How Ugly Can You Make Yourself, 1936

Are there still gurning competitions? I don’t recall seeing a toothless man pull his lower jaw over his nose recently.

Here, straight from 1936, is a veteran gurner in action, offering advice on how to perfect these two faces. Mr John Richard Richards pleasingly has a comedy name to go with his face (and reminiscent of Rik Mayall’s “Richard Richard” in Bottom).

Nottingham Evening Post, 4th September 1936

Nottingham Evening Post, 4th September 1936


The first one doesn’t look too difficult. Apart from the crossed eyes, which I can’t manage. The mouth, though, is pretty much what my two-year-old daughter does when she’s puckering up for a kiss. The effect is achieved by “swivelling the eyes and then applying extreme suction to the cheeks until they meet in the region of the glottis. Automatically, a rabbit lip effect is produced. As a means of applying a stranglehold on a fast-disappearing bull’s eye, this face has great practical value.”

Face two is classic gurning in action. “THIS ONE IS HARDER”, says the sub header. You should ideally be performing this by having a convenient fly on the end of your nose. “Swallow the top lip and push it hard against the tip of the nose. This brings the fly into clearer focus and does not impose so great a strain on the eyes.”

Nottingham Evening Post, 4th September 1936

Nottingham Evening Post, 4th September 1936


I think it’s a rare person, or a person reading at work, who will not attempt either of these faces while reading this.

Mr Richards first used his gurning powers to entertain the miners during the 1926 strike in the “Merry Imps” concert party. His talents also lay in bird impressions, and I am in awe of the fact that he had three different sets of false teeth made, “to achieve the more delicate phases of bird song“. He was a pub landlord and I bet he was a good one.


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2 Responses

  1. Long time no post! Was beginning to get concerned.
    How to achieve crossed eyes: Hold finger about 18 inches from face, and focus on at end of finger. Keep focusing on finger as you move it towards face. Touch end of nose with finger. You should now be focused on end of nose. Keep focusing on end of nose and take away finger. Open eyelids as far as you can. Hey Presto! Crossed Eyes.

  2. Estelle says:

    Ha, I’ll give it a try!

    I’ve been rather engrossed in Jack the Ripper of late, of which more tomorrow…

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