Charles Coborn

Charles Coborn Artistfacts

  • August 4, 1852 - November 23, 1945
  • One of the most recognisable and enduring stars of the British music hall, Charles Coborn was born Colin Whitton McCallum, Whitton being his mother's maiden name and Colin his father's first. He entered the world August 4, 1852 at 25 Sydney Square, Mile End, which according to his autobiography was "At that time...a very respectable neighbourhood". He left school in 1866 and worked for a metal broker in the City of London, but didn't last long. As a youth he took an interest in amateur dramatics, and soon realised that his future lay in this field.
    The first song he learned, and sung, was called The Twins...."In face and feature, form and limb..." He sang this at a children's party, with some success, and began haunting music halls and the like to "learn the songs of the leading comedians of the day".
    Eventually his persistance paid off, and he made his debut as a paid performance in North Greenwich in 1872, at a public house called the Alhambra Music Hall, where he was engaged for two nights a week. Initially he performed in amateur dramatics as Charles Laurie, but took the name Coborn after Coborn Road at the suggestion of a friend, W.H. Allerton. At the Alhambra he was chairman, manager, vocalist and reciter.
  • In October 1879, he auditioned for the Oxford Music Hall, which engaged him for six months; he was billed as "The Comic of the Day".
  • Coborn had no formal musical training, and in the early 1880s some of his songs were arranged by Willie Milne, the conductor of an orchestra.
    He performed the character song "The London Cabby" dressed in a cabman's overcoat, hat and whip, but his two most famous songs were the 1886 parody "Two Lovely Black Eyes", which he wrote himself, and the Fred Gilbert composition "The Man Who Broke The Bank At Monte Carlo". Initially he rejected the song, but having a sudden change of heart, tracked Gilbert down and bought the rights off him for ten pounds. Although he would eventually sell it for six hundred pounds, the song, and the toff character he created for it became his trademark. He recorded it several times up until a fairly advanced age, and even used the title for his autobiography "THE MAN WHO BROKE THE BANK" MEMORIES OF THE STAGE & MUSIC HALL.
    Charles Coborn's final performance was in the 1943 film Variety Jubilee; he died in 1945 at the age of 93. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 3

Comments: 1

  • Malcolm Wilson from Portstewart MiHave just found two articles concerning Charles Coborn, a signed photo about his walks, and appearing Picture House Portrush NI. Was wondering what year that might have been?? Mentioned that McCallum was mentioned, I have lots of relations who were MCCallums. Await your comment Malcolm
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