WHILE men envied his athleticism and women swooned over his dashing looks, not everyone was enthralled by the curiously entitled romantic comedy 'The Matrimaniac' that starred Douglas Fairbanks. Instead, an impromptu drama broke out in the stalls when a section of the audience began making what the prosecution labelled as "a hideous noise" which irritated others enjoying the evening performance at Lyndhurst's New Forest Hall.

It reached such a level the manager Louis Thorn - in a bid to restore order - lit a lamp to discover the ringleader. That infuriated cinemagoer Leslie Crowson who told him to turn it down and reinforced his demand by punching him in the face.

The incensed Thorn retaliated by grabbing him firmly by the collar to frogmarch him outside, whereupon Crowson viciously struck him again before being ejected. And for the unruly visitor, there was a sequel - an appearance at the New Forest Petty Sessions four weeks later on July 14, 1920, to face a charge of assault, which he denied.

Thorn emphasised he had no personal animosity towards Crowson and was simply doing his duty, explaining: "The hall is licensed on the condition that order is maintained and it was only for that reason that these proceedings are being taken."

Crowson admitted he had struck the manager on the spur of the moment. "I didn't do it with malice aforethought. I apologised afterwards and am prepared to do so again now."

He was fined £2.

Daily Echo: Douglas Fairbanks starring in the Matrimaniac

The film gave Fairbanks the perfect opportunity to inject action and stunts in the comedy which centred on a young couple's attempts to elope against the wishes of the bride's father and his preferred choice of a son-in-law.

The trial was not the only extraordinary case that came before the magistrates the same day. In the second, Walter Crofton, from Netley Marsh, near the New Forest, was summoned for failing to furnish a census form in respect of his horses!

The court heard Pc Phillips had left the form with his groom to be filled in and returned. When he called again, Crofton told him he had given him the particulars and the form was sent to the Board of Agriculture. When Crofton was informed it had been issued by the Army Council, he said he had been busy and couldn't be bothered to fill in another.

Daily Echo: Lyndhurst as featured in an old postcard

Phillips warned him: "Am I to report you for refusing to make a return?" Crofton replied: "You will report nothing of the sort. I refuse to make another census of horses today."

The officer however confirmed he had since complied with the order.

Crofton confirmed he had sent the form to the Board of Agriculture, and when his groom gave him another, he believed there had been "some overlapping" and put it into his breeches thinking no more of it.

The Bench accepted there had been "plenty of room for a misunderstanding" but found Crofton guilty and imposed a fine of 10s (50p).