Can you identify faces in Northampton Savoy Cinema photos?

At the piano is chief projctionist Fred Allen with usherettes. Cinema manager Arthur Lowry is at the back
At the piano is chief projctionist Fred Allen with usherettes. Cinema manager Arthur Lowry is at the back

People who remember the golden days of Northampton’s Savoy Cinema are asked to help identify staff featured in these photos.

The photos were taken during a celebration in May 1941 at the fifth anniversary of the opening of the cinema, which is now the Jesus Centre.

The fifth anniversary party in 1941.

The fifth anniversary party in 1941.

Now projectionist John Knight, from Earls Barton, is asking anyone who recognises the happy faces to get in touch.

He conducts occasional tours of the building and would like to use the information to make his commentary more comprehensive.

Mr Knight said: “My sole reason for wanting this publicity was to find out whether any of the staff in the photos were still alive and, if so, where they are now.

“If any of them have passed away, I would like to know how, when and where they died.

The Savoy projection room.

The Savoy projection room.

“In particular, I am keen to know about the young lady standing at the left of the picture showing Fred Allen, who was the chief projectionist, playing the the piano.

“Her maiden name was Denise McHugh and for a time she was my girlfriend.”

The tour takes people to areas not normally accessible to the public.

In all, it takes about forty minutes during which Mr Knight explains how the projection room (pictured above) functioned and also various other technical aspects around the cinema.

Mr Knight says he has many anecdotes.

The job was more dangerous than many would imagine. As the film was made of flammable celluloid, it was always in danger of going so fast it would burst into flames. at which point steel shutters would slam down, protecting the auditorium.

Nor was the job simply about showing films.

During rationing, the usherettes, like all women at the time, found it difficult to source tights.

And, like most women, they would subtly dye their legs with gravy powder to give the impression of hosiery with seams marked up the back for extra authenticity.

However, it was sometimes the task of Mr Knight, when the girls were sunbathing on the Savoy’s roof during breaks, to draw on the seam “from bum to heel”.

Mr Knight also recounts how, when Gone With the Wind was captivating cinema-goers across the land, one audience at the Savoy got a different version.

One of the 20-odd reels was not played in order resulting in a unplanned flashback and angry customers complaining they couldn’t understand the “rubbish” plot.

Ten places are available for the free tour, which will take place from 10am on Thursday, December 18.

Anyone who has information about the photographs or is interested in the tour can call 01604 949270.