Grind House

Mullins, Bill AMRDEC Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL
Fri Mar 30 19:33:08 UTC 2007

Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

> ...
> I don't think it has any connection to "grinder" (barker), as
> OED hints. =20 It's probably literally a grind house--a film
> mill. Earlier citations welcom= e. =20 Is VARIETY searchable?

There are some searchable Variety clippings in the subscription archive
of the Conjuring Arts Research Center.

_Variety_ 12/6/1923 p. 19 col 4

I find "grinder" as Variety's synonym for "grind house" in a headline on

OED etymology for "grind house" cites Lightner's HDAS as going back to
1926 for "grinder" (I don't have the HDAS at hand).

>From a classified ad:
_Billboard_ 10/5/1918, p. 41 col 1:
posing, tickets, lay down act; will need tickets to join.  FRANCIS
GEORGE, General Delivery, Erie, Pennsylvania."

Various relevant "grind" citations:

>From a display ad:
_Billboard_, 11/30/1918, p. 63 col 2
"We can place, to join at once, Complete Cabaret, also Plantation Show.
Plantation People of ability, write or wire quick.  We can place several
more Money-Getting Shows, Grind or Bally."

[ad from Thayer Mfg. Co, for a "Buddha Fortune Telling Mystery" -- an
animatronic fortune teller]
"Carnival Men Take Notice" _Thayer's Magical Bulletin_, 10/1920, vol 8
no 10 p. 156 col 2.
"One of those steady grind attractinos which keep the dimes and quarters
streaming in."

"Salary Deadlock Continues", _Variety_, 4/29/1921, p. 43 col 2.
"Of course the short subject studios are running along and grinding, but
not entirely with their usual speed.  At the Christy studio the comedy
grind goes along full force."
[This quote seems to back up Barry Popik's conclusion relating a grind
house to a film mill -- the studio grinds them out, the grind house
shows them.]

"Cameramen Opposed,"  _Variety_ 5/20/1921 p. 43 col 3.
"The Society of American Cinematographers at its meeting last week
passed a resolution which it is believed will prevent Clara Hamon from
securing any established cameraman to grind on any picture productions
she may make."
[Recall that early film cameras were operated by a crank on the side,
like a barrell organ (which yields an "organ grinder", or like a coffee
grinder.  So perhaps the operation of the movie camera is the origin of
the term, not the notion that a studio grinds them out.  Or maybe a

"Coast Film Notes" by Fred Schrader _Variety_ 7/1/1921 p. 27 col 1.
"Harry "Snub" Pollard has started work on his eightieth comedy.  He is
now grinding at the Hal Roach studio."
[Internet Movie Database tells us that Snub was a prolific actor in the
silent and early talky era -- "grind" here means "working on".]

"Editrivia", _The Jinx_, #64, Oct 28, 1939 p. 448, col 1.
"Those legit houses have now either fallen down or been revamped into
movie grind emporiums."
Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

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