“Twas a dark and stormy night …“ Even the crying is in tempo in Little Nell, a strange, cautionary tale about the price of sin, which haunts many a childhood past. Played for laughs, this mocking melodrama in rhythm was a popular burlesque variety show act in the 1930s, with a fallen lass and a villain to boo, by turns an actor or a city slicker who ‘had more money, than a dog has fleas’.
To add to the oddity of this amateur production, the filmmaker, George Cummin, takes on each role himself, even the baby Dumbell. This former 1930s dance band musician, who played the summer seasons at the Whitby Spa Theatre, based the film on a popular American piece of music, written and composed by Elly Divina in 1933. He was also a member of the Newcastle and District Amateur Cinematographers’ Association (ACA), one of the first five cine clubs in England, founded in 1927. Cummin had been making films since 1933. He worked on documentaries and fiction films into the 1960s, including Newcastle ACA’s Silver Plaque winner at Amateur Cine World in 1952, ‘PC Grubb’s Last Case’.
North East Film Archive is one of a network of regional film archives established to collect, preserve and show film made in, or about the North East of England. Our collections are non-fiction, and date from the early 1900s to the present day, providing a rich record of life in the region over the 20th century. Many of our films are available to watch, free of charge, on our website.