Cinemas had been popping up all over the place in the 1910s, The Tower, the Regent, the Grand, the Majestic, the Strand, and the Coliseum. Loads of them. All bingo halls, pubs and carpet warehouses now, if they haven’t been ruddy pulled down. Not that my Mother and Father ever went. He saw the rising popularity of cinema as a sign of the End of Days, and forbade her to go anywhere near one. When you think what went on in some of them ruddy films, you can almost understand him. One of the top films of 1915 featured a homeless vigilante, who hit his adversaries in the face with a brick wrapped up in cloth, or on the head with a large mallet, only stopping when he was shot in the leg as he chased some thieves. And this was a comedy! “The Tramp”: written, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin was a huge star all over the world by 1915, and “The Tramp” was the film where he perfected his most popular character. Bowler hat, cane, tight jacket and ruddy great enormous trousers. My mother always told me never to trust a man in baggy trousers. The baggier the
trousers, the filthier the so and so inside them she used to say. A man can get up to all sorts of tricks in a baggy pair of trousers. Charlie Chaplain could anyway. In “Easy Street” he went into a church and hid the collection box inside of them. Although he did give it back once he clapped eyes on Edna Purviance. He had his eye on her, did Charlie. In fact whilst he was sitting next to her, there was probably a damned sight less room in his trousers than there was when he was sat next to the vicar. He liked all his leading ladies, and the younger the better… but that’s another story My Raymond’s friend Albert once tried that trick in Fine Fare and stuffed a bottle of Asti Spumante into his underpants whilst wearing some huge trousers. Unfortunately, the top wasn’t on properly, and it fizzed up a bit whilst he was walking home. He bumped into our Madge down Salisbury Street and as he stopped to raise his hat, there was a loud pop and all white foam started frothing out of his flyhole. Madge didn’t know where to put herself, and didn’t speak to him for over a year afterwards. Doris’s Pop Pick of 1915: “Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag” by the Powell Brothers. The buggers were trying to break the stalemate of trench warfare by using poison gas. The U-boats were preventing supplies getting into Britain. People were realising that the War was going to last a lot longer than expected and many young men were going to perish. What better way to try and make light of things than by having a song that suggested you “smile, smile, smile” in times of difficulty.