Wednesday, 9 November 2016

When Tom Mix played at the Pavilion, our first picture house

Now Tom Mix is someone I have come to know though sadly I have never seen any of his films.

He was an American film actor and starred in many early western movies.

He appeared in 291 short films and feature films between 1909 and 1935 and was a model for actors like Ronald Reagan and John Wayne.

And the Pavilion which later became the Chorlton Theatre and Winter Gardens was where one young man saw Tom Mix..

Now this I know because his daughter Ann told me so and it is the first moment when I can identify both a film that was shown and someone who went there.

It opened in 1904 and was acquired by H D Moorhouse in 1909.

Like many early cinemas it hedged its bets and continued to offer variety acts.
In the June of 1910 it offered a bill of variety including the Whips.

By then it had become the Chorlton Theatre and Winter Gardens and stayed open through the inter war years.

Looking at this 1910 photograph of the theatre it is hard to think anyone would be impressed in going there.

It has all the appearance of a big wooden shed, which I guess is what it was.

It had been built on land which the railway company still intended to use for extra track and so only permitted buildings which could be easily demolished.

But maybe I am being a tad unfair because the monochrome picture cannot convey what must have been a brightly painted building.

Even before you went into the theatre you first had to buy a ticket from the pay box which with its wrought and cast iron additions must have brought back memories of seaside piers. And greeting the theatre goer were the picture of the stars they were about to see.

But despite still showing films in the years after the First World War, it had been eclipsed by the far more impressive Palais de Luxe Cinema which had been opened in 1915 on Barlow Moor Road close to the tram terminus.

So sometime in the 1930s it closed by which time we had two very posh cinemas and another which opened in 1937.

Few now know it even existed and so completely has it vanished from the record that it gets no mention in the book on Manchester cinemas*

And just after I posted this today Sandra shared her memories of her grandfather "who was born 1896 used to tell me in a joke that the latest film showing at The Plaza in Stockport near where we lived was 'Tom Mix in Cement'. Haha really it was a joke to him but I didn't realise at the time that this man was a film star not 'mixing cement' thanks for the information and bringing back a childhood memory for me."

I guess Tom touched many more lives that those who saw him in the big screen.

*The Golden Years of Manchester Picture Houses, Derek J Southall, 2010,

Picture; from the Lloyd Collection circa 1910

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