Ellen Casey (EC-95-182)

Warner Brothers trailer screenshot featuring Ross Alexander. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ellen Casey learned about Cinema Culture in 1930s Britain through the Harpurhey Local History Group, of which she was a member, and joined the twenty-two individuals living in the Greater Manchester area who were interviewed for the project as core informants during 1995. Born in Collyhurst, an inner city area of Manchester, in 1921, and the oldest of ten children, Mrs Casey had lived in that part of the city nearly all her life. Her father, a jobbing labourer, was often unemployed; in consequence the family sometimes had to seek assistance from the local Board of Guardians. On leaving school at the age of fourteen, Mrs Casey got a job running errands in a raincoat factory and later achieved her ambition of becoming a machinist.

Mrs Casey's local history group held its meetings in Harpurhey Library, where her interview took place on 31 May 1995. In it she recalls regular visits from the age of about five to her beloved local picture house (the "Cinny"), which she describes in detail. The Cinny's closure whilst being equipped for sound, and the alternative arrangements that had to be made, are vividly recollected. She talks about the various stratagems she devised as a youngster for making money to go to the pictures, and recollects singing songs from musicals; asking to be taken in to 'A' films; crying at sad films; and discussing films with her schoolmates. She describes being taken to the pictures by a young man who resembled the actor Ross Alexander, and recalls the names upwards of fifty film stars she liked, as well as some sixty films. She confesses that she would have been happy to go to the pictures every night, and remembers her feelings when she was at the cinema--envy, longing, wanting to be like the glamorous people she saw on the screen. Her husband was an award-winning ballroom dancer, she says, but she didn't go dancing herself because she didn't have the right clothes. She smartened up during WW2 when she had access to extra clothing coupons and was able to swap clothes with the Jewish refugees she worked with. She reflects on some favourite male stars and on her likes and dislikes, the latter including George Formby, serials, and gangster films; and passes on some gossip about Clark Gable and Loretta Young's secret love-child. About her life, Mrs Casey concludes: "I had the will-power to do anything".