Fred Karno
Fred Karno

A Lichfield author’s new book is lifting the lid on a man who was the driving force behind some of the best known comics of all time.

Fred Karno – The Legend Behind the Laughter has been written by David Crump and will be published on 5th November before being officially launched on 25th November at The Hub at St Mary’s.

The book tells the story of the music hall star who transformed himself into an impresario from his headquarters, known as The Fun Factory.

More than 2,000 comics passed through his “nursery of nonsense” including the likes of Will Hay, Sandy Powell, Max Miller, Harry Weldon, Fred Kitchen, Robb Wilton, Syd Walker and – most significantly of all – Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel.

Laurel said of his mentor:

“Fred Karno didn’t teach Charlie and me all we know about comedy – he just taught us most of it.”

Stan Laurel

“A tortured private life:

But as the silent film studios flexed their muscles, Karno gradually lost his stars and his career went into terminal decline.

Author David said:

David Crump

“A genius on the stage, Karno also had a tortured private life and was notoriously difficult to work with, but his personal demons were far more complex than previous accounts suggest.

“Karno made millions but invested it badly, building an ill-fated hotel called Karsino at Tagg’s Island, near Hampton Court, which eventually led to his downfall.

“The First World War and competition from cinema sounded the death knell for his business empire and, despite some half-hearted attempts at making films, including a spell working with Laurel and Hardy in Hollywood, he ended his career a bankrupt.

“In his retirement he ran an off-licence in Poole, very literally down amongst the wines and spirits, and he died penniless and forgotten.”

David Crump

Fred Karno – The Legend Behind the Laughter is based on previously undiscovered family archives, never before published photographs and personal letters.

For more details visit publisher

The launch event takes place at The Hub at St Mary’s from 7.30pm to 9pm on 25th November and will feature a talk by the author and a question and answer session.

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