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Variety Moments

A collection of adverts for local businesses set to popular ballads

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Captions advertise various businesses superimposed onto the following performance routines: A band of 'Romany gypsies' sing to the backing of musicians on stage. Two women perform a jazz dance. Two men tapdance to a big band. A line of chorus girls tapdance to back a black female jazz singer; they are joined by a man performing in 'black face'.

Questions & Activities


  • Why did some singers paint themselves black? Research this performance tradition and discuss the representation of black people on screen.
  • What roles are given to 'gypsies' in cinema? How does this contrast with the reality of Roma people living in Europe today?
  • Do you think the people performing in this film lived in Alloa?
  • Why would this advert be considered successful at the time?
  • What was the variety act and music hall?
  • What elements of advertising today remain and what has changed?


Research the history of cinema advertising. Which feature films inspired the performances in this advertising sequence?

Find out if any of the businesses advertised still exist and what is located at the addresses mentioned today.

Research the variety hall tradition and put on your own variety performance for the twenty-first century.

Discuss the issue of racial stereotyping in the media.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-002-087-C
Resource Rights Holder National Library of Scotland
Project Ref 0581
Date 1935 - 1940c
Genre Advertising
School Subject History, Drama, English, Social Studies, Media Studies, Gender Studies
Subject Matter Business, Race
Who Alloa Cinema (venue)
Where Alloa
Attributes Black and White, Sound
Clip Length 4:24
Film Length 6:45