Sheila McWhinnie (SM-92-004)

Sheila McWhinnie (far left)

In 1992, Sheila McWhinnie saw Annette Kuhn’s article in 'The Glaswegian' and heard her broadcast on local radio about popular cinema in the 1930s. She wrote a letter in response and eventually became one of Cinema Culture in 1930s Britain’s seventeen Glasgow-based core informants. She was interviewed at her home on 21 November and 12 December 1994.

One of five children, Mrs McWhinnie was born in 1919 in the Gorbals, Glasgow. Her father, who had joined up at the age of sixteen to fight in World War One, afterwards had a variety of jobs, street sweeper and fish seller among them. He earned well, Mrs McWhinnie recalls, but the family suffered economically because of her mother’s gambling addiction.

In her first interview Mrs McWhinnie talks about her first jobs–as a seamstress and in a sweet factory–before finding work in a cinema. She talks about the Clydebank Blitz and remembers film stars George Formby and David Niven visiting cinemas that she worked in, and about receiving a letter and a signed photograph from Bing Crosby. Favourite stars included Charles Laughton and Deanna Durbin, and she generally preferred American films over British ones.

In her second interview, she talks about the various Glasgow cinemas she worked in, with details of her job as an usherette; audience behaviour, charity Sunday shows during the war; and about the glamour of cinemas and their importance in people’s lives: “There’d have been a revolution if it hadn’t been for the cinemas!”