In 1921, your school or university careers adviser would have been unlikely to recommend you the profession of ‘film critic’ for the simple reason that it didn’t yet exist as a full-time job. While film-going was already the most popular entertainment for the masses, the movies still weren’t taken seriously by the intelligentsia and were mostly reviewed in trade journals.
So when Caroline Lejeune from Withington, Manchester, fresh out of university, announced her intention of becoming a film critic, there were probably a few dropped jaws in the family home. Luckily for her, CP Scott, editor of the Guardian, was a family friend and encouraged her to move to London, take a postgraduate degree and write a regular column in the Manchester Guardian which she kept up until 1928, transferring to the Observer until her retirement in 1960.
I was reminded of Lejeune by an excellent article in the Guardian which links to a few of her reviews. She loved Hitchcock (though abhorred Psycho), hated Errol Flynn’s Adventures of Robin Hood and admired Eisenstein. Sadly, she’s probably best remembered now for her scathing review of Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, mentioned in this blog a few weeks ago, but she deserves far greater recognition.
You can find out more about her life in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (her biography is written Dilys Powell, another notable female film critic) or from her autobiography Thank you for Having Me. But, most importantly, if you want to read her criticism, check out the Guardian and Observer Archive (log in with your Westminster Library card). For more writing on cinema, check out the International Index to Performing Arts or why not pay a visit to Westminster Reference Library to explore the excellent Performing Arts Collection?