5 gentlemen who made it big in America

Manhattan skyline

There is nowhere quite like America. Their way of life symbolised by Gatsby’s “green light” occupies a place within the popular imagination; a mythical ideal, a locus where the drab mundaneness of life becomes overturned within a melting pot of toleration, acceptance and egalitarianism.

In a country like Britain, where the pace of life can, at times, seem slow and out of kilter, the green light and its promise of a better life has never lost its appeal. That’s why we’ve scoured the plains and skyscrapers and come up with who we think are the 5 gentlemen who’ve made it big across the pond.

David Beckham

David Beckham MLS 2012

When, in 2007, David Beckham announced his intention to join LA Galaxy, it was one of the most significant moments in sporting history. Never before had a star so bright, made a move so monumental.

His five year tenure at the club saw football cement its place as the world’s dominant sport and also served to boost the popularity of a game, in a country where it had previously been received less than enthusiastically.

His time in the US propelled him to the forefront of global celebrity maelstrom and immortalised him, not only as a footballer but also as a style icon, proving that dressing well in your 40s earns you gentlemanly respect.

Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens
Catherine Karnow / Corbis

Smart, dashing and a scourge of idle thinking, Christopher Hitchens would not necessarily seem at home in a country notorious for its ideologues and sacred cows. The self styled contrarian and Trostykite became an icon in a country whose way of life he challenged at nearly every turn.

After his move from the New Statesman to The Nation, Hitchens’s rise up the literary ladder was meteoric. His weekly dispatches reignited the previously dying craft of essays and written debate. Regardless of his political persuasions, Hitchens offered up a view of the world that was rich in criticism and showed an unwavering loyalty to the dispossessed, as well as adjectives and sub-clauses.

To the native audience, his comments on their national life enthralled them, for better for worse. With a Rothman in one hand and a glass of his beloved Johnnie Walker in the other, the late Mr Hitchens was the last of a generation of great writers.

Hugh Laurie

Hugh Laurie by Mitch Jenkins
Mitch Jenkins

The dark, brooding gazes, the swift, bold and cutting comments are quite a change from a man who once personified the most stilted and stereotyped view of Britain in Blackadder, nonetheless, his performance as the endlessly troubled Dr Gregory House captivated audiences worldwide.

His role in the record breaking US series has marked him out as one of the most distinguished character actors today. With an estimated pay of $250,000 per episode and two golden globes, Mr Laurie is certainly one of the most successful gentlemen ever to set foot in the States.

Sir Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin

It is rare that a man from one nation can embody the spirit of another. London born and bred, Chaplin spent his childhood in limbo between the workhouse and his dysfunctional, broken family. He found refuge and success in the music halls and travelling circuses after featuring in some the earliest silent films.

However, his “forlorn existence” dramatically changed after his move to America in 1914. His rapid rise through the US film industry led to starring roles in some of the most iconic films ever made, with credits including The Kid, The Gold Rush and The Great Dictator. No one figure has had more of an impact on the world of film than Chaplin, not bad for a boy from Kennington.

David Hockney

In 1967, David Hockney painted America, ‘A Bigger Splash’ and its depiction of the Californian sun was a poster image for all that America was and had to offer. Since then, Mr Hockney’s career has focused on conveying the idealistic reality of America, from boys in swimming pools to the Californian highway, the work of this Bradford born painter has captured the essence of American idealism.

Effortlessly charming and mesmerising, the ever-British Hockney routinely wears his Savile Row suits whilst sipping tea, under a blazing Californian sun. What’s more, with auction prices at a record £5.2 million, he is one of the most successful contemporary British artists.




James is an Editorial Assistant at The Gentleman's Journal and is passionate about cigars, puddles and irony.

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