The Auntie Doris Years: 1921

fattyFilms were still silent in those days, and my father still wanted nothing to do with them, but he was pittling into a strong wind. Hollywood was getting so popular, they had already put up those great big letters in the hills that everyone recognises to this day. There were proper stars too. I’ve already mentioned Charlie Chaplin, but there were lots more, Buster Keaton, Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson, and of course, Fatty Arbuckle.

How many fat film stars are there these days eh? I can’t think of one. Not since Oliver Hardy hung up his bowler hat. That black man who did the Nutty Professor doesn’t count. He was wearing a rubber suit. Perhaps the people of Hollywood have something about fat people. They would rather pay a thin man to pretend to be one, than pay a genuine one the going rate. It all smacks of discrimination to me. Fancy forcing a man into changing his fist name into a mockery of his appearance. That black man who did the Nutty Professor never had to do anything like that. There would have been an outcry, and quite right too. Don’t go thinking that I’m a racialist just because I can’t remember his ruddy name. I can’t remember the name of that white man out of the films who got done for fiddling with himself in the pictures either, it means nothing. Apart from maybe that I never held with either of them and their sodding silly films. And (in case you are wondering) they come out on the other side at the same time as they go on general release in America, and they don’t charge you over the odds for a box of popcorn here either).

Any road, in 1921 Fatty Arbuckle got charged with rape and ruddy murder. They said that he had forced his attentions on this poor lass and somehow burst her insides, laying on top of her with his enormous weight. He got acquitted by a jury. Was the charge a load of codswallop made up by people who were jealous of a fat man who was rich and famous? I don’t know. He said he never did it, and she said he did. His career was ruined, despite the not guilty charge. They haven’t changed their stories here on the other side either. One thing I do know is that it is pretty ruddy hard for a fat fellow to kill someone just by laying on them. Alright, Big Daddy did send Mal “King Kong” Kirk to an early grave by jumping headlong onto his prone body, but that was a ‘Daddy Splash’ a dangerous wrestling move that should have been banned. And besides, Kirk wasn’t very well before entering the ring. If Fatty Arbuckle had done a Daddy Splash on that lass, they should have hung the wicked so and so.

Auntie Doris’s pop pick of 1921: “The Sheik of Araby” by Ray Miller and his Black and White Melody Boys. Nice song, but I wouldn’t want anyone creeping into MY tent at night whilst I was asleep. My flaps are staying shut tight, thank you very much.

The Auntie Doris Years: 1915

Charlie-ChaplinCinemas 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.