Sunday, 22 January 2017

Rediscovering the Savoy cinema on Manchester Road in Chorlton

Now Andy sent me this picture after one of those very heavy rainy days which left vast lakes across Chorlton and made most of us feel thorughly miserable at what was supposed to be high summer.

But what I also like about the picture is that it revealed the side of the old cinema.

The Savoy on Manchester Road opened in 1920 as the Picture House before being renamed the Savoy when it was leased to the Savoy Cinemas alter becoming the Gaumont.

I pass here quite often but rarely really take time to look at the side of the building which reveals much of the grandeur of the place.

The front underwent  quite a few changes before it was finally lost under the present exterior courtesy of the undertaker’s.

The upper floor still exists but sadly “Heath and Safety” concerns have prevented me from getting up there despite appeals to the head office and promise to bring my own hard hat.

So in the meantime this is the best you will get although I couldn’t resist digging out this picture of the cinema from the collection.

It was taken sometime in the early 1920s on what must have been a warm summers day.

The man painting out last week’s film is in shirt sleeves and the two by the entrance are wearing straw hats which were popular in the early decades of the 20th century.

 But what locates it to sometime after 1920 are the films which were being shown.

Sea Wolf was made in 1913, Should a husband Forgive was made in 1919 while Butterfly Man dates from 1920. I am not sure what the films say about cinema audience in the 1920s all three in their different ways were tales of morality .

In Sea Wolf the hero who has been rescued from a collision at sea is unable to break away from his rescuer who forces him to become a cabin boy, do menial work, and learn to fight to protect himself from a brutal crew, but eventually he is set free.

 In Should a Husband forgive, the heroine is at first misunderstood by the love of her life and rejected till she saves him, and finally in Butterfly Man a social gad fly does one good deed but this is not enough to wipe out his many misdoings and the end of the film sees him alone and forlorn.

Sea Wolf had been written by Jack London was an immediate success and in the first film version starred Jack London as a seaman.


Now I have already written about the size and grandeur of these early picture houses and the Savoy was no exception. First there is the stone frontage with its columns, and embellishments topped by the twin domes and then there is the wrought iron canopy.

This was a big buildings possibly the biggest in the township. At night it would be lit up unlike any of our other buildings and even during the day must have attracted comment.

It was of course well sited given that this was the new Chorlton which had grown quickly in the last thirty years providing a ready audience. Next door was the snooker hall and within a few years there would be the rebuilt Royal Oak Hotel.

Pictures; of the old cinema on a wet August day in 2014 courtesy of Andy Robertson and the cinema in 1922 from the Lloyd Collection.

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