The Vaporized Variety Star: 2021 Correspondents: Chortle: The UK Comedy Guide
In November 1934 several newspapers ran an advertisement for Vick Vapor-Rub, backed by ‘BBC star’ Mr Carr Lynn, right. “I depend on my throat for a living,” said Mr. Lynn, who has been described as a well-known stage and radio animal impersonator. Vick Vapor-Rub couldn’t have found a better lawyer. After all, who wants to listen to a whole backyard of coughing and hissing cattle?
I have to admit that the name Carr Lynn meant nothing to me. I assumed he must have been a predecessor of Percy Edwards, the go-to animal impersonator of the 1970s and 1980s, who voiced the dog Bubbles in Hi-de-Hi, A Whole Pig Family in The Good Life. , and a sleepover in Les Bonbons.
Carr Lynn was indeed a generation older than Percy, having started his stage career in 1914. But their radio debut is surprisingly close. Carr Lynn in 1928, Percy Edwards in 1931.
Carr Lynn, generally billed as a “comedian and impersonator,” walked on stage dressed as a farmer and made vocal impressions of the various animals on his farm. He was exactly the kind of character the comics would use to send out that kind of niche artist. An unconvincing country accent punctuated by equally unconvincing woofs, quacks and sniffles.
Kenneth Williams did a similar trick to entertain Tony Hancock in the classic radio episode Sunday Afternoon at Home. And, on television, Peter Glaze was the impressionistic maniacal dog of Tony Joshua Merryweather’s “mummerset” in The Bowmans, a thinly veiled parody of The Archers.
Everything indicates that Carr Lynn was a better class of animal imitators, in fact one of the biggest names (in a fairly specialized field) of his day. His act also had a neat twist. After completing his tour of each pigsty, stable and barn, he would add a touch of the exotic by turning his attention to the visiting circus in the next field. The fierce roar of a lion was achieved using the cylindrical glass chimney of an oil lamp. (Percy Edwards can be seen using the same equipment during his appearance on The Morecambe and Wise Show.)
On a tour of the American vaudeville circuit, Carr Lynn visited the Bronx Zoo and, according to a local newspaper, managed to get a little conversation about every animal “except the giraffe, which never been known to talk to no one anyway “.
No matter where in the world he was, he always made a high-profile visit to the local farm or zoo. But he received less well received publicity in Australia after another artist, ventriloquist Arthur Prince, punched him hard in the jaw. After that, it was impossible to see either of their mouths move.
Almost only among artists, he actively discouraged public response. If anyone did start clapping, they would stop them with a reprimanded whistle. “It’s just a working job,” he told them. Should I call your office and greet you with a salvo when you strike?
However, the Vapor-Rub commercial of November 1934 doesn’t quite tell the story. This “BBC star” had not been heard on the air for two years. He hadn’t played in a variety theater recently either. It was in November 1933, a year before, that he had made his last appearance on stage. Shortly after, he was admitted to the hospital. And the theatrical newspaper The Stage reported his death in April 1934.
For many artists, that would be the end of the story. But then Vick Vapor-Rub came to his rescue. Carr Lynn may have been dead for over six months, but these medicated vapors quickly kicked in. And here he is, in the dailies, recovered and impatient to resume his stage and radio career.
It wasn’t the first time Vick Vapor-Rub had ripped a troubled soul from the clutches of death. In their safes is a glowing testimony from a prominent member of the Danish royal family, who had thought long and hard about his own mortality until he finally spotted this life-affirming glass jar. It reads: “Die, sleep; sleep, maybe dream – well, here’s the rub!
• • Alan Stafford is the author of Wilson, Keppel And Betty: Too Naked For The Nazis, available in paperback from Fantom Publishing, Amazon and independent bookstores.
Posted: 23 November 2021