Britain’s Screen Inferiority Complex: Union and Institutional Responses to the Coming of Sound, 1929-35
Sound cinema came to Britain and the rest of Europe during a period of general decline in national film industry. The end of the First World War had seen capital and investment in British filmmaking decrease, bolstered by the great rise of American cinema during the period. By the middle of the 1920s, American film imports dominated British screens almost completely, with less than five per cent of films shown in the country being of British origin, and the rest being imports from France, Germany, Italy, and, in the vast majority, the United States. The implications on employment and productivity within the industry were stark, but they extended beyond to broader cultural concerns. At a parliamentary reading of what would imminently become the Cinematograph Films Act of 1927, the then President of the Board of Trade Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister asked “Should we be content for a moment if we depended upon foreign literature and upon a foreign Press in this country? […] The greatest proportion of the Press is British, and we should be very anxious if the proportion was in the opposite sense as it is with British films.” This paper examines the relationship between the British film industry, trades union and the Parliament, and the ways in which they dealt with the perceived onslaught of American film product and American cultural values. The paper explores correspondence between the Cinematograph Exhibitors Association (CEA), Federation of British Industries (FBI), Trades Union Congress (TUC), and the Parliamentary Board of Trade.
A presentation as part of the Strange New Worlds Postgraduate Conference, held by the Cinema and Television History Research Centre at De Montfort University, Leicester, June 2015. The author was a key member of the organisational team for this conference.
Citation : Sibanda, N. (2015) Britain’s Screen Inferiority Complex: Union and Institutional Responses to the Coming of Sound, 1929-35. Cinema and Television History Research Centre Postgraduate Conference, De Montfort University, Leicester, June 2015.
Research Group : Cinema and Television History Research Centre
Peer Reviewed : No
- Leicester Media School