and encompassing the development of celluloid film and
its projection to a large audience. It is also the result of the efforts to
create spaces for the public exhibition of moving images; grand spaces which
have embraced and reflected the great modernist project of the twentiethcentury. Hansen argues that cinema was integral to the notion of
‘modern life’ with all of its upheavals and sensuous
Every generation since Conan Doyle has had its perfect Holmes. An
ideal Holmes exhibition would include for the first two decades of the twentiethcentury William Gillette, for the 1930s Arthur Wontner, for the 1940s Basil
Rathbone, for the 1950s Carleton Hobbs, for the 1960s Peter Cushing and for the
1980s and 1990s Jeremy Brett. Several of the interpreters of Holmes were
aficionados of the stories and faced with scriptwriters’ inventions, pressed
themselves as cinemas, or their long-term renting. In 1907 the Balham Empire
was reopened as a film-only venue by the British Cinema Company (although it
had been preceded by the Theatre Royal in Sheffield in 1904). What is
certain is that in the first seven years of the twentiethcentury the majority of film
shows were taking place in music halls and other halls that were temporarily
hired for the purpose.
That cinema ever moved
entertainment between the two countries. The Americans took to such
quintessentially British figures as Shakespeare, Dickens, Scott, Kipling, Conan
Doyle and Gilbert and Sullivan with as much enthusiasm as the British took to such
quintessentially American writers as Fenimore Cooper, Longfellow, Washington
Irving and Bret Harte.
What linked many of these writers and spanned the Atlantic during
the nineteenth and twentiethcenturies was a commitment to chivalry. It was in
many. Comparing working-class life in the 1930s with that in the early part
of the twentiethcentury, Branson and Heinemann observed that on the whole
it was less monotonous and drab. 72 However, they added that in contrast:
Never had it been made so easy for the factory or
office worker to live a complete fantasy life in substitution or
compensation for the hardships of the real
It has long been recognized that films played
a vital role in the social and cultural lives of the people of the United States
and the United Kingdom in the first half of the twentieth-century. But the power
of films in the imaginative lives of audiences can only be properly understood
when films are located within the wider cinema culture, which comprised fan
magazines, cigarette cards, postcards, cheap biographies, the book of the film
drink, clothes and holidays. The
values celebrated were comradeship, a mild anti-authoritarianism, defined gender
roles and the idea of an immutable social order. It was the music hall (or
variety, the form into which it evolved in the twentiethcentury) which fed the
twentiethcentury’s new media – films, records and the wireless. Music
hall provided the songs, the sketches and the stars for these new media.
Michael Standing, Head of BBC Variety, claiming that
twentieth-century writers John Galsworthy and Arnold Bennett. There was also
a regular sequence of adventure novels starting with The Prisoner of Zenda
and including The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, The Tower of London,
The Four Feathers, King Solomon’s Mines, Treasure Island and Tom
The writer Alan Sillitoe was born in 1928 into a very poor
Nottingham family, his labourer father being frequently unemployed. But he
of hand stratagems.
In retrospect Powell concluded that in shooting the film, ‘I
had fallen into the oldest trap in the world; the trap of the picturesque …
It’s a particular curse of the British cinema … actors plus costumes
plus twentiethcentury landscapes equals coloured picture postcards’. 19
But this was not his only problem, there was the casting. He had
wanted Rex Harrison for the role of Sir Percy. But he was compelled to cast David
Ritz’s comparatively small size
(fewer than 500 seats), this was still a remarkable run.
8 Daily Film Renter, 20 May 1940, p. 4.
9 Brad Beaven and John Griffiths, ‘The blitz, civilian morale and the city: MassObservation and working-class culture in Britain, 1940–41’, Urban History,
26:1 (1999), p. 72.
10 National Archives of Scotland: GD 289/1: Ledgers of the Playhouse and
Palace cinemas. These ledgers are analysed in Ingrid Jeacle, ‘“Going to the
movies”: accounting and twentieth-century cinema’, Accounting, Auditing &
Accountability Journal, 22:5 (2009).