'What do you remember about some of the films and the stars?' 'You know there was something about those old films that you
never get now. I can't explain it but it's as though they were magical
and the stars were unreal I suppose it was caused by all the ballyhoo
about Hollywood and so you expected them to be 'other worldly'. I went
several times a week to the local cinemas but it was mainly to see the
stars like Clark Gable, Ronald Coleman or Errol Flynn. I would lose
myself in their eyes and because they were on the big screen it was even
better. If ever I watch them on the telly, it's never the same.'
'There were so many of the films which were really great. The
stories, which you don't get now or so it seems anyway, were so good.
They were often based on some of the best books written. The stars of
the films were very good, especially people like Clark Gable, Spencer
Tracey and Errol Flynn. My real favourite though was David Niven. He was
about the only British actor who could compare to the stars in
Hollywood. The best films of the time were Gone With The Wind, Waterloo
Bridge and Random Harvest. They were such moving films and you found
yourself in a different world, especially as the war was on.'
'I liked the weepie films best of all and the more I cried the more I
loved them. They made such lovely films.'
'Me and my chap loved the musicals especially
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films. My favourite was Flying Down To
Rio. I don't think there's been any better musicals made since then.'
'The first films I ever saw were silent and I think it was Buster
Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. They were really great'
'You couldn't beat the swashbuckler films like Scaramouche and the
Musketeers films. My real favourite star was Errol Flynn.'
'The big films were nearly always American. They were really lavish
productions and were nearly always better than the English films.'
'I always went to see the big American films but I seldom went to see
English films. We always felt that the English films were no good, I
don't know why but that's what we believed.'
'Too many of the English films seemed third rate to me and my mates
so we only went to see an American film and the big stars. Even if an
English film was on with an American film we wouldn't stay for the
'Most of the films when I first went to the cinema were
black and white. I never really liked them and I still don't. Give me a
coloured film any time.'
'We always found the coloured films more interesting than the black
and white films. The epics were my own favourite films, especially the
Ten Commandments and Spartacus.'
'Gone With The Wind was the best film ever made, I think. They will
never match it, no matter what the special effects or the stars.'
'I really liked the cowboys and it was always comforting to know that
the feller with the white hat was going to win.'
'Some of my favourites were the pin ups like
Tyrone Power, Cornel Wilde and Robert Taylor. You don't get men like
that any more in the films. The stars now seem to be young kids with
'Swashbuckling films were my favourites. The fellers used to swing
across the rigging of the ships and shin up the walls. You don't get any
such films now, do you? I wonder why.
'If ever I went to the pictures it would have to be one of the good
old action films, especially the gangsters. I loved James Cagney and
Humphrey Bogart films. I think my very favourite was White Heat where
James Cagney dies at the end in an enormous explosion. I think he said
something about being Top of the World or King of the World.'
'My dad was a film fanatic especially the G Men films as he called
them. What he meant was the gangsters, especially James Cagney. He
brought me up as a Cagney fan. On Sundays, if there was a gangster film
on the telly my dad would be sat in front of the screen and watch every
shot and I'd be sat by him. By the time I was about 12 I probably knew
more about the gangster films than any of my mates, and most of dad's
mates as well.'
'My mom was mad on Robert Taylor and that film called Waterloo
Bridge. She still cries if ever that film comes on the telly. She must
have seen it about a dozen times to my knowledge.'
'If you were lucky enough to have parents who were film fans you got
so much information from them about the films and you became a real
expert about certain films and certain stars. I was an expert on the
musicals and I'd go with my mom and dad to see every one of those
Rodgers and Hammerstein films and my mom would get all the records from
the earlier films with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in them.'
'Gene Kelly was my favourite and Singing in the
Rain must be the greatest film ever made, or at least that's my point of
view. Musicals were great fun, with all those singers and dancers and
blue skies and fantastic colour, marvellous!'
'Take me to the flicks was what I used to say to my morn and
dad and so often we'd all go, especially if the film was a musical with
Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly or Howard Keel. I still love to see them on the
telly. We've got Sky at home and so many of those old films come on it.
My own children and my grandchildren love them now.'
'If one of those Hollywood films was on at the local cinema,
my dad would come home from work and forget about his tea and go
straight off to see it. Mind you, it had to be either a cowboy or a
'It's funny when I think about it now but so many times we must've
gone and watched one of the John Wayne films and I bet you it was
probably the same story over and over again. Still, it was great.'
'Give me John Wayne on his horse or James Cagney with a machine gun
and I was made up for life. I'd go and when I came home I'd tell my dad
all about it. He never went because he was crippled but he loved to hear
about the films, It was more important to him than the news. When he
went out to the pub with his brothers he would talk about those films
just as though he'd been. It makes me cry now to think about it.'
'Kids nowadays don't get the chance to see the old stars and I bet
some of those stars like Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford
would be as big stars now as they were then.'
I remember the film which I think ended a lot of the
enthusiasm for the flicks, it was Rock Around The Clock with Bill Haley.
The reason I think that, was that the kids saw and heard the new music
and dancing and wanted to get up and dance and not go to the flicks like
their moms and dads had. Mind you many of the picture houses were
wrecked by the kids after watching that film.'
Having considered some of the general statements made by those people
interviewed during the completion of the booklet, it is now time to look
in more detail at the individual cinemas of the area. Most of the
recollections centred on the later cinemas of the period i.e. from about
1930, but there were a few examples from earlier years. The statements
are presented under the names of the individual cinemas, starting with
Wolverhampton, followed by Wednesfield and then Bilston.
'We used to pay a penny, an old penny I mean,
on a Saturday morning to go into the Olympia. We went in by the Westbury
Street entrance and got a comic, orange and apple. I reckon they gave us
those things to keep us quiet while the films were on. In fact, if you
dared make any noise in the Olympia they used to come and throw you out.
I think it was the doorman that used to do that. He had a uniform on.'
'There was a pianist at the cinema and he would play for the
audience before the film came on. I remember it was at the Olympia where
I first saw Pearl White and Tom Mix.'
'The first time I went to the Olympia was when I was about ten and
I'm sure it had wooden benches, not proper seats. That was about sixty
five years ago, so I might be wrong.'
'It lasted ever such a long time. I know that because I first went to
the Olympia when I was just 8 years old and I remember going there when
I was in my forties in the 1950's. By the time I went there last it had
changed a lot and was not very impressive inside, in fact it was a
typical flea pit cinema.'
'The Olympia was a bit of a joke among us. It was the place you went
to see the X films, even if it was a flea pit. I remember seeing some
really dreadful films there but loved every minute of it.'
'If you're talking about flea pits then the Olympia was the worst of
the lot. It was small, dirty and really seedy inside. It showed really
poor quality films as well I think. Mind you I never went so I suppose
I'm relying on other people's stories.'
'Some of the cinemas in town were real flea pits. I think the worst
was probably the Olympia because it was in a really vile part of town
and wasn't too well cared for when I went there. It was a shame when it
closed though because there were so few other cinemas about at that
'When I was a teenager we used to go to the Olympia quite often
because it showed X films and so it gave us a cheap thrill or a cheap
shock. I remember going one night with a couple of mates to see a film
called Rodin and sitting behind this tall broke who seemed really scared
of the monster in the film. We must have made his life a misery by
whispering in his ear, anyway he left before the end of the film. It was
pretty tame really.'
'The Olympia was one cinema I remember because I took a girl there
once and she was so disgusted by the film that I never saw her again.'