Wednesday, October 2, 2013

John Henry -- The Laughter Dies

Gladys Horridge ("Blossom") and Henry.
Henry (real name Norman Clapham) had been one of the most popular radio comedians in England, but his career was in rapid decline when he committed suicide in his London home on Holland Road, W. on May 14, 1934.  The 52-year-old entertainer was found on the floor covered with an eiderdown comforter  nestled on three pillows, clutching a photo of his beloved who had recently died and his head inside a gas oven.  Letters found at the scene and earlier posted to friends by the dead man explained the act.  Separated from his real wife, Henry had been living with Gladys Horridge, a featured player known in his radio act as "Blossom" whom he had been passing off as his wife.  When Horridge died, weeks before he took his own life, Henry testifed that she was his wife in order to spare her any embarrassment.  When Henry's actual wife notified him that she was filing a lawsuit against him for support, he realized that he would not only be publicly embarrassed, but also face prosecution for giving false evidence at an inquest.

In the suicide note read at Henry's inquest, the comedian wrote:  "I am going to join my girl.  Please bury me with her and put her photo with me.  She was good to me and without her life is not worth living.  I am sorry to cause everyone trouble, but perhaps I have given a little happiness to others by the wireless.  It will require only a few minutes after I turn on the gas.  Hello everybody, John Henry.  I am going to my girl.  Goodbye everyone."  Henry's funeral was paid for by the Variety Artists' Benevolent Fund and attended by some 500 people.

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