A life in pictures exhibition cover


01.09.17 - 12.12.17

Professor Rob Shail

Harry Sanders was a cinema showman. He spent fifty years working in the film business from 1913 to 1963, and even when he retired he continued to take a keen interest in the medium to which he had given so much of his life. He wasn’t a movie star, a producer or a director. He never wrote a screenplay or composed a score. He didn’t make a single film himself and yet his role, like many others who shared his vocation, helped to shape the cinema experience of literally millions of people in Britain, generation after generation. Harry Sanders was a cinema manager. His job took him to picture palaces all over the country during an era when cinema was the nation’s most popular leisure activity outside the home. This was a time when the cinema manager had a level of freedom rarely seen today. Not only did he choose the films to be shown, he was responsible personally for the publicity materials which would, hopefully, bring in a paying audience. It was the latter which was Harry’s real passion and which these exhibits illustrate. Harry’s other grand obsession was collecting the materials that he created and over the years the boxes of paper accumulated to become an archive of the cinema showman’s trade. These yellowing, fragile pages eventually found their way via his son, Howard, to the archives of the Science and Media Museum, Bradford where this eager researcher saw them; each one a fragment of a man’s life, bearing witness to a life at the pictures. 

past exhibitions