In the 30s class schism in comedy, rubber-faced Leslie Fuller found himself firmly on the working class side. Born in the East End of London, he found his fame in concert parties, especially in the seaside town of Margate where he made his home. His usual character, Bill, is well-meaning, if a bit gauche and clumsy, occasionally prone to gruffness and ready for a fight. In fact, he gives the impression of being an everyday Cockney bloke, the type who might spend his holidays at Margate, for instance. Perhaps no other performer better reflected his audience, and in holding up the mirror to them, Fuller won huge stardom.
He was one of the first stars to graduate to talking films, beginning with ‘WHY SAILORS LEAVE HOME’ in 1930. His popularity was such that he was even described as “Elstree Studio’s answer to Clark Gable!”. That’s pushing it a bit, but there is certainly something charming and realistic about him, and while ‘Bill’ seems fairly effortless, I suspect he actually took much greater skill to play.
Much the same homespun, effortlessness went into his film career: Fuller churned out films in seemingly less time than it takes some people to digest meals throughout the 30s. A few of them: CAPTAIN BILL, PRIDE OF THE FORCE, DOCTOR’S ORDERS, A POLITICAL PARTY, ONE GOOD TURN. He was successful enough to go independent with Joe Rock producing, but was unable to sustain his place at the top as film comedies became more polished than his down-to-earth efforts.
Nevertheless, he kept busy in character roles and in his beloved Margate. Fuller died in 1948.