One of the few remaining links with the old-time music hall has gone with the death, last Sunday, of Fred Kitchen. Mr. Kitchen, who was 77 and died in a Hampton-hill nursing home, was discovered by Fred Karno more than fifty years ago. Large-hearted in his generosity of feeling and big physically, Fred Kitchen was the originator of the catch-phrase "Meredith, we're in!" - the last line of his famous music-hall sketch, "Moses and Son" [WRONG! - Catchphrase from "The Bailiffs"], which he toured for many years. He became a leading comedian for Fred Karno. He claimed to be the first comedian to wear outsize boots, and when asked why he never played in America, replied that everyone there would say he was imitating Charlie Chaplin.
It was Mr. Kitchen who helped Chaplin when the Kennington boy was setting out on his professional career. Fred Kitchen, a master of mime himself, taught Chaplin the rudiments of this art.
At seven, he was earning a few shillings a week. But by 1918 his salary was £450 a week for appearances at the Folies Bergere in Paris. He did not often appear in the West End, the provinces being his theatre-home, but his gift as a player of sketches, his power to bring tears to the eyes of his audiences, and his robust, clean humour were celebrated throughout the world of music-hall.
After he retired, in 1945, Mr. Kitchen seldom went to the theatre, though he continued to take a lively interest in his fellow artists. He was one of the oldest members of the Grand Order of Water Rats.
Mr. Kitchen expressed a wish that the words, "Meredith, we're in", should be engraved on his tombstone, which, it is understood, is to be done.
Fred Kitchen, one of a family connected with the stage for more than a century, was born in 1873. His first appearance was at the Prince's, Portsmouth, when he was carried on to the stage in his father's arms in "The Dumb Man of Manchester." His first important part was as a page-boy in "His Majesty's Guest" [WRONG! Played 'Fritz' the German], at the Princess's, Glasgow. He had a remarkable gift for touching his audiences with his depth of pathos, and was said to be one of the few actors able to cry real tears on the stage.
There was a Benefit for him at the Winter Gardens, London, in 1945. Mrs. Kitchen died during the last war.
Fred Kitchen, Junr., his son, carries on the family music-hall tradition, being an artist of personality and talent in his own right.
STAN LAUREL - KARNO COMEDIAN