Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Sometime on a summers day in the early 1920s and a lost cinema

I am looking at a picture of the Savoy on Manchester Road. Few in Chorlton will remember it as the Savoy and any one born after the 1960s may only know it as the Co-op Undertakers. But for most of the early 20th century it was the largest of our cinemas here in Chorlton.

It is one of those wonderful photographs which reveal much about an older Chorlton.

It was taken sometime in the early 1920s on what must have been a warm summers day.

The man painting out last week’s film is in shirt sleeves and the two by the entrance are wearing straw hats which were popular in the early decades of the 20th century.

 But what locates it to sometime after 1920 are the films which were being shown.

Sea Wolf was made in 1913, Should a husband Forgive was made in 1919 while Butterfly Man dates from 1920. I am not sure what the films say about cinema audience in the 1920s all three in their different ways were tales of morality .

In Sea Wolf the hero who has been rescued from a collision at sea is unable to break away from his rescuer who forces him to become a cabin boy, do menial work, and learn to fight to protect himself from a brutal crew, but eventually he is set free.

 In Should a Husband forgive, the heroine is at first misunderstood by the love of her life and rejected till she saves him, and finally in Butterfly Man a social gad fly does one good deed but this is not enough to wipe out his many misdoings and the end of the film sees him alone and forlorn.

Sea Wolf had been written by Jack London was an immediate success and in the first film version starred Jack London as a seaman.

Now I have already written about the size and grandeur of these early picture houses and the Savoy was no exception. First there is the stone frontage with its columns, and embellishments topped by the twin domes and then there is the wrought iron canopy.

This was a big buildings possibly the biggest in the township. At night it would be lit up unlike any of our other buildings and even during the day must have attracted comment.

It was of course well sited given that this was the new Chorlton which had grown quickly in the last thirty years providing a ready audience. Next door was the snooker hall and within a few years there would be the rebuilt Royal Oak Hotel.

But it is also the little detail in the photograph that makes it special. Just in front of the cinema is the emergency telephone for summing the fire brigade, and a little to its left the ornate iron column carrying the tram cables.

So there you have it, a little slice of Chorlton in the summer of the early 20th century.

Picture; The Savoy cinema, Manchester Road early 1920s from the Lloyd Collection

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