Born in 1897, Ernest Betts was an early film critic, and the author of Heraclitus, or the Future of Films in 1928.
He has to be said to be unnecessarily gloomy:
‘Chiefly as a result of American films, a large part of the world, and especially the youthful world, now has a cabaret outlook, full of feeble passion, Woolworth glitter, and trumpery heroics. … But there is a difference between entertaining a man by making him drink and entertaining a man by making him drunk. The American film has doped the world with rotten juices. By a strength of purpose which is staggering and its one superb virtue, it has flung at us, year by year, in unending deluge, its parcel of borrowed stories and flashy little moralities.’
In the same book, he wrote of the advent of talking pictures that ‘The soul of the film—its eloquent and vital silence—is destroyed. The film now returns to the circus whence it came, among the freaks and the fat ladies’.
Betts remained active and prolific until at least 1972, when a survey was published by him of British film, and he’d long got over his prejudices. In a Sunday Express review of Double Indemity in 1944, he admits ‘I have seldom seen a first-class murder on the screen which I have enjoyed so much’. In fact, for a brief period in the late 1930s, he is credited with four original or adapted screenplays. In 1935, he’d edited the Daily Express Film Book.His first publication, however, had been a war memoir (The Bagging of Baghdad, 1920).