British Cinemas and their Audiences

Source: J.P. Mayer, British Cinemas and their Audiences: Sociological Studies (London: Dennis Dobson, 1948), pp. 125-127

Text: AGE: 36, SEX: M, OCCUPATION: TRANSPORT MANAGER, FATHER’S OCCUPATION: COMMERCIAL TRAVELLER, NATIONALITY: BRITISH

From an early age I remember being taken by my mother and father to a local cinema every Thursday evening. Most of the films I saw in those days have faded into oblivion, but I still recall laughing very much at Max Linder’s Trip to America, and being very thrilled by Ride on a Runaway Express. Maybe this latter exhibited the first glimmerings of an interest in technique and the moving camera.

However, it remained in abeyance for many years, for when I reached the age of about fourteen, and joined a tennis club, I ceased to take much interest in films. Even in those days, I must have been critically minded, and became tired of the eternal sameness and lack of originality of the majority of films. For several years tennis occupied most of my spare time and only very occasionally did I enter a cinema, attracted by something or other, maybe a star, maybe publicity, (at this date I can recall no important reason), and the result was to keep me in an apathetic attitude to films.

After going to work, I began dropping into films occasionally on the way home from the City. And then something happened. I discovered that there was a way of discriminating between films and that was to find out who directed them. I don’t know how I first got hold of this idea, but it has been my guiding star ever since.

The first film I remember seeing that showed me the possibilities of technique in the film was Asquith’s Shooting Stars, which, although actually directed by A.V. Bramble was mainly interesting because of his script.

About this time I discovered the periodical Close Up, which, high-faluting and precious as much of its writing was, did give me an entirely new angle on films, and made me long to be able to see the films mentioned therein. A few of these, mainly German films, did succeed in getting into cinemas, but it has always been one of my greatest regrets that the film The Love of Jeanne Ney, greatly eulogised in that magazine, I missed when it was generally released round the Gaumont circuit, owing to its being very stupidly renamed Lusts of the Flesh, and my not recognising it in that guise.

It was shortly after this that a little ‘flee-pit’ [sic] in a back street amongst some of the worst slums in … started a programme of ‘screen classics’. ‘Talkies’ had arrived at most cinemas by this time, but the manager was only interested in showing the best of the silents. To this little back-street slum cinema, with wooden forms, came people from all over London to programmes of films never seen before or since. The double feature programme changed twice a week and every film shown was of interest to connoisseurs. During the two or three months this season lasted, we saw Mother, Storm Over Asia, The End of St. Petersburg, Turksib, Earth, The Student of Prague, Warning Shadows, Berlin, La Passion de Jeanne D’Arc, Les Neauveux [sic] Messieurs and many other films of a like nature, some of which thrilled me immensely, especially Turksib, Mother and The Student of Prague.

Always at these shows I made a point of speaking to the manager afterwards to see what treasures he had in store for us. On one of these occasions, I met a girl who was also discussing films with him, and she was reading Paul Rotha’s The Film Till Now. This book had only just been published and was difficult to get hold of, and when I expressed my desire to read it, she took my name and address, and eventually wrote to me and lent me the book.

This book which gives a historical survey of silent film, together with Elmer Rice’s A Voyage to Purilia, which I read shortly afterwards, and which is a brilliant satire on films, bringing in every cliché ever used in films, practically finished my education in cinema. Never again could I be fobbed off with the inferior, the shoddy, the meretricious, the hackneyed story, the inevitable coincidence.

And what since? It has all been rather in the nature of an anti-climax. I had seen the pick of the finest films almost all together, and what masterpieces I have seen since have been spread out over the years, and with the complete submerging of the silent film in the swamp of the talkies, silent films have been seen less and less, except at occasional film societies’ showings or sub-standard versions given by enthusiastic amateurs. And for all the brilliance of some talking films, the complete unity and artistry of the silent films has never been recaptured. The Avenue Pavilion and the Forum continued the good work of the back-street … cinema, and to-day, the number of cinemas has increased but the quality of the films has, alas, very considerably depreciated.

Turksib, which, to this day, is still my number 1 film, and which I have seen 19 times (a film, in my opinion, unlike that of most people who are only interested in seeing a film once, because then they ‘know it’ when it is good enough, should be treated like a symphony, something to experience numerous times, and each time providing new delight) first showed me the scope of the film. Here was a film without actors, and with human beings dwarfed by the magnitude of the theme of the building of a railroad. This interest in the documentary movement, has increased with the years. Here, away from the studios and the aping of the theatre, is the true medium for the film, and until producers realise this, and the public appreciate that the film, like no other medium, can ‘present the world to the world’, as one of the commentators of the ridiculously inadequate newsreels is for-ever telling us, until then the full scope of the film will not be utilised. We have seen a trend in the right direction in many of the magnificent British documentaries and fictional films with a documentary approach, dealing with the War. Let us hope they will appreciate the great power of the film for ‘winning the Peace’.

My interest in films has made me wish to make films myself, but except for a little amateur work, I have never succeeded in getting ‘into’ films, although I have hopes at the moment of entering a small documentary group. In the meantime, I have maintained my interest, by writing occasional articles for various papers, and am at the moment engaged on a history of British Films.

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 competitions in Picturegoer magazine. This contribution comes from the section ‘Films and the Pattern of Life’. The films mentioned are Max Comes Across (USA 1917), A Ride on a Runaway Train (USA 1921), Shooting Stars (UK 1928), Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney (Germany 1927), Mat (USSR 1927), Potomok Chingiskhana (USSR 1928), Konets Sankt-Peterburga (USSR 1927), Turksib (USSR 1929), Der Student von Prag (Germany 1926), Schatten (Germany 1923), Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (Germany 1927), La passion de Jeanne d’Arc (France 1928) and Les nouveaux messieurs (France 1929). Paul Rotha’s The Film Till Now was published in 1930; Elmer Rice’s A Voyage to Purilia was published in 1930 (having been serialised in 1929). Close Up was published 1927-1933.

Sociology of the Film

Source: Unnamed 17-year old female, quoted in J.P. Mayer, Sociology of Film: Studies and Documents (London: Faber and Faber, 1946), pp. 213-215

Text: Have Films Ever Appeared in Your Dreams?

Yes, films have often appeared in my dreams.

I think films are a wonderful medium of entertainment, one which we should think about a great deal. When I see a beautiful film, as when I see a beautiful play or hear a lovely piece of music at a concert or on the radio, I like to think about it by myself and when I go to bed I dream about them.

For me to think about and therefore to dream about a film, it has to be one of the first class or else to be very unusual. The acting must be good, the voice arresting for me to see or hear them in my dreams. I never dream of slapstick comedy, or even a thrilling murder. When I see a film it may interest me during the couple of hours I am in the cinema, but I may forget it promptly on leaving it. Sometimes, however, I see a film which I like very much, one
which I could see again perhaps, on the way home from the theatre I think about it, and at night, asleep, certain scenes will come back to me. Perhaps it will be a line spoken by one of the actors, maybe a glance or gesture.

I can always remember, when I was a child seeing The Great Ziegfeld. In those days it was considered spectacular, and in my dreams for many nights afterwards I dreamt of the revolving stage, the glamourous (glamorous) girls and those lovely dogs. In those days too I used to see Shirley Temple a great deal. At night I used to re-live her adventures and unhappy moments. Wonderful things like films have a strange impression on a child’s mind, and now
that I am seventeen, films still have a great fascination for me.

I went to see The Man in Grey some time ago, a picture which I found thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating. At night I kept seeing the terrifying look on James Mason’s face as he beat Hester to death. I could not get it out of my dreams for some time.

After I had seen the picture The Great Waltz, I did not dream of scenes or people but of the haunting Strauss waltzes. It was the same with Love Story when parts of the Cornish Rhapsody appeared in my dreams. Also The Great Victor Herbert and A Song to Remember.

A week or so ago I saw Madonna of the Seven Moons. I enjoyed it and thought about it quite a bit. When you think about a thing a lot before going to sleep, it is likely that you should dream about it. But no! For some reason or other I kept hearing Patricia Roc say when she saw her mother — ‘It isn’t possible, no one could be so lovely’. While on the subject of split minds, I always remember going to see Dr. Jeckyll [sic] and Mr. Hyde on a foggy night, and having the most terrible nightmare afterwards. I kept seeing the face change from good to bad and vice versa.

After seeing Blossoms in the Dust, lilies kept appearing in my dreams. The night after seeing Since You Went Away the scene in the hay was re-lived in my dreams.

Rebecca was one of the best films I have ever seen, and therefore quite natural that I should think and dream about it a lot. I often saw in my dreams Joan Fontaine’s shy face. And in many of my dreams I saw Laurence Olivier’s expression when he told his wife about Rebecca. I heard that wonderful voice saying: ‘Do you think I killed her, loving her; I hated her.’ It was a wonderful piece of acting.

I think the him I dreamed about more than any other was Gone with the Wind. I could see it over and over again and still dream about it. How often did I dream I saw Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara climb the stairs at Twelve Oaks after telling Ashley that she loved him, she was so proud, so beautiful. How often did I see her treading her way among the wounded in Atlanta. And I could see Melanie’s face when she was so ill. A scene I shall never forget was of Scarlett on her return home, standing in the desolate garden and saying ‘As God is my witness, I’m never going to be hungry again’. You could not see her face only her silouhette (silhouette).

I dreamed of her also standing in the windy orchard almost at the end of her tether. I saw over and over again Clark Gable’s eyes as she fell down the stairs. I dreamt I saw Scarlett entering Melanie’s party, in her red dress and her head up, ready for anything. I saw the sweet smile of Bonnie, Mammie’s disapproving face, and Gerald’s expression as he opened the door to Scarlett.

The scene I saw most was the last one where she lay on the stairs thinking everything she loved most in the world had gone, and she heard the voice of her father, Ashley and Rhett coming to her telling her that Tara was left. I saw her stiffen and say ‘After all, tomorrow is another day’. What a lovely ending for a film!

I could go on for ever telling of all the films I have dreamed of, but it would take too long. Films take my mind off things and I can always relax in a cinema. They make me forget this world and live in another. Therefore I like to dream of good films and sometimes I dream that there were more good films to dream about. Don’t you?

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 ‘The Adult and the Cinema’, and is the first half of of the picturegoer’s response. She is described as Age – 17 years, Profession – junior clerk, Nationality – British (London), Sex – female, Profession of father – furrier.

This is a movie that ends in the middle…

Source: Terry Gallacher, “This is a movie that ends in the middle…”, from Terence Gallacher’s Recollections of a Career in Film, http://terencegallacher.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/”this-is-a-movie-that-ends-in-the-middle-“/, published 29 December 2010

Text: In the thirties, forties and fifties, there was always visual entertainment available in the cinemas. In Tottenham and Edmonton in London, we had a number of cinemas at our disposal.

There was the Tottenham Palace, which was almost opposite Chestnut Road, Tottenham, which had, originally, been a theatre from 1908 and a cinema from 1926. There was the Bruce Grove Cinema which was just up Bruce Grove Road on the right hand side past the railway bridge. This was built in 1921 as a cinema, then, of course running silent movies.

Then there was the Pavilion which was a very old single story cinema and was situated opposite Argyle Road next to what was Charrington’s Brewery, in Tottenham.

The cinema was partially demolished around 1937 and rebuilt as the Florida, a bright new cinema which opened in 1938. It held 529 people. However, it, too, has been demolished. In Edmonton at the junction of Fore Street, Silver Street (now called Sterling Way) and Angel Road, there were three cinemas. The Regal Edmonton, was opened in 1934 and was extremely well designed. It was to operate as a theatre as well as a cinema. It had sixteen dressing rooms and the largest revolving stage in Europe. It had an audience capacity of almost 3,000.

In contrast to that was the Hippodrome which was just up Angel Road on the right. It was very old, run down and known as the “flea-pit” or “The Hip”. An original theatre , it would have opened for the movies at a very early stage. It was an extremely awful place which had not been given any attention since the silent days. Then there was the Alcazar, another of the exotic names used for cinemas in those days. It would take me forty years to discover what it meant. Al Casr is Arabic for “The Castle”. This was a medium sized cinema located in Fore Street, just north of the Silver Street junction. The frontage was built in the style of an Arab fort. It had glass doors all along its forty yard frontage. The foyer ran the full width of the building and on the dividing wall between the foyer and the auditorium were huge mirrors about six feet wide and from ceiling to floor.

The Alcazar was destroyed by a bomb in August 1940. Two days before War was declared, I was evacuated to Mildenhall in Suffolk with my elder brother. The local cinema in Mildenhall was the Comet and it only showed old films. We returned home for Christmas 1939. While we were away, the Tottenham cinemas were showing the latest films. My brother and I missed them, particularly Gunga Din and The Four Feathers.

We discovered that The Ritz at Turnpike Lane were showing both films in one showing. Off we went. In April, we had returned home and when the bomb went off at the Alcazar, I was woken up. It was the next day that we found out where the bomb had struck. We went off to see the damage. All the glass was blown out of the front and the foyer looked in a very bad state. There was no doubt that it would be a long time before it would re-open. In fact, it never did. There was a theory that the German bomber crew mistook the junction of Fore Street, Silver Street and Angel Road, together with the three cinemas, Alcazar, Regal and Hippodrome, to be an airbase. The cinemas might have looked like hangers. However, such theories abounded in those days.

While attending the cinema, at that time, if there should there be an air raid warning, it would show on the screen that the siren had sounded. I do not recall anyone leaving the cinema as a result of that information.

In the Spring of 1946, my friends and I went to the site where they were clearing away the bomb damage. We knew that there were some good things to collect from there. At the time, we were building a canoe and raw materials were extremely hard to come by. In the Alcazar, the Foyer mirrors had been backed by half-inch laminated plywood. Such material had not been seen since before the War. We bought a complete sheet for 10/- (50 pence).

Finally, there was the Edmonton Empire which was on a hill which had been built to take a bridge over the railway which ran underneath and connected the Edmonton – Southbury line to the Angel Road – Ponders End line. Now the railway line, the hill, the bridge and the Empire are long gone and the site forms the South East corner of Edmonton Green.

There were advantages in having all these cinemas. The Palace, the Bruce Grove and the Pavilion (Florida) all showed different programmes, but the Regal showed the same as the Palace, the Alcazar the same as the Bruce Grove. The Edmonton Empire seemed to be different to all of them. As for the Hippodrome, it showed whatever the distributors would allow it to have. Probably a set of films they did not need to pass on to another cinema somewhere.

Programmes ran from Monday to Wednesday, Thursday to Saturday with another film, usually an old one, showing on Sunday. With the combination of the various cinemas, it was possible to go to a different cinema every night.

While visiting these cinemas, I was able to watch newsreels provided by a variety of producers, such as Gaumont British, Movietonews, Pathe News and Paramount News.

In those days, we had what was known as “continuous performance” which meant that the cinema would start showing a film at around one o’clock in the afternoon to be immediately followed by the main film, which was immediately followed by the first film and the shorts and newsreel. The screen was showing moving pictures from one o’clock until the close of programmes at ten-thirty at night. In effect this meant that people would come in whenever they could. They would pick up the story and see the programme through until they reached the point when they entered. They would then leave. Hence the amusing song by Danny Kaye which had a line which said “This is a movie that ends in the middle for the benefit of the people who came in the middle”.

I would not think these casual comings and goings were by complete choice, I imagine that the picture goers had a good reason to go into a cinemas to be confronted, on arrival, with a film that only had another ten minutes to run.

Of course the result was that throughout the performance, people were coming in and going out. Other disturbances occurred when the ice-cream girl came down the centre isles, in the circle and the stalls, to take up station prior to a short interval. She would arrive before the end of a film and would still be selling when the next film started. During the running of the films, she would still be walking up and down the aisles selling ice creams.

The system of “continuous performance” also allowed that a person could go in at the afternoon start and stay in the cinema until it closed, provided they were not discovered. People were only thrown out of the cinema if they misbehaved.

If a film was showing that had had good reports, it was quite common for the cinema to become full and there would be a queue formed outside. There would be a separate queue for each price range of ticket. We all became experts at judging whether it was worthwhile joining the queue or whether to come back another day.

From the late thirties, cinema entrance fees ranged from 1/3d (6 pence) to 1/9d (9 pence) and later from 2/6d (12.5 pence) to 3/6d (17 pence). In 1940, the price of a ticket to the Bruce Grove cinema was 1/9d, but, when they showed “Gone with the Wind”, which runs four hours, they put up the price of a ticket to 2/6d.

For a while, and from time to time, the Regal in Edmonton provided a live variety show. I remember seeing a Music Hall act called “The Seven Eliots” perform, they were musicians and, I think, acrobats. At the organ there would be Sidney Torch who would appear, playing, out of the depths. Later he made a name for himself as an all round musician, conductor and music arranger.

When I see, on television, some of the old films that we paid to go to see, and even queued up for, I often wonder what we saw in them, and yet we enjoyed them at the time. Unlike today’s television schedule, there was always something to look forward to.

Comments: Terence Gallacher is a former newsreel and television news manager and editor who now documents his career through his website http://terencegallacher.wordpress.com. The post is reproduced here with the kind permission of its author.

British Cinemas and Their Audiences

Source: J.P. Mayer, British Cinemas and their Audiences: Sociological Studies (London: Dennis Dobson, 1948), pp. 68-72

Text: AGE: 19 SEX: F. OCCUPATION: CLERK NATIONALITY: BRITISH FATHER: ELECTRICAL ENGINEER MOTHER: HOUSEWIFE

Since I am only nineteen this film autobiography is necessarily limited. However, I have been a constant film-goer as long as I can remember, commencing at a very early age when I was taken by my parents once or twice every week. From the age of about seven to thirteen the cinema was a passion with me – I could not go too frequently to satisfy me and when thwarted in my desire I created scenes as some children do over toys, sweets etcetera. I realize now that the films were to me an escape from a dull, uneventful, very ordinary childhood. They represented excitement, adventure, romance and new ideas which I had never met before.

One of my earliest recollections is hearing my mother saying that she would have to cease taking me to the cinema if I continued to have violent dreams about them. Concerning the dreams I remember nothing, but I know that I resolved then never again to mention my reactions to a film, or opinion of one, otherwise I should be forbidden to go to what was rapidly becoming to me a veritable fairy-land. This resolve, by the way, undoubtedly made me secretive and I rarely told my parents what I thought about anything.

But the films were merely an escape. In those days, the idea never occurred to me that the places and the men and women characterised in films had any connection to reality. The life which the film heroes and heroines lived, in no matter what type of film I saw, ‘high society* or ‘slum’, was too utterly alien from the world in which I lived.

From the age of seven to fourteen I do not think that I had any preference as to which type of film I most desired to see. Any film was acceptable. Although I think that I was most impressed by any film, be it a lavish Hollywood musical of an historical impossibility, which contained beautiful extravagant costumes, rich in colour and spectacle. But I was never seized by a desire to possess such lovely clothes, nor did I sigh with envy at the synthetic beauty of ‘stars’, or their magnificent houses and trains of servants, – simply, I think, because I did not connect these things with reality. The cinema was merely a form of fairy tales and as such I do not think that it did me any harm.

In my opinion it is only when children try to apply movie-life to actual life that juvenile delinquency results, otherwise if it is impressed upon them that it is merely an imaginary world at which they are gazing they will only be the happier for a few hours entertainment. But, naturally, I realize that this applies only to a child of limited intelligence and imagination as I was at the time. I accepted my parents’ explanation that ‘it was all made up’ whereas a more sensitive and imaginative child would not have done so. But such a child should not be allowed to go to the cinema at an early age.

After I had reached the age of fourteen however, I began to accept the cinema merely as a method of entertainment. I attached no importance to it, I merely went if I was in the right mood and if I thought there was a good film showing. I no longer went to satisfy a passion for escape, other interests filled my time more satisfactorily. My school-life broadened my horizon literature and the theatre brought more content than the bizarre, unreal cinema could ever do.

My tastes in films had definitely crystallised. I still like historical films but now for their history, not their costumes, although my interest in history had often made me wonder why film-makers must always introduce inaccuracies nearly in every case, unnecessarily. Why make Queen Elizabeth a sloppy, emotional woman when the quality for which she was noted was that her supreme love was England and she was a Queen more than a woman. But in Elizabeth and Essex she was pictured as deeply in love with Essex the one love of her life – and finally she made the supreme sacrifice for England with great emotion – nonsense! Elizabeth loved only herself, she may have liked lovers to satisfy her vanity but she would have sacrificed everything she loved without a second’s thought for the throne and power.

This love of inaccuracy in historical films is the more puzzling as the truth would invariably make better films. In the Prime Minister if Hollywood simply must ignore all the political side of Disraeli’s life except the sensational moments of victory and defeat, and concentrate on his romantic life, why misrepresent it? The beauty of the fact that Disraeli could say that Mary Anne was the perfect wife lay not in the fact that she was a frivolous, flirtatious, romantic young girl but that she was almost fifty and twelve years older than he was.

Catherine the Great, however, was the supreme example of twaddle. Anyone who knew but the bare facts of Catherine’s life and her marriage with Peter must either have blushed or giggled hysterically at such a ridiculous film.

In my judgement of films too, I deplore the fact that ninety-nine per cent of every film issued can be typed. Thus it became my ambition to pick out the other one per cent of films to see – the film that did not fall into a definite category. I was tired of typed movies – Westerns; snobbishness in high society; the depths of degradation; country life – local boy makes good; detective story – police baffled – dapper amateur triumphant; love story – impossible situations – misunderstandings which two minutes sensible conversation could have cleared up – naturally with a happy ending; and so on, many other so familiar types.

By now of course I had linked up films with reality, and I despised the futile attempts to portray life, so showily, gaudily, and synthetically. But in the last few wartime years I have encountered with delight good British films, with solid British humour, no gags or cracks as the Americans put it, but definite British wit. Their portrayal of village life, where everyone knows his neighbour’s affairs as well as his own, are truly delightful and they get the right
atmosphere. British films about Britain are now, in my opinion, the best films to see.

In my search for an original film I eventually found Citizen Kane. I was intensely interested. It was the first time I had seen a film which did not tell the audience what to think but made them think for themselves. One of the many reasons why I think the theatre is superior to the cinema is that one can use one’s brains occasionally at the theatre but never at the cinema. The uniqueness of Citizen Kane delighted me. Except for clumsy surprise endings which annoy one because they are obviously there for no other reason but to surprise the audience, one can really always foretell the ending of the film and indeed the whole story from its type. But in Citizen Kane the whole story was original, it was not a type, it possessed atmosphere, a good plot, (which is often considered unimportant by film-makers), unusual photography and excellent acting by unknowns and not stars who depend on a good pair of legs to see them through every film.

I am painfully aware that my opinion in this matter is not shared by many. Citizen Kane was not a popular box-office success, audiences prefer not to think, they like types.

I was not influenced by the films at an early age because I felt they had no bearing on this life and later when I saw that they were supposed to represent sections of people’s lives their failure produced only an amused contempt. I was never frightened by the conventional thrillers, grotesque make-up or the villain about to kill the hero because I knew that there would be a happy ending – films were not related to life and crime did not pay. One film however which I saw when I was about eight did have a frightening effect upon me because it presented a new idea to me – mental torture. I now cannot remember the title or what it was about clearly. I think that Sara Haden and Basil Rathbone were in it and that the latter had forced himself into this lady’s house and was trying to drive her insane in order to procure her money. The acting was very good and I was haunted for weeks and still now, I retain the impression of fear at seeing this lady becoming more frightened and convinced that she was insane. The film was not Gaslight or Thornton Square versions which, considering they had the same theme I thought amateurish in comparison. I vividly remember Sara Haden’s large expressive eyes dilated with fear as Basil Rathbone bent over her with a jewelled cigarette-case in his hand. I do not remember anything else about it – I suppose it ended according to type.

With true femininity I enjoy a good love-story and if it is the sorrowful type which ostentatiously does not end happily ever after, such as Now Voyager, I can give myself up entirely to the luxury of the moment and indulge my emotions, weeping at the touching scene before me. It never lasts however and immediately the film ends, sometimes before, I can analyse the ridiculous and unlikely situations quite coldly as if I had not been moved at all.

I have never imitated films in anything. I go to the cinema for entertainment – not example. At about fifteen I fell in love with Conrad Veidt. At the time he representated [sic] my idea of a perfect man handsome, distinguished, cultured, intelligent, an attractive foreign accent, a perfect lover – all the most desirable qualities. Moreover he was nearly always the villain who I think is usually much more attractive than the insipid hero. This infatuation died with him, although I still like to see re-issues of his films – that is when I can persuade myself to forget that the type he represented the rather dated, courtly perfect lover is exaggerated and rather trying.

The question ‘Have films made you more receptive to love-making’ I cannot answer since I like the intellectual company of men only, much prefer women friends and contrary to many girls of my own age I cling to the old-fashioned belief that nineteen is too young for boy-friends and love-making in which, anyway, I have no interest.

How can I answer the questions concerning temptations, ambitions, dissatisfactions arising from films since I have never let any film influence my life. The films I have seen are always too much interested in the hero’s and heroine’s private affairs to make me interested in the vocation in which they are engaged – but only, it seems to me, as a background, a nurse, an actress, member of the services or other professions.

Books and the theatre have influenced me but not films and I think this is because it is largely a question of one’s own will how one is influenced and I never believed that the films were a good influence. Undoubtedly they make some children dissatisfied with their life, they drive some to crime in imitations of ‘gangsters’, they cause unhappy marriages because boys and girls especially the latter, conceive a too romantic idea of love and marriage from the screen. I think a Children’s Cinema is most desirable; specially made films could influence children in the right direction.

As to adults of the present generation most of them go to the cinema from habit and lack of any other occupation, and they delight in nudging their neighbour and pointing to a Hollywood lovely and saying ‘She’s just been divorced for the fourth time’, and people will doubtless go on seeing films for precisely the same reasons.

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 competitions in Picturegoer magazine. This contribution comes from the section ‘Films and the Pattern of Life’. Contributors were asked to trace the history of their interest in films, the influence films had on them (including if they were ever frightened by films), what they imitated from films, if films made them more receptive to love-making, if films made them want to travel or to be dissatisfied with their way of life or neighbourhood, and if films gave them vocational ambitions. The films mentioned are The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (USA 1939), The Prime Minister (UK 1941 – a British, not a Hollywood film), Catherine the Great (UK 1934 – or possibly The Scarlet Empress, USA 1934), Citizen Kane (USA 1941), Gaslight (UK 1940), The Murder in Thornton Square (UK release title for Gaslight, USA 1944) and Now Voyager (USA 1942). The only film in which Basil Rathbone and Sarah Haden both appeared, Above Suspicion (1943) does not match the description above.

Unreliable Memoirs

Source: Clive James, Unreliable Memoirs (London: Jonathan Cape, 1980), pp. 43-47

Text: Every Saturday afternoon at the pictures there was a feature film, sixteen cartoons and an episode each from four different serials. The programme just went on and on like Bayreuth. The Margaret Street children would join up with the Irene Street children and the combined mass would add themselves unto the Sunbeam Avenue children and the aggregate would join the swarm from all the other areas all moving north along Rocky Point Road towards Rockdale, where the Odeon stood. In summer the concrete paths were hot. The asphalt footpaths were even hotter: bubbles of tar formed, to be squashed flat by our leathery bare feet. Running around on macadamised playgrounds throughout the spring, by summer we had feet that could tread on a drawing pin and hardly feel it.

When you got to the Odeon the first thing you did was stock up with lollies. Lollies was the word for what the English call sweets and the Americans call candy. Some of the more privileged children had upwards of five shillings each to dispose of, but in fact two bob was enough to buy you as much as you could eat. Everyone, without exception, bought at least one Hoadley’s Violet Crumble Bar. It was a slab of dense, dry honeycomb coated with chocolate. So frangible was the honey comb that it would shatter when bitten, scattering bright yellow shrapnel. It was like trying to eat a Ming vase. The honeycomb would go soft only after a day’s exposure to direct sunlight. The chocolate surrounding it, however, would liquefy after only ten minutes in a dark cinema.

[…]

Everyone either ate steadily or raced up and down the aisles to and from the toilet, or all three. The uproar was continuous, like Niagara. Meanwhile the programme was unreeling in front of us. The feature film was usually a Tarzan, a Western, or the kind of Eastern Western in which George Macready played the grand vizier. At an even earlier stage I had been to the pictures with my mother and been continuously frightened without understanding what was going on – the mere use of music to reinforce tension, for example, was enough to drive me under the seat for the rest of the evening. At a later stage I accompanied my mother to every change of evening double bill both at Ramsgate and Rockdale – a total of four films a week, every week for at least a decade. But nothing before or since had the impact of those feature films at the Rockdale Saturday matinees.

In those days Johnny Weissmuller was making his difficult transfer from Tarzan to Jungle Jim. As Tarzan he got fatter and fatter until finally he was too fat to be plausible, whereupon he was obliged to put on a safari suit and become Jungle Jim. I was glad to to learn subsequently that as Jungle Jim he had a piece of the action and was at last able to bank some money. At the time, his transmogrification looked to me like an unmitigated tragedy. His old Tarzan movies were screened again and again. Many times I dived with Tarz off Brooklyn Bridge during the climactic scene of Tarzan’s New York Adventure. In my mind I duplicated the back somersaults executed by Johnny’s double as he swung from vine to vine on his way to rescue the endangered Jane and Boy from the invading ivory hunters. In one of the Tarzan movies there is a terrible sequence where one lot of natives gives another lot an extremely thin time by arranging pairs of tree trunks so that they will fly apart and pull the victim to pieces. This scene stayed with me as a paradigm of evil. No doubt if I saw the same film today I would find the sequence as crudely done as everything else ever filmed on Poverty Row. But at the time it seemed a vision of cruelty too horrible even to think about.

I can remember having strong ideas about which cartoons were funny and which were not. Mr Magoo and Gerald McBoing-Boing, with their stylised backgrounds and elliptical animation, had not yet arrived on the scene. Cartoons were still in that hyper-realist phase which turns out in retrospect to have been their golden age. The standards of animation set by Walt Disney and MGM cost a lot of time, effort and money, but as so often happens the art reached it height at the moment of maximum resistance from the medium. Knowing nothing of these theoretical matters, I simply consumed the product. I knew straight away that the Tom and Jerry cartoons were the best. In fact I even knew straight away that some Tom and Jerry cartoons were better than others. There was an early period when Tom’s features were puffy and he ran with a lope, motion being indicated by the streaks that animators call speed lines. In the later period Tom’s features had an acute precision and his every move was made fully actual, with no stylisation at all. Meanwhile Jerry slimmed down and acquired more expressiveness. The two periods were clearly separated in my mind, where they were dubbed ‘old drawings’ and ‘new drawings’. I remember being able to tell which category a given Tom and Jerry cartoon fell into from seeing the first few frames. Eventually I could tell just from the logo. I remember clearly the feeling of disappointment if it was going to be old drawings and the feeling of elation if it was going to be new drawings.

But the serials were what caught my imagination most, especially the ones in which the hero was masked. It didn’t occur to me until much later that the producers, among whom Sam Katzman was the doyen, kept the heroes masked so that the leading actors could not ask for more money. At the time it just seemed logical to me that a hero should wear a masked. It didn’t have to be as elaborate as Batman’s mask. I admired Batman, despite the worrying wrinkles in the arms and legs of his costume, which attained a satisfactory tautness only in the region of his stomach. But Robin’s mask was easier to copy. So was the Black Commando’s. My favourite serials were those in which masked men went out at night and melted mysteriously into the urban landscape. Science fiction serials were less appealing at that stage, while white hunter epics like The Lost City of the Jungle merely seemed endless. I saw all fourteen episodes of The Lost City of the Jungle except the last. It would have made no difference if I had only seen the last episode and missed the thirteen leading up to it. The same things happened every week. Either two parties of white hunters in solar topees searched for each other in one part of the jungle, or else the same two parties of white hunters in solar topees sought to avoid each other in another part of the jungle. Meanwhile tribesmen from the Lost City either captured representatives of both parties and took them to the High Priestess for sacrifice, or else ran after them when they escaped. Sometimes white hunters escaping ran into other white hunters being captured, and were either recaptured or helped the others escape. It was obvious even to my unschooled eyes that there was only about half an acre of jungle, all of it composed of papier mâché. By the end of each episode it was beaten flat. The screen would do a spiral wipe around an image of the enthroned High Priestess, clad in a variety of tea-towels and gesturing obdurately with a collection of prop sceptres while one of the good white hunters – you could tell a good one from a bad one by the fact that a bad one always sported a very narrow moustache – was lowered upside down into a pit of limp scorpions.

Comments: Clive James (born 1939) is an Australian broadcaster, critic, poet and essayist. These extracts from his first volume of memoirs cover the period of the late 1940s. The films mentioned include Tarzan’s New York Adventure (USA 1942), Batman (1943, 15 episodes), The Secret Code (USA 1942, 15 episodes, featuring ‘The Black Commando’) and The Lost City of the Jungle (USA 1946, 13 episodes). There were numerous Jungle Jim films from 1948 onwards. Rockdale is a suburb of Sydney.

Sociology of Film

Source: J.P. Mayer, Sociology of Film: Studies and Documents (London: Faber and Faber, 1946), pp. 205-208

Text: 22. Mr. …

An ardent filmgoer since the early days of Cinema I can recall no instance of a film encouraging me to make any important personal decision. I was, however, inspired during adolescence by the antics of the late Douglas Fairbanks, snr. I tried to imitate his personal mannerisms and emulate his athletic prowess in the mistaken belief that I could, so achieve an extra strength and self reliance — (at the time I suffered from exaggerated feelings of inferiority).

Since those days, I have never consciously desired to imitate anything admired in others, on the screen.

Whereas my early cinegoing was largely a matter of ‘escapism’, to-day choice has supplanted habit. What concerns me now is enjoyment through interest, not escape through fantasy. I now seek interest through appraisement and analysis. The appreciation of good acting, imaginative lighting, interestingly authentic decor and wardrobe, evocative ‘cutting’, the expressive use of sound and dialogue — in short, seeing films ‘whole’ motivates my present day picturegoing. It is the content and manipulation of a film that now interests me and not merely that a film can provide a temporary escape from a reality which is, in nine cases out of ten, largely self-created.

Having grown up with the Cinema my understanding and appreciation of it has matured just as the Cinema has, in many ways, itself matured. It was during the pre-talkie period of the so-called ‘Golden Era’ of German and Swedish production, that I first became aware of the real possibilities inherent in the film as an art, and a mental and cultural stimulus. The notorious Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, for instance, excited my imagination because, for me it opened up new vistas of a fascinating and undreamed of significance.

‘Caligari’ is said to have changed the whole outlook of cinema, and I believe that it did.

I will admit that my first impressions here were largely bound up with childhood wonder and excitation experienced through Grimm’s fairy tales. I think ‘Caligari’ re-created for me those perhaps rather unhealthy delights, connected somehow with fear, i.e. the fascination of weirdness, dark forests, witches, hobgoblins, magic, sinister castles, and, in fact, the frighteningly suggestive in general.

And yet it was through such films as Caligari, Waxworks, The Student of Prague, The Golem, Nosferatu (Dracula), etc., etc. that I was subsequently to acquire a more objective understanding of what artistic and constructive film entertainment could mean. They gave me my first insight into the true potentialities of Cinema.

To-day, I visit films less often, and when rare and culturally valuable ones such as Citizen Kane, Earth, The Grapes of Wrath, etc. do become available I try to see them as often as possible before they disappear — possibly for ever.

In answer to your question regarding fashions and manners, it is obvious, and especially with regard to women, how greatly the screen has influenced and encouraged consciousness of and interest in personal appearance and behaviour. Women have learned the value of attractive clothing and make-up in the development of poise and self confidence, or at least a sense of it, for I notice that people influenced by such things frequently fail to adopt them with any real degree of success.

Misapplication, resulting in artificiality rather than attractiveness seems all too often the inevitable result. Finger nails and hair ‘do’s’ are not necessarily indicative of character or self reliance, or even of good taste.

Personally, I cannot say that I have been influenced in any way here. I believe that real poise and self confidence result from an objective rather than a subjective attitude to life. I would far rather be my natural self (at least as far as I am capable of being), than a second rate edition of some movie idol I admired, or might happen, faintly to resemble.

Love and divorce do not apply to me. For one thing I have never really been in love, and for another I do not believe that the screen exercises so much influence with morals as seems generally to be supposed.

So now to dreams. I believe that few people dream about the films they see, but I can recall (though of necessity, only partially) dream experiences the content of which included the Cinema in one form or another, although I have never dreamed of any particular film. When I have dreamed about Cinema, the building itself seems always to have been included. Sometimes it has been curved in shape, (which is when I have been inside), and sometimes square, and rather aggressively strong looking, (and then I have been outside). Recognising, in my limited understanding of Freudian psychology, that ‘shape’ has significance in dreams, I draw, or imagine I draw, the obvious conclusion here. I have also dreamt of meeting ‘stars’ personally, and having them regard my criticisms of their work and of Cinema in general as something to marvel at.

I certainly do feel that the Cinema can and does exercise considerable, and probably far reaching influence on individual psychology, and mainly in the sense that many filmgoers tend unconsciously to identify themselves with pictured characters and emotional situations. More briefly, many of us see ourselves in the movies we like.

I think, for example that it is possible to read into films the things we would really like to do and be. But are the things we enjoy really projections of the hidden truths about us? I cannot arrive at a decision about this.

I do think about it, but I really do not know. I would very much like to determine just why I believe my initial reactions to say Caligari, or Warning Shadows, or perhaps The Street or The Last Laugh, would not be repeated were I able to see them again to-day.

I might still enjoy them as museum pieces, and in a nostalgic sort of way, but would, somehow be unable to ‘recapture the first fine careless rapture’. This overlong letter must now end.

I hope you will gather at least something from it that is worthwhile to you. I expect there are many things I have failed to remember, and probably from your own point of view the most important ones of all, but, on the spur of the moment, it is the best I can do in the time at my disposal. I have tried to be truthful about it, but how often can one be satisfied that one has succeeded in being really truthful? As a psychologist, you will probably arrive at a much truer solution to this problem than I myself am at all capable of achieving.

Age — 44. Sex — Male. Nationality — British. Profession — Shopkeeper — (now in costing office of war factory).
Profession of Father — Builder. Mother — originally a court dressmaker.

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 ‘The Adult and the Cinema’. People were asked to answer two questions: Have films ever influenced you with regard to personal decisions or behaviour? and Have films ever appeared in your dreams? The films referred to here are Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (Germany 1920), Das Wachsfigurenkabinett (Waxworks) (Germany 1924), Der Student von Prag (Germany 1926), Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (Germany 1920), Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (Germany 1922), Citizen Kane (USA 1941), Zemlya (Earth) (USSR 1930), The Grapes of Wrath (USA 1940), Schatten (Warning Shadows) (Germany 1923), Die Straße (Germany 1923) and Der letzte Mann (The Last Laugh) (Germany 1924).

Sociology of Film

Source: J.P. Mayer, Sociology of Film: Studies and Documents (London: Faber and Faber, 1946), pp. 117-118

Text: 7. Y.L.

I go to the films about once every fortnight, and I only go to it if it is worth while. I can’t bear sob-stuff. Another sort of film I loathe are jazz and swing films. For instance, I went to a news theatre about a month ago, and one of the short films showed a band, and one of the singers was so funny, that everyone was absolutely roaring with laughter. I laughed so much that I was nearly crying. A man in front of me choked from laughing, and he had to go out of the theatre.

As I have said before, I don’t like love and sob-stuff. It not only amuses me, but it also bores me stiff. When two people kiss each other and keep like it for about ten minutes, I think I have reason to be bored.

Once I went to the pictures on a Saturday afternoon, and there were two women behind me. One of them was telling the other one all about the film, and also keeping a running commentary going. It got to the pitch when I felt as if I wanted to tear her hair off. My mother, who had come with me got in such a temper that she had to tell the woman to be quiet (in I am afraid a rather rude way). I am interested in historical films, and also murders. I am afraid to say that I am very bloodthirsty. Murder films affect some people, so that they have nightmares. That has only happened to me once. I had been to see a film about a detective. While a man who was a dealer in gold, was sitting with his back to a window in his house, a pair of hands came through the open window, clutched him round the neck, and finally strangled him. The man let out the most awful shriek, which went right through me. That night I dreamt I saw someone sitting in front of the window, and a pair of hands came up behind him. I rushed up and clutched the hands. The man who had tried to strangle the other man chased me all through the woods and goodness knows what, and when he caught me up, and was just about to strangle me, I woke up. You could not imagine how very relieved I was, at that particular moment to wake up. I was very surprised with myself, as I had never had a real nightmare before. As you have gathered from this essay, I like historical and detective films, but not love.

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 in the Cinema’ which reproduces essays obtained from a school in Hampstead, the contributors being “on the average not older than 12½ … their parents are probably mostly members of the middle class”. They were invited to write about the films that they liked.

British Cinemas and Their Audiences

Source: J.P. Mayer, British Cinemas and their Audiences: Sociological Studies (London: Dennis Dobson, 1948), pp. 50-52

Text: NO. 17
AGE: 18 YRS. 8 MONTHS SEX: F.
FATHER: MECHANICAL ENGINEER, MOTHER: HOUSEWIFE
OCCUPATION: CIVIL SERVICE CLERK P.O. TELEPHONES
NATIONALITY: BRITISH

It was at the tender age of seven, when I first embarked upon the exciting and mysterious adventure of a visit to the cinema, under the supervision of Mother and Father; and ever since then, almost as far back as I can remember, I have had a deep interest in the film world and all concerned with it, an interest which increased in intensity as I grew older. The first film I saw was a silent one, and I remember leaving the cinema feeling rather excited and a wee bit sorry for some poor man, who had fallen head first into a barrel of flower [sic].

Time passed and I became more friendly with the other children in my street, and the excursions to the cinema became frequent and exciting exciting because I began to understand the actors and actresses, and the stories woven around them, which gave us youngsters our regular Saturday afternoon entertainment. To miss even one of these shows with my little playmates was a heart-rending disappointment, because I knew I should miss the next episode in the film serial. The latter was always my firm favourite, whatever the story. I hero-worshipped Larry Crabbe in Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars. At this time I would be about nine years old, and even then I was quite jealous if anyone else had a photograph of Mr. Crabbe.

Films affected our play very much. Our second favourite was a good Western film, with plenty of shooting, fighting and fast riding. After becoming thoroughly worked up about Buck Jones or Ken Maynard, we would enact these films, in versions all our own, after school each day the following week.

Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse followed closely on my list in third place. I adored Walt Disney cartoons, and, if I may be so bold as to admit it – I still do!

I disliked animal pictures intensely, because they all made me weep. They might not have been sad, but still I choked up when one was showing. I think it may be as well to add here that in all these months of picturegoing I was never frightened by any film, indeed every film was such a new thrill and experience that I don’t think I ever thought of fear.

During this time, too, new words crept into my vocabulary, and I remember clearly that my parents were quite shocked when I first used the word ‘scram’ before them! I liked to copy expressions used by my favourite actors, and use them often. One of the latter was Shirley Temple, and I liked to think that I could give a very good impression of her singing ‘Animal Crackers’. She was a firm favourite of mine and my friends.

At the age of thirteen, when I was enjoying second year at high school, and when the Saturday trips to the local cinema had ceased, I was experiencing varied emotions as a result of picture-going. It was then that I first began to pick out the films I wanted to see, and to go not just out of habit or for the sake of going, but because I knew just what it was I had a desire to see. Passionate schoolgirl ‘crushes’ followed each other as new and handsome men made their appearances on the screen. Many were the nights I cried myself to sleep because John Howard, Preston Foster or Robert Taylor was so far away. One glimpse of any of them would have sufficed and I felt I would have been the happiest girl in the world. Possessing a vivid imagination, I had wonderful dreams of being discovered by a Hollywood talent-scout, of visiting Hollywood and perhaps even playing opposite one of my favourite movie stars.

But inevitably I had to put these preoccupations in the background because lessons and homework needed concentration; at the age of sixteen I matriculated, and a little later left school to earn my own living.

An important load off my mind, I was again free to think more and spend more time upon what had once been a cherished hobby. I found I had lost none of the former interest; indeed, I indulged in a little wishful dreaming, and the one temptation was to run away from home and become an actress like Jane Withers. This I knew could never materialise, circumstances would not permit, so I had to be content with regular film-going and collecting pictures and magazines.

Then I once remember having a desperate desire to become a nurse, when I saw Rosamund John act so wonderfully well in The Lamp Still Burns; but it was a mere whim because I liked the film so much, and passed away in a matter of days.

So to the present day. The cinema is my main source of entertainment, and I am not really difficult to please as far as films are concerned. I like most kinds of productions but my favourites are flying epics, such as A Guy Named Joe and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, and straight dramatic stories, of the kind that Old Acquaintance represents. I have a deep admiration for Van Johnson, Irene Dunne, Bette Davis and Spencer Tracy; I envy them because their kind of life is so far beyond my reach, because the work they do is so hard and so very interesting, a job after my own heart.

Films have a great influence upon me. I find myself trying to be original in my method of attire, and copy Hollywood beauty ‘tips’ when using make-up: I find it hard to control the emotions aroused by a touching or very dramatic scene, and I cry very easily. The desire to become an actress is still prevalent and my interest in drama has increased. Thus I have become rather dissatisfied with my present existence and with the neighbourhood in which I live, but I love home life and, until the world is at peace again and our loved ones are safely restored to us, I am content to remain as I am, and just to plan and dream about a long awaited trip to that intriguing city of Hollywood, to see for myself everything and everyone that contributes to the making of the entertainment I love so much.

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 competitions in Picturegoer magazine. This contribution comes from the section ‘Films and the Pattern of Life’. The films mentioned are Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (USA 1938, serial), The Lamp Still Burns (UK 1943), A Guy Named Joe (USA 1943), Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (USA 1944) and Old Acquaintance (USA 1943).

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).