|L-R: Aviator Amy Johnson (standing arm in arm with Charlie), Lady Astor, George Bernard Shaw
(petting a greyhound), Lord Astor, and Ralph Barton (far right).
Charlie originally planned to meet Shaw during his visit to London in 1921, but when he arrived at his doorstep, he suddenly felt “self-conscious and silly,” so he changed his mind. Ten years later, Charlie admitted he was still nervous about meeting the great playwright but after a discussion on art and world economics, he decided that Shaw was “a benign gentleman who uses his intellect as a defensive mechanism to hide his sentimentality.” *
Lady Astor was born in Virginia and was the first woman to sit as a member of Parliament in the British House of Commons. Charlie was very fond of her and thought she would have made a wonderful actress: “Toward the end of lunch,” he remembered, “Lady Astor put in some comedy buck teeth that covered her own and gave an imitation of a Victorian lady speaking at an equestrian club. The teeth distorted her face with a most comical expression. She said fervently: “In our day we British women followed the hounds in proper ladylike fashion–not in the vulgar cross-legged style of those Western hussies in America. We rode sidesaddle hard and fast with dignity and womanly comeliness.” **
|Charlie remembered that during this post-lunch photo session a cameraman asked Shaw to “turn this side.”
He replied “good-naturedly”: “I’ll do nothing of the kind, this is the only side you’ll get.” *
Two days later, Shaw and Lady Astor would be Charlie’s guests at the London opening of City Lights. I will have more on that later this week.
*”A Comedian Sees The World, Part One,” A Woman’s Home Companion, September 1933
**My Autobiography, 1964