Mass-Observation at the Movies

Source: Annie Whittle, quoted in Jeffrey Richards and Dorothy Sheridan (eds.), Mass-Observation at the Movies (London/New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 134

Text: Mrs Annie Whittle, 40 Salisbury St (aged 65), regular cinema-goer (6 times per month), preference – American films

Comments: I go to the cinema primarily for relaxation and entertainment. A lot of American films are alright for Americans but not for us as the meaning is lost to us, i.e. various rackets. Like to see musicals but get fed up with that foot-tapping, a bit, alright, a lot, bored. Like to see films with good singers and beautiful natural scenery. Think films like Three Smart Girls are excellent, for their spontaneity and freshness. Think British musicals are excellent but the rest a long way of American. As yet waiting for the time to come when British films will portray ordinary people like the Americans do, not impossible if talent and something else is required.

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 Odeon, Ashburner Street. Three Smart Girls (USA 1936) starred Deanna Durbin.