February 21, 2017

WHATSHISNAME: The Life and Death of Charles Hawtrey by Wes Butters

At last – the definitive biography of Charles Hawtrey! From Wes Butters, Sony award winning broadcaster and author of Kenneth Williams Unseen, comes an extensively researched and compelling book almost fifteen years in the making, featuring scores of exclusive interviews, including Hawtrey’s inner circle and family, never-before-seen photographs, and private documents and correspondence. The result is the first definitive account of a life Hawtrey himself was keen to see evaporate into the mist of history.

The real life Charles Hawtrey was a tortured soul, embittered and exhausted by a lifelong search for stardom and success. Starting out as a child actor in silent movies and in the theatre, he was also England’s leading boy soprano and went on to work alongside a positive who’s who of the thirties and forties in films and on stage, TV & radio. But he quickly became typecast as the “funny fella with glasses” and increasingly turned to alcohol when his shattered dreams, combined with the fulltime care and eventual death of his mentally-ill mother, finally got the better of him.

From there, he spiralled into reclusion and paranoid fantasies, buying a cottage on the south coast and filling it with brass bedsteads and rent boys, one of whom burnt it down after Hawtrey wanted to pay by cheque. Bitter and angry, he would reduce autograph- hunting children to tears because they didn’t know his surname, tell their parents they were peasants and collapse in drunken stupors on pub floors, legs in the air, refusing to leave at closing time. (Still traumatised by him, one landlord says even now the locals wouldn’t stand for a picture of him behind the bar.)

In 1988, doctors gave Hawtrey a life or death choice to amputate both his legs. He refused, believing a transplant of pig’s veins would save him, but died a month later. Nine people were at his funeral.

This extensively illustrated book will be published on the 27th April to coincide with the initial broadcast of Wes Butters’ BBC Radio 4 documentary The Pain of Laughter: That Funny Fella With the Glasses.

To be published by Tomahawk Press, April 2010. Order your copy at http://www.tomahawkpress.com/tomahawk.html

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Hi, I'm Steve, the Britmovie admin with a love of British cinema especially Ealing Studios output and 50s/60s b-movie crime films.