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The Man Who Was Old Mother Riley - The Lives and Films of Arthur Lucan and Kitty McShane

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The Man Who Was Old Mother Riley - The Lives and Films of Arthur Lucan and Kitty McShane

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“I am in awe! Robert Kenny’s analysis is quite brilliant, and exactly what Lucan deserves after all these years.”

Anthony Slide, author and film historian

“A timely, fascinating and unique study of an unjustly neglected star.”

Jeffrey Richards, Emeritus Professor of Cultural History, University of Lancaster

“This is a book I devoured!”

Richard Anthony Baker, author, broadcaster and former BBC News Assistant Editor

During the 1930s and 40s, Arthur Lucan and his wife Kitty McShane were among the highest-paid and most admired variety artistes in Britain. They packed theatres throughout the land, and made a series of zany films with Arthur as the belligerent washerwoman Old Mother Riley, and Kitty as her flighty daughter. But fame and fortune went to Kitty’s head, and offstage she made Arthur’s life a misery; he collapsed and died-in costume- in May 1954, one week before he was due to appear in court as a bankrupt.

The story of the tears behind the Lucans’ onstage laughter is told here in greater detail than ever before, demolishing old legends, re-assessing the comic genius of Arthur, and revealing the sadness of alcoholic Kitty, who lies today in a forgotten, unmarked grave.



Dr. Robert V. Kenny was for many years a lecturer in French Language and Literature at the University of Leicester. He also directed the University Theatre and founded a chamber choir, Coro Nostro, which continues to flourish after his retirement. Throughout his career he produced and directed plays, operas and concerts, in addition to his teaching and research.

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