Eileen Scott (ES-95-213)

Stage show poster of 'Funny Face', 1928

In September 1995 Eileen Scott of Ipswich, Suffolk heard a call on her local radio station for volunteers to take part in Cinema Culture in 1930s Britain. She contacted the project office and eventually joined the twenty-one individuals, couples, and groups living in East Anglia who were interviewed during the last months of 1995. Born in Ipswich in 1921, her father was a cabinet maker and her mother a piano teacher who also provided musical accompaniment to silent films. When she was ten years old Mrs Scott’s brother died in tragic circumstances and she needed help to recover from the shock. Her parents wanted to give her a sheltered life and she was withdrawn from school at the age of thirteen to finish her education at home. She entered the world of work as a dance teacher. Mrs Scott’s interviews took place on 16 October and 9 November 1995 at her home in Claydon, Ipswich.

In her first interview she shows the interviewer her extensive collection of song scores from film and stage musicals, and names some of her best-loved films and actors: her all-time favourites are Astaire and Rogers, she says. She shares memories of her musically accomplished mother, who played piano to accompany silent films in one of Ipswich’s cinemas. She confesses that she would have liked to go on the stage or into films herself, but her father stymied her ambitions: “He absolutely ruled my life.” She tells of the tragedy of her elder brother’s early death, how it affected her education--and led to her meeting Sir Henry Wood of Promenade Concerts fame and to being reunited with a long-lost possession decades later. She talks the interviewer through the family photos prominently displayed on her piano and notes that her children and grandchildren are also musically talented.

Mrs Scott’s second interview opens with a discussion of her dislike of Westerns: “There’s no peace about them,” she says, noting that she prefers romantic films (Now Voyager being a favourite) and that she likes mysteries if there is “nothing too violent”. Ahead of the interview she has prepared a list of films and talks about the plots and stars of some of them, making great efforts to remember details. On the qualities of the stars that she liked, she uses words like ‘caring’, ‘cosy’, and ‘quiet’ to describe her favourite male stars. Asked what going to the pictures used to feel like, she mentions some difficult times in her life when she was feeling low, and going to see a film musical, say, would cheer her up and make her want to dance. The topic of death comes up more than once during the conversation—friends of her own age dying, for example, and film personalities who have died in tragic circumstances. Shown a 1930s film annual, she responds enthusiastically, commenting on the facial features of stars pictured in it and recollecting details of the lives and deaths of some of them. Most of the hundred or so film personalities named during the interview are commented on in some way, and she recalls that her enthusiasm for all things cinema-related was parlayed into inventing family games that involved guessing film titles.