The Cosy Picture Hall, Swalwell
The Cosy was above the shops
Situated on Spencer's Bank, above the Chemist and Fish Shop, it was owned by the Watson family. It was bought in the 1920`s by a Mr Nicholls, who lived in Scotswood, and was later taken over by a Mr Whitfield.
The entrance and exit were seperate and the hall was triangular shaped with the projection box behind a partition and the screen at the other (widest) end
In the early days the manager, Hockey Watson, was the projectionist whilst his wife, Bertha, who had a voice like a foghorn, kept the children in order and sold pop and ice-cream during the interval. Tella Todd, a friend of one of Hockey's daughters, played the piano with great gusto. Entrance was up stone stairs and you paid at a cubby-hole at the top. It was a bare hall with rows of wooden seats, joined together in sets of 7`s or 8`s all along one side with an aisle on the other side. The best seats were at the back and these were upholstered. The hall was lit by gas and the programme changed twice a week. It was open every evening except Sunday and there were usually three films, a comedy, a drama and a serial. There was a matinee at 4.30 pm on a Monday and another at 2.30 pm on a Saturday. Every Christmas the cinema provided a barrel of apples and oranges for the children's matinee.
Eventually, like a lot of small cinemas it closed down in 1957 after magistrates refused to renew its licence on safety grounds, for its poor ventilation and the absence of natural light.
The Regal, Whickham
In 1914 a Concert and Picture Hall was proposed for a site at the top of Swalwell Bank but, presumably because of the outbreak of the War, it was never built.
In May 1921 a new Parish Hall for St. Mary's Church was made from the converted Coach House, Stables, Carriage Washery and Stable Yard situated in Church Chare. The hall opened in 1922. In 1923 it was leased as a picture hall by Mr John W Tate. It was used for other purposes and was said to have been a Roller-skating Ring around 1930. The floor was raked and between 1931 and 1947 it was a full time cinema run by Margaret Curry and known as The Regal.
In 1947 The Regal was taken over by George Stoddart Cinemas who owned other cinemas in the north east. At this time it seated about 240. Three changes of programme weekly with no shows on Sundays. Unlike most cinemas it had a policy of showing good class "A" films shortly after their release and very rarely showed a Second Feature.
The Regal closed on 7th November 1965 and became a Bingo Club, which it remained until August 1993 when it became a Health Club.
The Imperial, Dunston (The Bottom Hall)
The cinema was located on Ravensworth Road and was known locally as the 'Bottom Hall'. It was opened in 1910 and eventually closed in 1961 when it became a tyre depot before demolition. It opened twice-nightly six nights a week, changing films each Monday and Thursday, and had a film and a "short" as well as the Pathe News. Films were then classified into A and B films.
There was also a Saturday matinee for children, which was very popular. Entry was one penny, or twopence for the back two rows which had plush seats. Some parents gave their children two pence with the intention of keeping them away from the riff-raff in the penny seats. Little did they know that one penny was spent on sweets and their offspring met their friends in the penny seats!
When there was a film on involving Cavalry and Indians or Cowboys chasing Baddies the row of the stamping feet and the yelling was deafening! Mr Morrison did a wonderful job of controlling the children (and the fleas), by continuously going around and squirting 'Jeyes Fluid' everywhere.
At Christmas-time before the Second World War every child was given an orange. He also provided the tea at the Dunston Church School Christmas party.
Later, it was owned by a Mr Scott who had a small circuit of cinemas in the area.
Regretfully it was demolished for road developments.
The Albert, Dunston (The Top Hall)
The Albert Picture Palace
Opened in 1912 on Ravensworth Road and locally known as "The Top Hall". It had a ground floor and a balcony and was owned by a local syndicate. In 1959 it boasted that it had "The most modern cinemascope equipment in the north". When it first opened it showed silent films and had various types of acts and performers. It closed in 1960 when it was briefly a club and then a bingo hall before eventual demolition to make way for the Derwent Court re-development scheme.
Mr. Morrison was the owner and manager of the Imperial Cinema known locally as the 'Bottom Hall'. It opened twice-nightly six nights a week, changing films each Monday and Thursday, and had a film and a short as well as the Pathe News. Films were then classified into A and B films.
There was also a Saturday matinee for children, which was very popular; entry was one penny or two pence for the back two rows, which had plush seats. Some parents gave their children two pence with the intention of keeping them away from the riff-raff in the penny seats- little did they know that one penny was spent on sweets and their offspring met their friends in the penny seats!
When there was a film on involving cavalry and Indians or cowboys chasing baddies, the row of the stamping feet and the yelling was deafening! Mr Morrison did a wonderful job of controlling the children and the fleas, by continuously walking around shouting chocolates, chewing gum and cigarettes or squirting 'Flit' everywhere.
Before the Second World War,at Christmas-time, every child was given an orange. He also provided the tea at the Dunston Church School Christmas party.
A publicity photograph.
Victoria Hopper, born 1909 in Vancouver, emigrated to Dunston with her family when she was 14. Victoria was brought up in the town of Trail in the Rocky Mountains. The daughter of Matthew Garfield Hopper and his wife Elizabeth (nee Rutherford), Victoria was educated at Central High School in Newcastle.
The 1901 census reveals:
Father: Matthew Hopper born 1854. Mother: Elizabeth born 1872
Sister: Elizabeth born 1888. Brother: Matthew born 1882. Father: house painter
As a child she won an all-Canada piano playing competition. She was influenced by her aunt, Sylvia Nelis, who had sung coloratura parts with the Beecham Opera company, and later became one of the vocal successes in Nigel Playfair's production of The Beggar's Opera at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. Now Vickie, with the help of singing lessons with Dino Borgioli, a popular tutor of the day, and some gentle advice from Eugene Gossins, set about further achievement'. In Hansel and Gretel Vickie's Gretel, sung in a pleasing childish way, was favourably compared with the 'hard brilliance one has often heard in this opera'
She was married to stage and film producer Basil Dean at the registry office in Dunmow, Essex on 12 May 1934 with her mother in attendance. Dean was 21 years her senior. They lived in an old country house near Dunmow and also had a flat in Lowdes Square, London. Her interests were sailing, climbing and furnishing her two homes. The marriage was eventually dissolved in 1939, she then later married actor Peter Walter in 195l.
Reading, swimming and walking.
She formerly lived at Osiea Tree Cottage Newington Folkestone Kent
She started singing at the Webber-Douglas School of Singing with a view to an operatic career, and she appeared in a performance at the Webber-Douglas School in May 1933 as Martine in the play of that name. She was seen by Sydney Carroll, then manager of the Ambassador's Theatre, who transferred the play to that theatre 23 May 1933 when she made her first appearance on the professional stage, scoring an immediate success. Ivor Novello who had seen her in Martine at the Ambassadors Theatre recommended her to producer Basil Dean. She was also seen by Carol Reed (later a famous film director), on behalf of Sydney Carroll and immediately placed under contract. Dean went to see Martine 'and was struck by the young actresses possibilities. The gentle play and the intimate theatre were exactly suited to the reticences of an obviously immature talent. After much cogitation and many camera tests Victoria Hopper was cast to play Tessa in The Constant Nymph .
Victoria Hopper, well known from the 1930s for her achievements on stage and screen, was described as "petite and fair-haired". She was a great success in her very first play, "Martine", in which she starred. Victoria went on to star in several plays, musical shows and in seven films.
The local people were very proud of her. The Northern Echo on Friday 24th January 1936 reported in 'News of the North' that: "Victoria Hopper, the Dunston girl, will take the name part in a film based on the life of Grace Darling which will probably be made in the autumn." In fact, there is no evidence that this film materialised.
On 4th November 1935 she performed the opening ceremony at a cinema in South Shields, the Black's Regal in King Street. The Mayor and the St Hilda Colliery Band were in attendance.
We are indebted to film-makers/writers Austin and Howard Mutti-Mewse for the following piece and for the publicity still shown above.
Victoria Hopper, the petite and entrancingly beautiful blonde with retrousse nose and rosebud lips was a British screen actress of the 1930s, who played leading roles in a number of films before marrying noted film director and producer Basil Dean.
Her biggest film of note was 'The Constant Nymph' (1933), the second of three versions of Margaret Kennedy's novel about a sickly, sensitive Belgian schoolgirl, Tessa Sanger (Victoria Hopper), in love with world-famous composer Lewis Dodd (Brian Aherne), who marries her wealthy cousin Florence (Leonora Corbett). Undermining the already delicate Tessa's health, the composer realises that life without Tessa is unbearable and leaves his unloving wife - but sadly too late.
"I was nothing more than a school girl when I came across Margaret Kennedy's book," she said. "A friend and I had seen the silent version of 'The Constant Nymph' with Mabel Poulton at the cinema and were thrilled to the marrow. We thought of Mabel as the loveliest person in the world, for all intents and purpose she was Tessa."
Years later Sydney Carroll saw Victoria Hopper at the Webber-Douglas School of Music where she was studying singing, and cast her as the lead in 'Martine' at the Ambassador's Theatre. She then played Gretel in 'Hansel and Gretel' (1933) at the Drury lane theatre. It was there that Basil Dean noticed Hopper, gave her a screen test and cast her in the 'Talkie' version of 'The Constant Nymph' (1933).
Film Fashionland Magazine wrote: "Victoria Hopper gives a heart stirring performance. Her appeal on screen is breathtaking, her beauty enchanting." In March 2005, Victoria read the same review and with a hearty roar cried "What a load of bunkum!"
She was born on May 24, 1909 in Vancouver and educated in Trail, a small Canadian mountain town. Her father Matthew Gerard Hopper and wife Elizabeth Rutherford Hopper moved the family to Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1922 with the intention of taking over his father's ailing manufacturing business. "I had no interest in anything beyond performance. Looking back I was a show-off," she said. Victoria Hopper frequently skipped school "I adored the pictures," she said.
She followed 'The Constant Nymph,' with the lead in Basil Dean's 'Lorna Doone' (1935). "Find me a girl that has ever read that story and failed to picture herself as Lorna? I took the book as part of my school leaving exam back in Newcastle and I soaked myself in it." Like with the part of Tessa the role of Lorna was a dream come true for Victoria Hopper. But for Dean 'Lorna Doone' was a headache and a financial flop.
Filming on location about the village of Oare, in the Doone Valley was particularly meaningful to the young actress as many of her ancestors settled there and were buried in the village churchyard. "I longed to see their faces if they knew a descendant of theirs was anything as disreputable as an actress!"
She also remained a star of the West End playing Prue Sarn in Mary Webb's 'Precious Bain' (1930) with Hilda Campbell-Russell, as Hazel Woodus in 'Gone to Earth' (1931) and in JM Barrie's 'Mary Rose' (1932).
She lost out on the lead in 'Frail Women' (1932) to Margaret Vines and was heartbroken not to be chosen for the 1934 adaptation of Margaret Kennedy's 'Little Friend.' Nova Pilbeam was cast instead or as Aisla Crane the Emlyn Williams vehicle 'The Frightened Lady' (1934), when actress Belle Crystal beat her to it.
Her theatre work also included the role of Edith in 'The Melody That Got Lost' (1936), as Monica Brooke in 'Autumn' (1937) and as Freda Johnson in 'Johnson Over Jordan' (1938).
"I soon released people were jealous of my being married to Basil Dean and that's why I lost out on so many film roles," she said last year. "Correct he was older than me and film folk simply saw me as being ambitious and something of a social climber. The truth is he was a womaniser and stupidly I stayed with him - I was only lucky in love when I married Peter (Marshall). "
She retreated to a remote cottage in St Mary in the Marsh with a bevy of cats and pet sheep, relying on a paid companion. Victoria hopper was distressed at being "completely forgotten" and blamed her isolation from the industry on her marriage to Basil Dean. "Everyone thought I'd married Basil to further my career this simply wasn't true. He was a charming man and so much more sophisticated than the other men I knew."
Her other roles include: 'Whom the Gods Love' (1936) with Stephen Haggard cast as Mozart Basil Dean featured his wife Victoria Hopper as Mozart's wife Constance Weber and Liane Haid as Mozart's first love Aloysia Weber.
After Basil Dean left Ealing Studios Victoria Hopper divorced him after she learnt of his having conducted a long affair with a married woman. Hopper found her career at standstill. John Trevelyan, then Secretary of the Board of Film Classification and a neighbour at the Dean's Grovensor Square home found Victoria a job as an elocution teacher at Ashford technical College.
She had an agent Eric Glass and did find odd supporting roles on television and with the outbreak of war was sent by Dean to entertain the troops with ENSA. Dean was given the job of heading ENSA by Prime Minister Chamberlain. She toured with ENSA in France and then on tour with the Central R.A.F Band visiting R.A.F. bases across Britian joining the likes of Pat Kirkwood, Gracie Fields, Mildred Shay and Tommy Trinder.
One critic remarked that it was only Hopper's marriage to Dean that had made her an actress in the first place. "She couldn't act for toffee and owed her career to delusion."
"I was the focus of much admiration when dinning at the Ivy," she once said. "If I tried to dine there now the doors would be shut tight - nobody knows who I am anymore." During the early 1930s she and friends Peggy Blythe and Renee Clama were known as the three Blondes at London's Berkeley Grill and Victoria a favourite for afternoon tea at Claridges.
Basil Dean's two sons Winton and Vernon remained in touch with their stepmother over the years. "I liked them very much," Hopper said. "I loved Basil's sons - sometimes more than he," she said.
After the war, Victoria Hopper resumed her theatre career with 'Yellow Sands' (1945) at the Saint Martins Theatre and toured with Sir Cedric Hardwickle in 'The House on the Bridge' (1945). In 1947 she played Lady Mannering in 'Said the Spider!' before touring as Helen Bligh in 'My Mother Said...' (1949). Her last stage role was that of Hester Byfield in 'Serious Charge' (1955).
In 2004, Victoria Hopper broke her promise to herself that she would no longer be photographed when she sat for New York photographer Elena Hill and film makers Austin and Howard Mewse. On looking at the prints she turned up her nose "I never much liked my looks."
Victoria Hopper celebrated her 97th birthday with friends, she now required twenty-four hour care and joked "I haven't enough life in me to blow out my birthday candles."
Victoria Hopper died at her home on Romney Marsh on 22 January 2007.
A list of her theatrical appearances follows.
At the Cambridge Theatre, Dec 1933 appeared as Gretel in Humperdinck's opera Hansel and Gretel.
Drury Lane April 1934, played Mary in The Three Sisters. (Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein musical with Charlotte Greenwood, Adèle Dixon and Stanley Holloway). A contemporary account reads;
"Three Sisters 'On that huge stage and in the company of such experience players as Charlotte Greenwood, Adèle Dixon and Stanley Holloway, 'her light sweet voice and reticent personality were completely lost. Thus, the bright start to her career was momentarily dimmed; so, too, was our association.'"
Duchess, March 1835, Judy Evison in Cornelius.
Palace, Manchester.Dec 1935,appeared for the first time in pantomime as Princess Sylvia in Jack and the Beanstalk.
Open Air, Sept 1936,played The Lady in Comus.
Embassy, Dec 1936, Edith in The Melody That Got Lost.
St Martins, Oct 1937, Monica Brooke in Autumn.
Playhouse, Liverpool, Nov 1938, David in The Boy David.
New, London Feb 1939, Freda Johnson in Johnson Over Jordan by J B Priestley.
A contemporary comment reads:
'Vickie played her (Jill Johnson's) daughter with a kind of gay sincerity that was equally touching
Toured, March 1939, as Sylvia in Drawing room.
"Q", Dec 1939, played Kate in The Two Bouquets.
Subsequently toured for ENSA in France and later toured RAF stations, with the central RAF Band.
Toured June 1943, as Angèle in The Count of Luxembourg.
Toured 1943 - 44 in North Africa and the Middle East, as Miss Smith in Springtime For Henry.
Lyric, Jan 1944, played Pat Keppel in Zero Hour.
Toured September 1944, as Deborah in The House On The Bridge with Sir Cedric Hardwicke with whom she subsequently toured for the BLA in Yellow Sands.
St Martins, 1945, played Margaret Helse in The Shop At Sly Corner, which ran for over a year.
Toured June 1946, as Mrs Sedley in Vanity Fair and played the same part at the Comedy Oct 1946.
Wimbledon, Oct 1947, Lady Mary Manners in "....Said The Spider!�? and played the same part at the Embassy, Nov 1947.
Fortune, June 1949, Helen Bligh in "My Mother Said....�?.
Toured 1949 and appeared at Wimbledon, Oct 1948 as Corinne Mahon in The Man They Acquitted.
Gateway, April 1950, Phylis Hengist in Marshall's Aid.
Toured 1950, as Norah Fuller in Queen Elizabeth Slept Here.
Garrick, February 1955, played Hester Ryfield in Serious Charge.
(From Who's Who In The Theatre, various dates)
BBC Television broadcasting began in 1936, but was confined to the London area.
Magic 1937; Cornelius 1938; London Walk 1938; Nine Till Six 1938.
She appeared in the following films.
The Constant Nymph (1933) - director, Basil Dean
Lorna Doone (1935) - director, Basil Dean
Whom the Gods Love (1936) - director, Basil Dean
The Lonely Road (1936) - director, James Flood
Laburnum Grove (1936) - director, Carol Reed
The Mill on the Floss (1937) - director, Tim Whelan
Escape From Broadmoor (1948) - director, John Gilling
Synopsis/credits of her films
The Constant Nymph (Drama) 1933. Director Basil Dean
A schoolgirls love affair with a famous musician, from a 1926 play by Dean and Margaret Kennedy's novel. Girl played by Victoria Hopper. Film's treatment said by Kine weekly to be unimaginative.
Victoria Hopper   - Tess Sanger
Brian Aherne   - Lewis Dodd
Leonora Corbett   - Florence
Lyn Harding   - Albert Sanger
Mary Clare   - Linda Sanger
Jane Baxter   - Antonia Sanger
Peggy Blythe   - Lena Sanger
Lorna Doone (Drama) 1935. Director Basil Dean
Dean tried hard to promote her as a film star. Her delicate personality failed to make much impact on the cinema public. Much of the film was shot in the West Country and it was beautiful to look at, with Loder seeming more at ease than usual as Jan Ridd, but it was too long and suffered from a fault which had earlier been founding many literary adaptations, that of trying to crowd too much of the book into the film. To Dean's distress it was derided at a charity premiere (at the Prince Edward cinema in Soho).
Victoria Hopper   - Lorna Doone
John Loder   - John Ridd
Mary Clarke   - Mistress Sara Ridd
Frank Cellier   - Jeremy Stiikles
Roy Emerton   - Carver Doone
Herbert Lomas   - Sir Ensor Doone
Roger Livesey   - Tom Faggus
Peggy Blythe   - Girl
Margaret Lockwood   - Ann Ridd
Margaret Lockwood appeared in her first speaking part.
From Basil Dean's autobiography: 'I thought Lorna would be ideal for her: an unspoilt personality, a determined chin, steadfast character, and a pleasant light singing voice seemed exactly suited to Blackmore's heroine.' When the film was put on at the Adelphi Theatre in the Strand at Christmas time (1934) it received favourable notices, especially for the beautiful photography of Robert Martin, who had remained our principal cameraman since his arrival in 'the Shires', top booted but without spurs, to photograph the opening sequence of Escape. The film did good business at the Adelphi according to our distribution manager, even better in northern cities, and, best of all, on re-issue during the Second World War'.
Whom The Gods Love (Drama) 1936. Director Basil Dean
Dean had long wanted to make a film about Mozart which would embody the high cultural ambitions with which he had founded the company and provide and important part for Victoria Hopper as Mozart's wife. The film finally came out in 1936 and it was a failure. It was said to be too slow and Victoria Hopper and Stephen Haggard, promising young nephew of Rider Haggard, were too inexperienced and unknown to carry the film. It was a turning point in Dean's life. The production caused a rift between dean and his friends and loyal supporters, Stephen Courtauld and his wife. 9360000 budget exceeded and cost of locations and studio work in Austria soared. Vienna and Salzburg in 1935. Crowds scenes expensive, top technicians and London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham in operatic extracts in UK all added to cost. Released 1936.
Victoria Hopper   - Constance Mozart
Stephen Haggard   - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
John Loder   - Prince Lobkowitz
Liane Haid   - Aloysia
Jean Cadell   - Frau Mozart
Hubert Harben   - Leanard Mozart
Marie Lohr   - Empress
Frederick Leister   - Emperor
The Lonely Road (also known as Scotland Yard) (Drama) 1936. Director James Flood
An adaptation of a Nevil Shute novel.
Victoria Hopper   - Molly Gordon
Clive Brook   - Malcolm Stevenson
Nora Swinburne   - Lady Anne
Malcolm Keene   - Professor
Cecil Ramage    - Major Norman
Charles Farrell   - Palmer
Laburnum Grove (Comedy) 1936. Director Carol Reed
Carol Reed directed a faithful adaptation of the neatly constructed Priestley play Laburnum Grove, about a respectable suburban householder who shocks his sponging relatives by telling them that the money they are so anxious to cadge was made by forgery. The part was played by Edmund Gwenn, the acting was excellent and the film was greatly admired.
Victoria Hopper   - Elsie Radfern
Edmund Gwenn   - Mr Radfern
Cedric Hardwicke   - Mr Baxley
Ethel Coleridge   - Mrs Baxley
Katie Johnson   - Mrs Radfern
Francis James   - Harold Russ
James Harcourt   - Joe Fleton
David Hawthorn   - Inspector Stack
Mill On The Floss. (Drama) 1937. Director Tim Whelan
An adaptation of George Eliot's novel about feuding Victorian families set in rural England and with a strong cast.
Victoria Hopper   - Lucy Deane
Frank Lawton   - Philip Wakeham
Fay Compton   - Mrs Tulliver
Geraldine Fitzgerald   - Maggie Tulliver
Griffith Jones   - Stephen Guest
Mary Clare   - Mrs Moss
James Mason   - Tom Tulliver
Athene Seyler   - Mrs Pullet
Felix Aylmer    - Mr Warren
Sam Livesey   - Mrs Tulliver
Amy Veness   - Mrs Dean
Escape From Broadmoor (also known as Curse Of The Broadmoor Ghost (Thriller) - short. 1943. Director John Gilling
John Le Mesurier
Mind's Eye: Basil Dean An Autobiography. 1927-1972. Hutchinson & Co Ltd. 1973.
Film Making In 1930's Britain: Rachel Low. Allen and Unwin 1985.