1913 Silent Film: The Pickwick Papers

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, January 11, 1913:  Went to Watsontown this afternoon. Went into the movies.

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Recent photo of the vacant Watson Theater in Watsontown

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

What a fun way to spend a winter afternoon! The films would have been silent ones—probably with live melodramatic piano music.

Maybe she watched The Pickwick Papers. A short silent version of this movie was first screened in 1913. Click here to see it on YouTube.

This is the first time that Grandma mentioned going to the movies in Watsontown.—though she previously mentioned attending movies in somewhat more distant Milton. Maybe the theater in Watsontown had just opened.

A movie theater in Watsontown called the Watson Theater closed a few years ago. I thought it might have been the theater that Grandma went to, so I googled it. I discovered that the theater that Grandma went to was probably called the Lyceum Theatre and that it burned down in 1934. According to Cinema Treasures:

Opened on May 30, 1940, the Watson Theatre was built to replace the Lyceum Theatre, which burned down 6 years before.

You might also enjoy a previous post about another silent film:

1912 Silent Film: The New York Hat

12 Responses

  1. It must have been really something to have live piano accompany the performance. Did you see ‘The Artist’….I just loved that movie and of course the little dog.

    • I haven’t seen it, but will have to look for it.

      • OMGosh Sheryl, I think you would really like it…it’s charming, touching, funny and delightful all without saying a word…The MOST worthy Oscar winner ever. B&W for the most part then changes to colour at the very end…you won’t be disappointed. :)

  2. I had the sound turned off on my laptop and turned it on so I could watch the silent movie. One of those moments….. :)

  3. Wow, you and I are on an old movie kick. Love the picture of the old theater — and in its day, the local folks would have thought it an impressive place to spend some leisure time — and it was. Thanks

    • I thought the same thing when I wrote this post. I went to movies at this theater when I was a child, but can’t remember the interior very well. I don’t think it was nearly as impressive in its day as some of the theaters that you highlighted.

  4. Interesting that she called it “movies” instead of “motion pictures.” I would have thought that the more formal reference might have been in use that early, and maybe “movies” would be flapper-era slang.

    • I know that I’ve seen movies/motion pictures mentioned in hundred-year-old magazines. I’m going to have to look and see which term was used.

  5. Thanks for visiting my blog! This idea to publish your grandmother’ diary with your additions is wonderful!

  6. That was interesting, I did not know it burned down and this is the second one. I saw a movie there years ago, beautiful inside. I did not catch it that she called it movies, it will be interesting to read what you find out.

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