Monday, 8 April 2019

An interview with (Aunt) Jessie Robins

Jessie Robins with Ivor Cutler and John Lennon in a scene from Magical Mystery Tour
An old interview with the actress who played Ringo's Aunt Jessie in Magical Mystery Tour, Jessie Robins recently reappeared in a Facebook group, courtesy of John Bezzini. It was an interesting read, so I thought I'd share it with you. It seems to have been originally published in printing, in London Magazine in 1989, and then it was transcribed and published online in rec.music.beatles in 2007. Jessie Robins passed away in 1991.

Q: What are you doing nowadays?
A: Nothing much, mostly staying at home with me dogs and oil painting. I find painting very comforting and also me little puppies. I take 'em for walks each day around me garden and it's wonderful. I don't suppose I sound very exciting. (laughs)

Q: How did you react when you got that phone call from Bernard [Knowles] to play Ringo's aunt?
A: I was stunned. It was as if the queen of England was calling to ask if I could join her for tea. IT was that momentous to me personally. I mean I'm going to act with The Beatles. I loved it and I told that Bernard that I'd do it at the drop of a hat. That poor chap jumped the gun a bit when I agreed to do it. (laughs) He said 'Well, can you come down now? I mean right now?' (laughs)

Q: What were The Beatles like?
A: Ohh...they were interesting lads especially that Lennon fellow. (Laughs) When we were shooting that scene where I'm singing some godawful song in that bus we were in, Lennon turns around and says 'Show 'em yer panties! Lift 'em up, mama!' (Laughs) I just lifted up me dress halfway. I'm no exhibitionist.

Q: What was your co-star Ringo like? Was he fun to work with?
A: Ringo was such a sweetheart. I enjoyed him and I felt we had great onscreen chemistry. Whenever he'd forget his lines he'd mutter something under his breath or make a joke. He had an interesting sense of humor, which was beyond me at times.

Q: What do you mean by interesting?
A: Well (pauses) if I could think now. (pauses) In that bus scene when I'm holding two bottles of beer and singing to that accordion, he remarked, "Honey, I've never seen a woman with two bottles in 'er
hand" or something like that. It just struck me as being funny in a raw kind of way- deadpanish, you know.

Q: Did they do any drugs on the set?
A: Mostly pot. I can't think of any other drugs they did except for that. It had a rather god-awful smell, and I can't imagine why they did it; but they did do it and I tried to ignore it.

Q: Were they good directors?
A: They didn't direct the whole picture- only some scenes. Bernard did the majority of the work and I imagined that The Beatles together wrote the script. I think Paul at times was the most capable director. (Laughs) The others were more interested in producing, I think. I could see that they were sometimes on each others case about things, and I felt that they were falling apart. (sighs) They had terrible rows sometimes.

Q: Do you remember any of the quarrels they had?
A: (pauses) I don't want to repeat what they said. It was just awful, some of the things they said to each other.

Q: Favourite song that they did in the movie?
A: Your mother should know, that was real nice (Sings) It was a hit before your mother was born. She was born a long, long time before. (Laughs) I can't remember the words now. (Laughs)

Q: (Laughs) You should've bought the record!
A: (Laughs) I know, I know.

Q: What was your fondest memory of Magical Mystery Tour?
A: I think Ringo kissing me on the lips! It was during that scene where we were fighting and he grabs me, you know. (she demonstrates) Well before I said my line, he up and kisses me on the lips. (Laughs) That was probably my fondest memory.

Q: What did he do after that?
A: We all laughed, so we had to do that scene all over again. We originally had trouble with it because Ringo and I kept laughing. If you watch the movie and go to that bit where Ringo's grabbing me just before I say 'Don't Get Historical', you can see him stifle a laugh. I loved it.

Q: What was your least fondest memory of Magical Mystery Tour?
A: The quarreling amongst the four of them and their excessive pot smoking. I didn't like it and neither did Bernard. I once had a chat with him about it, and he said that he was having trouble with John and George. They couldn't concentrate and it was beginning to show in the movie. I'm not going to go into particulars, but it was still a bad vibe.

Q: What did you think of George?
A: I didn't get a chance to talk with him much, but he I could tell he could be very sarcastic and moody. He wasn't like Ringo or Paul.


Jessie Robins (June 5, 1905 – August 10, 1991) was an English actress whose career lasted from 1958 to 1969. She had various roles in Benny Hill Show in 1958, and appeared in an episode of The Saint in 1963, but she is best known as Ringo's Aunt Jessie in Magical Mystery Tour from 1967. In 1968, she appeared in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a pastry cook.

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