Ambersons. I find great pleasure in thinking back over them.

I like a comedy but it must be very clever and fast and funny so that I can laugh all the time. It must also have a great many surprises in it. I like some films with classical music running through them. Especially I enjoyed Song of Russia because of Tchaikowsky’s beautiful music. I think that his music is more beautiful than any other composer’s.

Lastly I like travel films because I can learn something from them about other countries. Although I should like to travel all over the world, I shall never be able to, and through seeing films about other lands, this makes up a little for not being able to go, (but only a very little I’m afraid).

The films I dislike most are modern musicals and also the ‘gay nineties’ type. The acting is generally very bad, the plot is repeated again and again, and after a day I have forgotten all about the film. The only reason I would go to a musical would be to study the actresses’ hair styles and dress. Very sentimental films tend to depress and even sicken me. The players never win my sympathy in the slightest.

I do not like American films with scenes set in England because they are always inaccurate. England looks in these films Hollywood would like her to look. This annoys me very much.

I do not like seeing films taken from novels I have read as they are nearly always chopped about beyond recognition and if I was the unfortunate authoress of a book that had been hacked about I should feel like weeping with shame when I saw my book filmed.

I do not like crime films, thrillers, or murders, as I find myself imagining all sorts of horrible things when I am alone in the house or walking in the dark at night for a time after I have seen them.

Lastly, I am hoping that I shall never see a war film or an ‘underground army’ type of film as long as I live. I want to forget all about war and try to help peace in this poor old world of ours for ever.

Comments: J.P. (Jacob Peter) Mayer was a German sociologist at the London School of Economics. His British Cinemas and their Audiences collates motion picture autobiographies submitted through a competition in Picturegoer magazine. This contribution comes from the section ‘A Study in Film Preferences’. Agnes Moorehead is the name of the actress in The Magnificent Ambersons (USA 1942). The other films mentioned are Sunday Dinner for a Soldier (USA 1944), Henry V (UK 1944), The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (UK 1943), National Velvet (1944) and Song of Russia (USA 1944).

British Cinemas and their Audiences

Source: J.P. Mayer, British Cinemas and their Audiences: Sociological Studies (London: Dennis Dobson, 1948), pp. 182-184

Text: NO. 15A
AGE: 18 SEX: F.
PARENTS’ OCCUPATION: FATHER – SOLDIER, MOTHER – HOUSEWIFE
OCCUPATION: G.P.O. EMPLOYEE
NATIONALITY: BRITISH

When I go to the cinema, I go to be entertained, and having seen the film I like to feel convinced, and satisfied with my entertainment. I enjoy quite a few types of films but in nine cases out of ten the draw is the star in the film. The sort of film I like best has plenty of outdoor scenes, and children. Always, I look for a sense of freedom in a film, something refreshing, something that really might happen in real life. Children too, seem to be the embodiment of freedom and happiness. One of the most refreshing, charming, film [sic] I have ever seen was Sunday Dinner for a Soldier. Here the children, the elder sister, the grandfather, the animals, the houseboat all seemed so real, and their experiences might happen to anybody. For that reason too I enjoyed National Velvet and the beautiful refreshing scenes shot by the sea.

On the more serious side I like a good film taken from a novel whether modern or old but to convince me the acting must be at a very high standard. Here, the stars attract me, Bette Davis, Ida Lupino, Joan Fontaine, Ingrid Bergmann [sic]; and as I watch them I think how wonderful it must be and how satisfying to them to be able to act like that. What an achievement to really be able to convince the audience that you are happy, sad, indifferent, cruel, etc. I like a film of a serious nature to have an unhappy ending although I can never remember crying in a cinema if the hero or heroine died.

Then too, I like a film in which one scene stands out above all others so that I remember it for a long time afterwards, such as King Henry wooing the French Princess in Henry V, the duel scene in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, of Agnes Morrcheat’s [sic] performance in The Magnificent Ambersons. I find great pleasure in thinking back over them.

I like a comedy but it must be very clever and fast and funny so that I can laugh all the time. It must also have a great many surprises in it. I like some films with classical music running through them. Especially I enjoyed Song of Russia because of Tchaikowsky’s beautiful music. I think that his music is more beautiful than any other composer’s.

Lastly I like travel films because I can learn something from them about other countries. Although I should like to travel all over the world, I shall never be able to, and through seeing films about other lands, this makes up a little for not being able to go, (but only a very little I’m afraid).

The films I dislike most are modern musicals and also the ‘gay nineties’ type. The acting is generally very bad, the plot is repeated again and again, and after a day I have forgotten all about the film. The only reason I would go to a musical would be to study the actresses’ hair styles and dress. Very sentimental films tend to depress and even sicken me. The players never win my sympathy in the slightest.

I do not like American films with scenes set in England because they are always inaccurate. England looks in these films Hollywood would like her to look. This annoys me very much.

I do not like seeing films taken from novels I have read as they are nearly always chopped about beyond recognition and if I was the unfortunate authoress of a book that had been hacked about I should feel like weeping with shame when I saw my book filmed.

I do not like crime films, thrillers, or murders, as I find myself imagining all sorts of horrible things when I am alone in the house or walking in the dark at night for a time after I have seen them.

Lastly, I am hoping that I shall never see a war film or an ‘underground army’ type of film as long as I live. I want to forget all about war and try to help peace in this poor old world of ours for ever.

Comments: J.P. (Jacob Peter) Mayer was a German sociologist at the London School of Economics. His British Cinemas and their Audiences collates motion picture autobiographies submitted through a competition in Picturegoer magazine. This contribution comes from the section ‘A Study in Film Preferences’. Agnes Moorehead is the name of the actress in The Magnificent Ambersons (USA 1942). The other films mentioned are Sunday Dinner for a Soldier (USA 1944), Henry V (UK 1944), The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (UK 1943), National Velvet (1944) and Song of Russia (USA 1944).

Rod: The Autobiography

Source: Rod Stewart, Rod: The Autobiography (London: Arrow Books, 2012), p. 10

Text: Mary and Peggy, my sisters, would take me to watch speedway at Harringay, which was hugely popular then. And Mum and Dad sometimes treated me to a trip to the cinema – the Rex, in East Finchley, where the stalls took a big dip in the centre: the front rows were higher than the rows in the middle, and the back rows were higher still. Maybe it was war damage. One day, where I was eight, my mum said, ‘We’re going to see Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday. This will be the funniest thing you’ve ever seen’ – a big build-up to give a film. But she was absolutely right. It was slapstick, but so subtle in the way it went about it. We sat there in the Rex’s battered stalls, and I had never laughed as hard as I laughed at Jacques Tati, haplessly creating havoc. Even today Ronnie Wood and I remain huge Tati fans.

Comments: Rod Stewart (born 1945) is a British rock singer. Ronnie Wood was guitarist with Stewart in the band The Faces before joining The Rolling Stones. Les Vacances de M. Hulot (France 1953) starred and was directed by Jacques Tati. It was a considerable international hit. The Rex was established in 1910 as the Picturedrome and continues today as the Phoenix. The slope in the floor was an original feature, caused by the lie of the land. Acknowledgments to Lisa Kerrigan for spotting this reference and tweeting about it.

Links: Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley