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Fred Karno

Fred Karno

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Frederick John Westcott (26 March 1866 – 18 September 1941), best known by his stage name Fred Karno, was a theatre
Theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

 impresario
Impresario
An impresario is a person who organizes and often finances concerts, plays or operas; analogous to a film producer in filmmaking, television production and an angel investor in business...

 of the British music hall
Music hall
Music Hall is a type of British theatrical entertainment which was popular between 1850 and 1960. The term can refer to:# A particular form of variety entertainment involving a mixture of popular song, comedy and speciality acts...

. Karno is credited with inventing the custard-pie
Custard pie
A custard pie is any type of uncooked custard mixture added to an uncooked or partially cooked crust and baked together. In North America, custard pie commonly refers to a plain mixture of milk, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla extract and sometimes nutmeg combined with a pie crust...

-in-the-face
Face
The face is a central sense organ complex, for those animals that have one, normally on the ventral surface of the head, and can, depending on the definition in the human case, include the hair, forehead, eyebrow, eyelashes, eyes, nose, ears, cheeks, mouth, lips, philtrum, temple, teeth, skin, and...

 gag
Gag
A gag is usually a device designed to prevent speech, often as a restraint device to stop the subject from calling for help. This is usually done by blocking the mouth, partially or completely, or attempting to prevent the tongue, lips, or jaw from moving in the normal patterns of speech. They are...

. Among the young comedian
Comedian
A comedian or comic is a person who seeks to entertain an audience, primarily by making them laugh. This might be through jokes or amusing situations, or acting a fool, as in slapstick, or employing prop comedy...

s who worked for him were Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin
Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, KBE was an English comic actor, film director and composer best known for his work during the silent film era. He became the most famous film star in the world before the end of World War I...

 and Arthur Jefferson, who later adopted the name of Stan Laurel
Stan Laurel
Arthur Stanley "Stan" Jefferson , better known as Stan Laurel, was an English comic actor, writer and film director, famous as the first half of the comedy team Laurel and Hardy. His film acting career stretched between 1917 and 1951 and included a starring role in the Academy Award winning film...

. These were part of what was known as "Fred Karno's Army", a phrase still occasionally used in the UK to refer to a chaotic group or organisation. The phrase was also adapted by British soldiers into a trench song
War song
A war song is a musical composition that relates to war, or a society's attitudes towards war. They may be pro-war, anti-war, or simply a description of everyday life during war times....

 in the First World War, as a parody
Parody
A parody , in current usage, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation...

 of the hymn
Hymn
A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification...

 'The Church's One Foundation
The Church's one foundation
The Church's One Foundation is a Christian hymn written in the 1860s by Samuel John Stone.The hymn was written as a direct response to some teaching, considered unorthodox at the time, by John William Colenso, first Bishop of Natal, which created schism within the church in South Africa...

'.In the Second World War it was adapted as the Anthem of the Guinea Pig Club
Guinea Pig Club
The Guinea Pig Club was formed of patients of Archibald McIndoe at Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, Sussex who underwent reconstructive plastic surgery during World War II, generally after receiving burn injuries in aircraft....

, the first line becoming “We are McIndoe's Army,”.

Biography


Karno was born in Exeter
Exeter
Exeter is a historic city in Devon, England. It lies within the ceremonial county of Devon, of which it is the county town as well as the home of Devon County Council. Currently the administrative area has the status of a non-metropolitan district, and is therefore under the administration of the...

, Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

, England, in 1866. He worked as a cabinet maker with a workshop in Waterbeer Street. He married Edith and in 1896 his son, Fred Karno, Jr. was born.

In 1904 he visited Tagg's Island
Tagg's Island
Tagg's Island is an island in the River Thames in England on the reach above Molesey Lock and just above Ash Island. Although it is close to the Surrey bank near East Molesey, Surrey, it is connected to the further Middlesex bank by a long single track road bridge and is within the London Borough...

 and in 1912 he bought the island and the existing hotel. He demolished the original hotel and hired architect Frank Matcham
Frank Matcham
Frank Matcham was a famous English theatrical architect. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery.-Early career:...

 to build The Karsino
The Karsino
The Karsino was a hotel on Tagg's Island in the River Thames in England which existed from 1912 till 1972.-History:It was built for Fred Karno by architect Frank Matcham in 1912. When World War I started in 1914, the resort was popular with returning military officers and their families. In 1925...

.

With the advent of cinema
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

, the music hall's popularity declined. As a result of this decline, Karno went bankrupt in 1925.

On 24 May 1927 his wife Edith, from whom he had been separated since 1904, died in her sleep of diabetes. Three weeks later, Karno married his second wife, his long-time partner, Marie Moore. Karno died in 1941 from diabetes, aged 75.

Legacy


His houseboat
Houseboat
A houseboat is a boat that has been designed or modified to be used primarily as a human dwelling. Some houseboats are not motorized, because they are usually moored, kept stationary at a fixed point and often tethered to land to provide utilities...

, the Astoria
Astoria (recording studio)
Astoria is a grand houseboat, adapted as a recording studio by its owner, Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour. It is moored on the River Thames near Hampton Court...

, on the River Thames
River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England. It is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom. While it is best known because its lower reaches flow through central London, the river flows alongside several other towns and cities, including Oxford,...

 at Hampton
Hampton, London
Hampton is a suburban area, centred on an old village on the north bank of the River Thames, in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in England. Formerly it was in the county of Middlesex, which was formerly also its postal county. The population is about 9,500...

, Middlesex
Middlesex
Middlesex is one of the historic counties of England and the second smallest by area. The low-lying county contained the wealthy and politically independent City of London on its southern boundary and was dominated by it from a very early time...

, is now used as a recording studio
Recording studio
A recording studio is a facility for sound recording and mixing. Ideally both the recording and monitoring spaces are specially designed by an acoustician to achieve optimum acoustic properties...

 by Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd were an English rock band that achieved worldwide success with their progressive and psychedelic rock music. Their work is marked by the use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, innovative album art, and elaborate live shows. Pink Floyd are one of the most commercially...

's David Gilmour
David Gilmour
David Jon Gilmour, CBE, D.M. is an English rock musician and multi-instrumentalist who is best known as the guitarist, one of the lead singers and main songwriters in the progressive rock band Pink Floyd. In addition to his work with Pink Floyd, Gilmour has worked as a producer for a variety of...

.

Further reading


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