Beatrice Cooper (BC-95-208)

‘Road to Life’ poster. Mezhrabpomfilm, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1995, Beatrice Cooper heard about Cinema Culture in 1930s Britain from a friend, contacted the project office with an offer of assistance, and eventually became one of CCINTB’s eighteen core informants based in and around the London suburb of Harrow. She was interviewed in her home on 20 July and 27 November 1995. Mrs Cooper was born in Hendon, north London, in 1921, and her father was Russian. She left school at the age of sixteen and won a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She was a secretary in her first job, and later a housewife and a performer.

In her first interview, Mrs Cooper recalls her earliest cinemagoing memory–of being impressed by a particular scene in the 1927 version of Seventh Heaven, which she saw in a cinema in Kentish Town at the age of five or six: she had been taken there by the family’s maid. She mentions, and describes scenes from, films seen in favoured haunts such as the Academy cinema in Oxford Street and the Everyman in Hampstead, recollecting her particular enjoyment of the 1931 Soviet film Putyovka v zhizn/Road to Life. She talks about collecting photographs of film stars–her all-time favourite was Greta Garbo: “I was totally in awe of her. She had a special sort of magic” –and about winning a Picturegoer competition and meeting Madeleine Carroll at the prizegiving ceremony; about weekday afternoon visits, usually with school friends, to a cinema where the programme featured live acts and service of tea at seat during the interval. She liked Deanna Durbin and Grace Moore and the British actress Nova Pilbeam, whom she once saw on a train. In the course of the interview Mrs Cooper names upwards of fifty films that she remembers seeing. Unusually among our informants, she recalls enjoying Russian, German and French films, and refers to the many emigré film actors and directors working in Britain in the 1930s. She talks about queuing to get into the cinema and about the packed and smoky picture houses that you could sit in all day: “such a lovely atmosphere.”

In her second interview, Mrs Cooper takes the interviewer through her autograph book, talking about some of the actors who signed it and about other stars of the period, including Elisabeth Bergner, Norma Shearer, and Nova Pilbeam, who starred in emigré director Berthold Viertel’s Little Friend (1934).

Documents, Memorabilia and Related Links
Harrow home page
Article 'Madeleine Carroll Among the Fans' (Beatrice Cooper is one of prizewinners) (BC-95-208AR001)
Palace Cinema ( site)
Picturegoer editions January-April 1935 (large file; site)
Litte Friend, 1934 (YouTube)
Road to Life, 1931 (YouTube)