Sunday, 13 March 2016

Down at the Savoy Cinema in 1937 on Manchester Road watching Road to Glory

Now back in the summer of 1937 I could have had three cinemas to choose from here in Chorlton and of these the most impressive was the Savoy on Manchester Road which had opened in 1920 as the Picture House before being renamed the Savoy when it was leased to the Savoy Cinemas and later became the Gaumont.

And in the summer of 1937 for three days I could have gone and seen Road to Glory made the year before by Howard Hawks which told the story of trench life during the Great War through the lives of a French regiment and included as you would expect a tangled “love interest” between a nurse and two officers.

I am not sure it would have appealed but at least I know what was on offer and that is thanks to Peter McLoughlin who shared this film bill with me.

I doubt that there are many of these still knocking around.  After all they are the sort of thing which you pick and then discard but this one has survived it is a wonderful insight into a night at the “flicks.”

The obvious starting point are the films themselves and in time I will look them all up and in the process get something of an idea of what the cinema going public were being offered back then.

For modern audiences the frequency of the shows will also be a revelation.  

When I was growing up in the 1950s you got I think a week of the same show, but two decades earlier and programmes changed more regularly which I guess is both a recognition of the number of films being churned out but also that people went to the pictures more than once a week.

Not that this should be much of a surprise.  In an age before the telly the pictures offered a nights entertainment which included the film and a newsreel and was all done with style.

The old flea pits still existed but the big purpose built cinemas of the 1920s and more especially the 30’s gave you a sense of luxury which started with the uniformed doorman and continued with that plush auditorium which was light and bright and had a distinctive smell which I guess was a mix of those thick carpets and the floor polish and much later there was the smell of the hot dogs slowly cooking in a corner beyond the box office.

And the picture houses were warm which on a cold winter’s night was another attraction and on one of those dark nights they would be one of the only buildings which were lit up and acted a beacon as well as a promise of a good night ahead.

All of which brings me back to that film bill and the simple observation that you should always be careful about what you are going to throw away.

Pictures; film bill for the Savoy ABC, 1937 courtesy of Peter McLoughlin, and the Picture House later the Savoy, 1922, from the Lloyd Collection.

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