Skip to main content

Archive of the McCarthy Agency


  • How to

The vast bulk of the papers comprises typescript reviews produced by McCarthy. There are a few other film-related papers found with, but not directly connected to the reviews.


  • Creation: 1936-1968


4.05 Linear metres (27 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Eng. d. 3785, fols. 1-2].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Eng. c. 7387, d. 3785-3810

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 6176


Film reviews produced by the McCarthy Agency 1936-1968, with some other papers 1935-1976

Biographical / Historical

Harold McCarthy was born on 28th October 1892 in Hackney, North London, the youngest of four brothers and three sisters. He left school at 15 and worked in Fleet Street on several publications.

In 1916, in company with his older brother Charles, he volunteered for the Honourable Artillery Company and trained as a gunner. In France he was the lead driver of a six horse 25 pounder gun team, serving at Ypres and other battles with the rank of Bombadier. When the war ended, he was sent to Germany with the Army of Occupation until he was demobbed in 1920.

Back in civilian life McCarthy started work with the Bioscope, a film trade paper. In 1922 he married May Greening, also from Hackney, and they eventually settled in Finchley. They had two sons. Harold McCarthy was made Circulation Manager of the Bioscope in 1927, but the magazine did not survive the depression and it closed in 1932 leaving him unemployed.

With his knowledge of the film business, McCarthy identified the need for cinema owners to have independent assessments of the numerous films available, so he toured the country offering such a service and started to supply reports. From this beginning he took an office at 32 Shaftesbury Avenue, at the heart of the film trade, and also took on the totally reliable Miss Violet Worth as his secretary. She steadfastly remained with him until they both retired in 1968.

The business thrived and peaked just after the second world war when the number of independent cinema owners was at its height. The clientele consisted not only of cinemas in the UK and Eire, but also India, Pakistan and a few African countries. McCarthy's output was very extensive as he saw all films from the major blockbusters to the second rate ‘B’ pictures and quite often saw three or even four films in a day. He averaged six films a week, 52 weeks of the year.

With the post-war boom in the cinema, the big cinema chains started to acquire premises from independent establishments. By the start of the 1950s McCarthy's clientele was in decline and the trend continued, accelerated by the advent of television. In 1962 the lease on the Shaftesbuy Avenue premises expired and the building was redeveloped, so McCarthy took an office in Whitfield Street until he decided to call it a day in 1968.

Harold McCarthy was known for his dry sense of humour and for his brevity on the telephone but never spoke about himself. He was always a gardener, being particularly fond of chrysanthemums and was vice-chairman of the local society. He died on 26 July 1970. (From information supplied by Brian McCarthy.)


The reviews are arranged by distributing company, and then chronologically by the date of trade showing. This reflects the general arrangement in which they were found; the trade showing is the date most consistently appearing on the reviews.

Custodial History

The papers were owned by a family which ran a now defunct provincial independent cinema in Bristol.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Ed Maggs Booksellers, 2008.

Catalogue of the archive of the McCarthy Agency
Finding aid prepared by Michael Hughes
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom