Showing town in a new light writes Andy Mitchell
This time of the year always brings with it the chance to catch up on some really old movies.
One of my all time favourites is one set in Blackpool nearly 90 years ago. Gracie Fields starred in ‘Sing As we Go’, made in the resort in 1933.
It was made as a vehicle for Gracie’s songs, but the setting in our fine town got me thinking about how switched on our PR was back then.
The storyline is based around Gracie’s cotton mill closing in Rochdale, and she comes to Blackpool to seek work.
Not one opportunity is missed to push what’s new in town, to a target audience hungry to know what was going on in their favourite holiday destination.
Early in the movie, Gracie cycles on to the tram tracks near Talbot Square, and has a near miss with a Blackpool Tram… but it’s not any old Blackpool tram… it’s one that’s only weeks old. The message of course being that Blackpool has got modern!
I’ve always been in awe at The Pleasure Beach’s ability to capture the moment with the latest craze. Pop stars of the day have always been invited to officially open new rides.
Our Gracie (pictured) spends a good five minutes sequence being chased by Policeman Stanley Holloway through the brand new Fun House, giving viewers a brilliant appraisal of what’s on offer. Outside, a bathing beauty competition is going on at the five year old Open Air Baths, giving the town a chance to showcase the attraction.
Back in town, the brand new Spanish Hall takes centre stage as a venue for a meeting, whilst a march along the Promenade then reveals something rather special.
As the characters make their way in the procession, in the background a hotel boasts that they have Television. Remember this is 1933 and three years before the BBC started broadcasting TV. I learn that in the early 30s, The Baird company which was trialling experimental TV chose Blackpool to show holidaymakers what it was all about - just amazing.
As a movie, Sing as We Go isn’t one of the greatest, but if you have an interest in Blackpool’s role in being at the forefront of popular PR in the early to mid 20th century, I’d say choose a rainy afternoon, and give it a watch.
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