Henry K. Miller
Tuesday 21 February
The Times publishes a Special Supplement, twenty pages long, ‘dealing with the world-wide progress of the cinematograph’, with articles on every aspect of the cinema in Britain, and reports on the industry in Western Europe, India and the Dominions, and the US.
Noting that the cinema had faced a ‘struggle for recognition’ because of its origins as a popular entertainment craze, the leading article with which the supplement begins announces that ‘now it is generally recognized as having become an integral part of the national life’ – hence the interest of The Times, self-consciously the paper of the governing class. The paper had previously justified the practice of reviewing trade shows on the grounds that the press had a duty to ‘watch the public interest’ and exert the influence of right-thinking people over an essentially delinquent business: ‘Criticism must come before the public have seen a film at all if the industry is to set its house in order.’
Part of The Times’s purpose in publishing the Special Supplement was to encourage British production, since as the main paper observed in its editorial column on the same day, as of 1918 ‘ninety-six per cent. of the films exhibited in British houses came from across the Atlantic’, and many of these American films were ‘decidedly not elevating’.
Nevertheless, the Americans were represented in the supplement. The report on conditions in the US was written by Jesse Lasky, second only to Adolph Zukor within the company that bore his name. Lasky wrote about the industry’s retrenchment following the profound economic slump of 1920–1: ‘The severe storm through which we passed showed everybody that the gold-rush days of the industry were over, and that in the future the business would be in the hand of sane business men rather than commercial adventurers.’
Among the signed articles were contributions from two authors Hitchcock would go on to adapt: Marie Belloc Lowndes, whose The Lodger would become ‘the first true Hitchcock movie’, and Somerset Maugham, whose Ashenden stories would be turned into Secret Agent. Both complained about the fate of literary adaptees, which Maugham had experienced at first hand in Hollywood, where, he wrote, the director was ‘all-powerful’. Whereas on stage the director’s duty was to interpret the author, the film director ‘makes fine weather and foul’.
An article by T. P. O’Connor, president of the British Board of Film Censors, shows what Hitchcock was up against as an aspiring filmmaker, his list of ‘reasons on which we have rejected and will continue to reject certain films’ including: ‘Attempted criminal assaults on women’; ‘Murders with realistic and gruesome details’; ‘Improper exhibition of feminine underclothing’; ‘Dead bodies’; ‘Reference to controversial or international politics’, and more.
The supplement’s round-up of British production companies includes a section on Famous Players-Lasky British Producers that confirms that the studio had gone into hibernation.
Meanwhile a section Poole Street itself, ‘one of the best-equipped studios in this country’, while not naming any of the studio’s directors, includes the following information: ‘in addition to the usual department for the cutting and editing of the finished picture, there is a special art title department under the supervision of Mr. A. J. Hitchcock’. He was one of only two Poole Street staff members to be named in the supplement, the other being Tom Geraghty, who had replaced Eve Unsell as head of the scenario department. This was probably Hitchcock’s first mention in a mass-market publication.