Indirect Journey

Source: Harold Hobson, Indirect Journey: An Autobiography (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1978), pp. 152-153

Text: Not only did we shout on the roads, but we also sometimes made a noise in the cinema, too, and in the theatre – not, of course, in the Playhouse, which we rightly regarded with reverential awe, but in the old New Theatre, where the number one touring companies brought London’s big musical comedy successes. Here were gaiety and pretty girls, and lively dancing, and catchy tunes, and loudly did we cheer artists like the enchanting Cora Goffin (now Lady Littler) and the comedian Arthur Riscoe. There were then three cinemas in Oxford (perhaps there still are) – the Super near the top of Beaumont Street, the Electra in Queen Street, and the Scala at the wrong end of Walton Street. At the Electra we saw the first and most memorable Beau Geste with Ronald Colman; at the Scala Lubitsch’s Foolish Wives, then looked upon as the last word in daring sophistication: and I recall one evening at the Super when we seem constantly to have interrupted the opening film of the programme with cries of ‘We want Laura! We want Laura!’, Laura being the then much esteemed, but now totally forgotten, Laura La Plante. Strangely enough no one in the rest of the audience seems to have objected to our behaviour: perhaps, without knowing it, we were the voice of the people. Frequently as we went to the cinema we did nor go half as often as Henry Yorke, who is said to have gone to the films six times a week all his years in Oxford. It seems to have done him little harm, either in practical or aesthetic terms. For he became a highly successful businessman in Birmingham, and as a sideline to his main activities a celebrated novelist under the name of Henry Green: the only novelist of our age, said Evelyn Waugh, to possess undoubted genius.

Comments: Harold Hobson (1904-1992) was a renowned theatre critic. This part of his memoirs refers to his time at Oxford University. Foolish Wives (1922) was directed by Erich von Stroheim, not Lubitsch.

Family Life and Work Experience Before 1918

Source: Extract from interview with Mrs Annely, Thompson, P. and Lummis, T., Family Life and Work Experience Before 1918, 1870-1973 [computer file]. 7th Edition. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive [distributor], May 2009. SN: 2000, http://dx.doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-2000-1

Text: Q: Cinemas, lantern slide shows, that kind of thing – was there anything like that you remember?

A: Oh, of course we were allowed to go to the cinema. 2d. at one cinema and ld. at the other. As long as you sat on hard wooden forms in the Jeune Street Cinema. And the Cowley Road one we used to go to very often. That was one of the places where my brother used to have to take me when I was small. But my first memory of Cowley Road was that it was a small theatre and the people that lived next door to us, she used to put some of the actors and actresses up, so we used to get a free pass to go up there. She used to send us a free pass in so we three children used to go and see some of the variety acts that they had there.

Q: It was more a variety theatre was it?

A: Yes. Very much like a music hall type of place. I think there’s been quite a lot of news about it, in the Oxford Mail recently you know. Antony Wood has been following it up.

Q: About the old style music halls?

A: About the old style music halls, yes. Up Cowley Road, the Old Palace as it was called. He’s done quite a lot of work on that

Q: Used you to go quite often to that then?

A: I would say every Saturday.

Q: And what about the cinemas, were they on Saturdays, too?

A: Yes. Usually a children’s performance in the morning.

Q: Were there special children’s programmes that you went to when your brother took you, or was it adult films?

A: I would think that they were adult films, but of course, you didn’t get “X” films like you do today.

Q: Oh, no. No I was thinking about your mother with her very particular ideas about upbringing, I think it probably must have been quite suitable for her to let your brother…

A: Oh, yes. I don’t think we would have been allowed to see anything that wasn’t quite suitable.

Comments: Mrs Annelly was born in Oxford in 1905, the youngest of three children. Her father was a house painter and decorator. Her mother was a cook for a doctor before marriage. She was one of 444 people interviewed by Paul Thompson and his team as part of a study of the Edwardian era which resulted in Thompson’s book The Edwardians: The Remaking of British Society (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1975). The cinema referred to may be the Oxford Picture Palace, which was on the corner of Cowley Road and Jeune Street.