Mass-Observation at the Movies

Source: Mrs E. Skellen, quoted in Jeffrey Richards and Dorothy Sheridan (eds.), Mass-Observation at the Movies (London/New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 121

Text: Mrs E. Skellen, 5 Roseberry St (aged 27), regular cinema-goer (5-6 times a month), preference – American films

Comments: When I go to the pictures I go to be entertained. For this reason I don’t like seeing what producers fondly imagine are true to life films, simply because they are not true to life. I know far more about my own problems than film producers do or ever will do, so that when I go to the pictures I don’t want to see these problems solved (to the satisfaction of the producers) in what are called true to life pictures. I like seeing historical romances i.e. Charge of the Light Brigade, Captain Blood or such films as Queen Victoria etc. Failing this, I like Musical Comedies or a really good Detective Picture because they take my mind off everyday things, and going to the pictures is a change and a tonic if I can see the films that I have mentioned.

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. The films she refers to are The Charge of the Light Brigade (USA 1936), Captain Blood (USA 1935) and Victoria the Great (UK 1937).