October 2, 1917 – Harry’s silver screen passion helps the war effort


Harry Jennings knows a thing or two about rousing the passions of the people. As manager of Market Harborough cinema the County Electric Palace on The Square it’s his job to get the paying public’s bums on seats every night of the week – and he certainly makes a good effort this week.

In the Electric’s regular advert in the Market Harborough Advertiser he this week trumpets the arrival of America Awakes, ‘a stupendous production, an epoch-making photo-play, vividly depicting the entry of the world’s greatest democracy into the War for Freedom’.

The ad on page 2 of the October 2, 1917, edition, goes on to say it’s ‘a thrilling romance combined with America’s gigantic preparations to participate in the final big push for liberty’.

As usual there is editorial support for the Electric, a news story saying: “Beyond the human element which knits the tale together so cleverly and conclusively, we have pictures and scenes of the real might and majesty of America, and every picture house visitor wherever America Awakes is shown will be heartened and impressed by the power and strength of the great ally which has come to our assistance at a time when we most required its help.”

The film is just one of a slew of perfect propaganda vehicles churned out by the growing American movie industry. As the Advertiser story adds: “In the many stirring and striking scenes with which the film is filled, the enthusiasm and admiration of the spectators are carried to a very high pitch, and as the sentiments expressed by so many of the characters coincide with those of the ‘man on the street’, the whole thing goes with rare swing and success.”


There are two performances nightly and if any Market Harborough townspeople feel a need for even more entertainment then there is not only another film showing later in the week – a cockney romance called East is East – but a chance to be lured to the Leicester Palace Theatre with the promise of ‘popular prices’ on late trains back to town after seeing, for instance this week, Miss Jessica Black, a comedy playlet.

Other adverts that catch the eye are in the small ads: for instance in Market Harborough there is a chance to rent – for the princely sum of £22 per annum – ‘a conveniently arranged and centrally situated house, containing two reception rooms, five bedrooms, kitchen, scullery etc’.

And six miles from Market Harborough, there is another even larger house – ‘containing three reception rooms, seven bedrooms, bathroom, good office, stable, outbuildings and a small paddock’. Price? £30 per annum.

There are few direct notes about local men in uniform but there is news of Lance Corporal E Fox of Logan Street who has been wounded in action. “Fox has been previously wounded and had recovered and been back at the front only about three months,” says the brief news story.

Private E Lewington has been wounded in the ankle ‘but is going well’. Apparently his brother has also previously been wounded and his brother-in-law has ‘lost the use of his right arm’. Two other brothers are serving, another has been discharged and his father is fighting in Egypt.

And there is some good news of a sort for one family. Corporal Ernest Wilson, who was wounded some months ago, has recently been moved from Manchester to Market Harborough’s Park House VAD Hospital.

  • This column is published every Monday by John Dilley on the Newspapers and the Great War website and will continue until the 100th anniversary of the final armistice in November 2018.
  • My fellow researcher and De Montfort University lecturer David Penman is conducting a similar real-time project with the Ashbourne Telegraph. Check out his Great War Reports.
  • Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.

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