This lists the films that my grandad and mother recorded seeing. It is a work in progress! Brief details are given here by year.
A Note on Cinemas
In 1914, grandad tended to go to the cinema twice per week once to Kings, usually on a Wednesday, and once to the Star usually on a Thursday. He very occasionally went to other cinemas, e.g. to Nottingham Palace in June.
Most of the Films He Saw Have Been Lost
While it is possible to identify the films he watched, almost all are lost. A few exceptions are available on YouTube including “Curse of Greed” and “Traffic in Souls“.
Turns and Acts
In addition to films, Kings also featured live acts or “turns“. Some of these included the illusionist Victor the Great, Daisy Graham and her birds and the village nuts. Some were described in general terms, e.g. eight “chinamen” acting, a woman shooter and a man who could lift 12 men. On the day war was declared, 5 August 1914, grandad went to see Buckingham’s Performing Dogs. In October 1914, the wrestling champion George de Relwyskow visited.
Mostly to Kings
In 1915, grandad went mainly to Kings but occasionally to the Star.
Again, while it is possible to identify the films he watched, almost all are lost. A few exceptions are available on YouTube including “Quo Vadis“.
A Few Turns at Kings
There were a few “turns” at Kings including the Red, White and Blue cyclists and the Five Stars.
Mostly to the Star
This year, grandad went only to the Star and he went most weeks.
Price of Jealousy
Almost all the films mentioned are lost although “Price of Jealousy” is available on YouTube.
Mostly to the Star
This year, grandad went mainly to the Star and he went most weeks. He did note going to Kings once. That was on 20 March 1918 to see “The Birth of a Nation”. This film is one of the few available on YouTube in whole or in part. Others include “Pearl of the Army”.
Grandad usually went on his own but sometimes went with others including his sister, Eva, his nephew, Gordon, his brother-in-law, John, and his friend Billie Clover.
Recurring Actors and Directors
One thing I noted is that grandad saw some actors in multiple films. One example is Marie Walcamp who grandad saw in “Won in the Clouds” in 1914, in “Coral” and “The Yellow Star” in 1917 and in “Who Pulled the Trigger” and “The Red Ace” in 1918. She was an American actress who appeared in more than 50 films between 1913 and 1929. Sadly, she committed suicide aged only 42.
Grandad also saw multiple films by the same director. For example, he saw a number of Percy Nash films including “Master and the Man” in 1915, “In the Days of Trafalgar” in 1917 and “Temporal Power” in 1918.
Some directors were also actors. For example, grandad saw William Duncan in “Bill Peters’ Kid” in 1917 and in “The Last Man” and “The Fighting Trail” in 1918. William Duncan also directed the latter film.
The Birth of a Nation – A Very Controversial Film
It seems that grandad specifically made the effort to see “The Birth of a Nation”, directed by D W Griffiths, as he went to see this at Kings rather than going to the Star as was his usual practice. This is a hugely controversial film. The Silent Film Group on Facebook only allow comments on this film on one stream which is closely moderated and which is closed, from time to time. While there are those who consider the film to be a “landmark in cinema history” and a “technical masterpiece”, others consider that the only things new in the film were length and scale. Underlying the controversy is the extremely racist nature of the film, particularly its treatment of African Americans, and its role in reinvigorating groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.
Fewer Cinema Trips
Grandad recorded fewer cinema trips during this period. I don’t know if this was because he was going less or just not recording when he went. From November, he was back to going to the Star weekly, mostly with Cyril Smith, but he did not record what they saw.
A Few Named Films
Grandad only named four films during this year – “At the Lion’s Mercy“, “The Moon Child“, “Love & Riches” and “Adventures among the Cannibals“. “The Moon Child” featured Marie Walcamp, mentioned above.
In August 1919, grandad went to the Hippodrome in Nottingham with Cyril. I am not sure if this was Cyril Parkin, his brother, or Cyril Smith, his brother-in-law. Grandad did not record what he saw but it appears to have been a live show featuring Lily Long, the Seven Bramuses, the Four Minims, Private C Connell, Wilfred Burnand, Horace Ainsley, Laura Neil and Takeo and Komo Namba.
While grandad noted going to the Star Cinema most weeks between January and March 1920, he mostly did not record the films he saw. He did note that on many occasions he went with his brother-in-law, John Smith.
The Divine Gift
The only film he identified as seeing at the Star in 1920 was “The Divine Gift” directed by Thomas Bentley. Grandad had seen other films by Thomas Bentley including “David Copperfield” in 1915 and “Barnaby Rudge” in 1916.
Auction of Souls
In June 1920, grandad and John Smith went to the Mansfield Picturedrome to see the film “Auction of Souls“. A twenty minute clip of this film about the Armenian genocide still exists.
Grandad did not record seeing any films in 1921. I don’t know if his means he did not see any or just that he did not record them.
As with 1921, grandad did not note any films seen. On 27 December, he noted going to see the pantomime “Cinderella” with his sister-in-law, Minnie.
Grandad did note going to the cinema six times in 1923. However, two of these visits were for variety-type shows rather than to see films. Of interest perhaps is that only one of these trips was to a cinema in Kirkby. That was to Kings and was to see “Over the Hill“. The remainder of his trips were to cinemas in Nottingham including the Elite, Long Row Palace, Hippodrome, the Empire and King’s, see Chapter 21 for details of these cinemas. Of interest perhaps is that each of the four films we know grandad saw in 1923 are available, in whole or in part, on YouTube. These include “Over the Hill“, “Foolish Wives“, “The Sheik” and “Way Down East“.
Grandad noted seeing two films in 1924. On 20 February, he went to Kings to see “An Exciting Night” which I suspect was the D W Griffith Film “One Exciting Night“. On 5 August, he went to the Elite in Nottingham. He did not note what he saw but, from newspaper records, it appears it was “The Loves of Mary Queen of Scots”. On this day, he also went to the Hippodrome in Nottingham to see the play “Potash and Perlmutter“. “One Exciting Night” is available to watch on YouTube. I have found reference to a copy of “The Loves of Mary Queen of Scots” existing but this does not appear to be easily available online. Gerald Ames appeared in that film. Grandad had seen a number of his films including “On His Majesty’s Service” and “A Highwayman’s Honour“.