Robert Newton: A Man You Can Trust

The lovable, kissable, lickable visage of Robert Newton, pictured in the film with the world’s greatest title, KISS THE BLOOD OFF MY HANDS, a film in which he actually utters the line “You’ve only gorn an’ done it.” Now, there are ten things, and ten things only which you need to know about this man.

One) Robert Newton invented and trademarked the expression “Arr!” which he deployed to great effect in TREASURE ISLAND (1950) and nearly everything else.

Two) Any other actor of stage or screen seeking to use this expression had to pay Robert thruppence.

Three) Robert liked the sound of “Arrr” so much he used it as the beginning of his name. Before he invented his catchphrase, his name was “Obert Newton”.

Four) Although he was a hero to comedian Tony Hancock and drummer Keith Moon, Robert’s enduring legacy rests in the fact that his nose was used as the model for the design of the famous Belisha Beacon.


Five) A keen tippler (chronic alcoholic), Robert eventually had a cocktail named after him. The Newton’s Law consists of equal parts methylated spirits, laudanum, and dead skin.

Six) Robert would sometimes explain his incessant boozing by making the claim that he had, as a young man, contracted a rare spinal disease that would cause him, if he ever became sober, to ignite. Although this story has no basis in scientific fact, there is little doubt Robert had convinced himself it was true.

Seven) Despite his expertise at onscreen villainy, Robert was known as a kindly gentleman who wouldn’t hurt a fly, unless it had wronged him severely.

Eight) He killed a man once though, for looking at him funny.

Nine) Robert’s acclaimed performance as Bill Sykes in David Lean’s film of OLIVER TWIST was modelled closely upon the behaviour of the actor’s own stomach.

Ten) Once, when Trevor Howard drank him under the table, Robert retaliated by drinking Trevor under the floor. Then Trevor drank Robert under the earth. And that was an end to it.


11 Responses to “Robert Newton: A Man You Can Trust”

  1. There are several exchanges in Pinter’s Old Times about Newton and how teriffic he is.

  2. He’s knockout. I love it that he was a schoolboy favourite. You can see the influence on Keith Moon’s acting work in Tommy and the mind-boggling Sextet,

  3. Chris B Says:

    Sorry to interrupt this thread but Lester’s THE BED SITTING ROOM sounds fantastic and I can pick it up for $15, would you recommend?

  4. Yes, although there’s never been a good quality official DVD. My off-air second generation VHS is pretty bad though, so even a bad DVD would be better than that, just about.
    It’s 100% brilliant in bits, perhaps it’s less than the sum of its parts, but where else are you going to see Arthur Lowe mutate into a parrot, die, and be devoured by his starving family?
    “It’s delicious, what is it?”

  5. Chris B Says:

    Ace! Well, video grade of the DVD is ‘B’ so it should be perfectly watchable. Also tempted by Dmytryk’s THE HIDDEN ROOM (aka. OBSESSION).

  6. I *think* Obsession is rentable in the UK. Failing that, I’m sure I know someone who has it.

  7. Chris B Says:

    So it is, just added as Top Priority… but I shall get the Lester film as it’s so rare.

  8. Definitely! My darling Richard Warwick is in it, and it has one of the best lines of all time when our hero has finally mutated completely: “Quck! Put a sign in my window! ‘No Colored! No Chirldren And Above all NO COLORED CHILDREN!”

  9. Chris B Says:

    Apart from Ricky Gervais, to whom can get a bit repetitive, I’m 100% on Davies side and have been saying this myself for years. British films end up trapped in a vicious circle of ‘make film to please US market; current US market (or at least, the target we’re supposed to be aiming for) = shit, thus, make shit films for a shit market. I had a career’s consultation with a director in London recently and he was going on about how everyone is trying to please the US mainstream (remakes, computer games and formulaic nonsense with no soul or style – at least, none that any true cinephile really cares about). Seems the only way I’d get to make a film I want to make would be to save enough money to rent a 16mm camera (ditching digital for the time being) and proceed that way… not cheap, obviously.

  10. The Film Council has tried to reverse years of British Screen and the BFI concentrating on art for art’s sake, by aiming squarely at commerce for commerce’s sake. None of these bodies generally had a clue about what is artistic or commercial though. I don’t think it would be hard to at least AIM at creative, innovative, yet accessible cinema, but I see few signs of this happening.

    Given the failure of the bureaucrats to commission good and popular cinema, I would be in favour of just handing out millions to anyone like Davies with a track record. Even if it meant Ken Loach and Mike Leigh getting an automatic free pass. I mean, nothing’s going to stop them anyway, might as well shrug and give in.

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