In this act he sang songs, pretending to be under hypnosis. He was soon performing in his own act, and was booked at the Oxford Music Hall in June 1891, aged 21. Like many of his time, Robey's act consisted of patter and song, with elaborate stage costumes, often appearing in drag. He was renowned for his double entendres, and ordering his audience to "Desist" and "Kindly temper your hilarity with a modicum of reserve", in the manner adopted by later comedians such as Frankie Howerd. Naturally, these exhortations had the opposite effect. During World War I he was known for his enthusiastic participation in recruitment drives for the army.
In one theatre he promised "a shiny florin for every recruit who signs on tonight". He raised over £500,000 for war charities and at the end of the war he was offered a knighthood for his services, but declined, accepting a CBE. In 1916, he appeared at the Alhambra Theatre in the musical/revue The Bing Boys Are Here.He was given the leading male part, Lucius Bing, opposite Violet Loraine as Emma. It became one of the most popular musicals of the time. His duet with Loraine If You Were the Only Girl (in the World) became a "signature song" of the era and endured as a pop standard. Robey continued to raise money for charity, raising over £2m for war savings in World War II, and in 1954 finally accepted a knighthood. Robey was also an artist, and a number of pen and ink self-caricatures are in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery. Robey also appeared in films.
Among his most notable roles were Sancho Panza in both the 1923 film versions of Don Quixote, as Ali Baba in the 1934 film version of the musical comedy Chu Chin Chow, and as the dying Falstaff in Laurence Olivier's film version of Shakespeare's Henry V. Robey appeared in the early sound films And Very Nice Too and Good Queen Bess (both 1913), made in the Kinoplasticon process, where the film was synchronized with phonograph records. He also wrote and starred in two Lee De Forest Phonofilm sound-on-film productions, Safety First (1928) and Mrs. Mephistopheles (1929), both directed by Hugh Croise. Robey also had a brief association with Chelsea Football Club. Following a friendly match involving the club, in which he played and scored, he was awarded an amateur contract. In December 1905, George Robey brought a team of professional football players to Springfield Park, Wigan for a charity match against Wigan Town (1905–08) in aid of the Chief Constable’s "Clog and Stocking Fund". In 1909, Robey was hired by Manchester United to present the kits specially made for the 1909 FA Cup Final to the players, before providing the post-match entertainment after their 1–0 victory over Bristol City.
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