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Dudley drummer dad played for the silent movies at the Castle

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: February 08, 2014

By Dan Shaw

  • Sydney James Griffiths in the orchestra pit at Castle Cinema Dudley in the 1920s

  • Sydney James Griffiths

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OUR recent articles with pictures taken at the Castle Cinema in Dudley in the 1930s were spotted by Maggie Ralph of Bridport, Dorset, whose own father worked there in the '20s.

Maggie has sent in these two pictures of her father and writes, "Following on from your article on the Castle Cinema, Dudley, in December, I attach images of my dad Sydney James Griffiths who played the drums for the silent films there.

"The picture of him seated at the drums was presumably taken in the orchestra pit as it is noted on the back 'Castle Cin. Dudley'.

"Dad was born in 1911 and I remember him telling me that as a boy he used to sit with the drummer at the cinema and learned how to follow what was happening on the screen – so well that, when the drummer retired in 1926, Dad took over at the grand old age of 15.

"When the silent era finished Dad played in the orchestras at Dudley and Birmingham Hippodromes, and in the 1950s and '60s had his own dance band, the Syd James Quartet.

"As a child I remember that Dad's drum kit was usually set up in the front room and he kept us kids entertained with his silent movie 'tricks' – gunshots, horses' hooves, motor horns, whistles, thunder, squeaky doors, etc.

"His love of silent films has passed to me and I still enjoy watching the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton."

The Castle Cinema, in High Street, Dudley, underwent several changes of name over the years. It started out as a Temperance Hall in 1900 but in 1910 it became the Crown Cinema and the following year the Pictureland. After the First World war it was re-christened the Temple Cinema and at the end of 1924 it became the Castle Cinema.

It remained so until 1936, after which films were no longer shown there and the building became a roller staking rink and later a furniture store.

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  • Griffta  |  February 18 2014, 7:46PM

    that's my Grandpa! I am very proud, I am learning more and more about him and the rest of my family, it's quite an adventure.

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