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TitleChildren, Cinema and Censorship: From Dracula to Dead End (Turner Classic Movies British Film Guides)
PublisherI. B. Tauris
ISBN 139781850438137
CategoryArts - Film
File Size2.8 MB
Total Pages255
Document Text Contents
Page 2


Page 127

U certificates. But many also liked genres that tended to attract A
certificates – notably, gangster and horror films – and in order to see
these, if parents or guardians were not present, the use of strangers as
‘accompanying adults’ was widely practised. Interestingly, this activity
is not remembered by oral history respondents as an overtly
subversive act: they were not sneaking in under age to assert their right
to see ‘inappropriate’ films; they simply preferred certain films and
negotiated their way around official regulation in order to see them.

The common nature of this activity is reflected in the number of
respondents who mention it. Betty Verdant notes that ‘you had to be
14 [sic] to get in unaccompanied, but if you were alone you could wait
outside and ask a grownup if you could go in with them’.11 Brigadier
J.B. Ryall also recalls that when going to A films as a boy, he ‘would
wait for a man or couple to come along and say “Please Mister, here’s
my money would you please buy me a ticket”. This way’, he explains,
‘you dodged the censor.’12 The widespread use of this technique is also
described by Bernard Goodsall, who remembers, ‘like others of my
generation, asking people to take you in when an A certificate film was
on the menu’.13 Similarly, Olive Johnson suggests that this was a
common practice:

As [‘chillers’] were restricted to adults, we had to implore older
folk in the queue to ‘take us in’ with them! Very naughty, but all
children did it if they were unaccompanied by their own

Conversely, some children who looked old enough to attend A films
alone also used this device when seeking to pass as a child and gain
admission at a cheaper rate. Bill Grant lived in Scotland, where A
certificates were not enforced, but he also recalls sneaking in with

I can remember wanting to go to the Picture House in
Springburn and I would watch maybe a couple going down the
street. ‘Hey, mister! Will you take me in with you?’ I would give
him my money, but being accompanied with him I’d get in for
four pence. If I’d been on my own it would have cost me six

110 Children, Cinema and Censorship

Page 128

Some managers, however, did adhere to the rule that under-16s must
be accompanied to A films. Denis Houlston found this something of an
obstacle as a rather diminutive 16 year-old in 1933, although he still
managed to assert some autonomy: ‘I used to go with my friends . . .
and they wouldn’t let us in on one occasion ’cos I was always small, so
I probably looked younger than I was . . . so I took the huff and I
boycotted them, and I never went there again’.16 However, the practice
of children gaining entry with strangers was often accomplished with
the collusion not only of the strangers, but also of the cinema staff.
While many cinemas required children to be accompanied, they often
ignored the stipulation that this companion must be ‘a parent or bona
fide adult guardian’, turning a blind eye to unaccompanied children
who routinely procured adults from the cinema queue, just to get past
the box office. Thus, many cinema staff outwardly upheld certification
regulations, while unofficially condoning the techniques used by
children to circumvent them. Olga Scowen remembers going to the
Harrow Coliseum during the school holidays:

And if it was an A film, you see, I couldn’t go in on my own. So
you used to wait for somebody to come and say, ‘Please, will
you get me a ticket?’ [Laughs] And the people behind the cash
desk knew very well what was going on, but they never stopped
you. [Laughs] So I saw quite a lot of A films when I shouldn’t
have done.17

A notable example of adult collusion occurred in Bristol where, on
5 March 1932, a Mrs Saviour went to the Saturday matinee at the
Metropole Cinema and found 45 children outside, unable to gain
entry. The film being shown was Never the Twain Shall Meet (1931),
a romantic comedy about a man who ‘goes native’ after falling in love
with an uninhibited, sexy, young Polynesian woman. As the film had
an A certificate, the unaccompanied youngsters could not enter alone,
so Mrs Saviour gamely agreed to buy their tickets and accompanied all
45 into the cinema. Following a timely visit from a police inspector,
the case went to Bristol Police Court. The defence argued in vain that
the regulation was ridiculous, as it prevented under-16s from seeing a
‘sex film’ which would probably bore them, while allowing 16–21
year-olds to see it, even though ‘the age of puberty rendered them
more susceptible’. Eventually, the cinema owners were fined £10 on

Children as Censors 111

Page 254

They Made Me a Criminal
(1939), 201 n114

Thirteenth Chair, The (1937), 72
Thompson, Kenneth, 13
Three Smart Girls (1936), 152
Tracy, Spencer, 126, 127, 133
Trader Horn (1931), 146
Treasure Island (1934), 73

UK – local perspectives:
Accrington, 29; Barnsley, 202
n9; Beckenham, 200 n69, 66,
67; Birkenhead, see enquiries;
Birmingham, 67, 71, see also
enquiries; Bolton, 115;
Bridgewater, 67; Bristol, 111,
202 n9; Dalmuir, 147;
Edinburgh, 101, see also
enquiries; Erith, 202 n9; Essex,
72; Finchley, 72;
Glasgow, 101, 110, 115, 136,
147, 202 n9; Golders Green,
120; Grimsby, 102;
Harrow, 111; Hendon, 72, 124;
Hove, 67; Islington, 100, 126,
136; Leicester, 30, 61; Leith,
150; Liverpool, 65, 66, 67;
London 143, see also enquiries,
and local authorities;
Manchester, 70, 143, 144;
Newbury, 65, 66;
Newcastle, 22, 67; Norwich,
112, 172; Oldham, 29; Paisley,
see fires; Portsmouth, 66, 67;
Ramsgate, 170–72; Salford,
112; Scunthorpe, 202 n9;
Sheffield, 67, 102, 112, 202
n10; see also enquiries;
Southampton, 112; St Helens,

71; Stowmarket, 49; Watford,
168; Worthing, 166–7

UK – national/regional
Dorset, 67; Lancashire, 128;
Northern Ireland, 68–9;
Scotland 22, 23, 62, 66, 101,
110, 164–5, see also enquiries;
Surrey, 70, 72, 121

Unseen World: Cheese Mites
(1903), 18

‘upping’, 144, 158
USA – regional/local

Chicago, 35, 37; New York,
35, 37, 50, 51, 55, 129;
Maryland, 37; Virginia, 37;
New Jersey, 51; Pennsylvania,
36; Ohio, 36; Kansas, 34, 36,

Vampyr (1931), 71
Vasey, Ruth, 34, 37–8
Very Idea, The (1929), 38
Vice Squad, The (1931), 48
violence, 18–19, 24, 31, 36, 38,

47, 48–52, 57–8, 95, 97, 128,
129, 177–8

Vollmer, August, 51
Walking Dead, The (1936), 1
Werewolf of London (1935), 57,

West, Mae, 52, 53, 55, 56, 57, 60,

74, 124
westerns, 100, 109, 128–9, 148–9,

160, 164, see also individual
film titles

White Zombie (1932), 57
Wingate, James, 50, 60
Zorro, 148

Index 237

Page 255

238 Children, Cinema and Censorship

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