Remembrance of Things Past

Mostly about growing up the 1950s in Ilford, Essex.


3 Comments

[99] … Where no Man has Gone Before

I normally try to keep topics apart but I want to finish my final coverage of television, started in the last blog, [98] ‘Evening, All.’ Just to recap, after several blogs about Television, from its origins and Children’s Television and some early heroes and a whole list of famous characters from television and radio I still had a few people and television programmes that I couldn’t fit them into [84] Yarroo. Here are the rest, still fairly random in no particular order. I am going to finish my list so this one may still be very long!

Dad's_Army

Dad’s Army

Dad’s Army was a television sitcom about the British Home Guard during the Second World War. It was broadcast from 1968 to 1977, running for nine series – plus a radio version based on the television scripts, a feature film and a stage show. The Home Guard were local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, either because of age or by being in professions exempt from conscription. This series dealt almost exclusively with over age men, and featured older British actors, including Arthur Lowe and John Le Mesurier. Younger cast members included Ian Lavender, Clive Dunn (who played the oldest guardsman, Lance Corporal Jones), Frank Williams and air raid warden Bill Pertwee.

It came very high in a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, and has influenced popular culture, with the series’ catchphrases and characters being well known.

Pop Music

jukeboxjury

Juke Box Jury ran on BBC television from 1959 to 1967, a panel show based on a similar American programme. It was chaired by David Jacobs who first played records about to be released before asking a panel of four to comment on them. The jury would then vote each tune a ‘hit’ or ‘miss.’ As an early Saturday evening programme it attracted high viewing figures. (There were revivals in the late seventies and eighties.) Generally one of the performers would be hidden behind a screen and emerge after the verdict.

The panel, generally two men and two women, varied from week to week but often included the disc jockeys Pete Murray, Jimmy Savile, Alan Freeman and Simon Dee. Also fairly common were Katie Boyle, Lulu, Cilla Black and Eric Sykes. [I am fairly sure that the picture above has Frankie Vaughan, Lady Isobel Barnet, Pete Murray and Barbara Kelly.]

The Six-Five Special (which started at 6:05 every Saturday evening) started in 1957, soon after the start of rock ‘n roll music. It was presented by Josephine Douglas and Pete Murray. It opened with film of a steam train accompanied by the theme song, played and sung by the Frantic Five, which began with the words “The Six-Five Special’s comin’ down the line, The Six-Five Special’s right on time …”

It was shown live with a studio filled with performers and audience, running to an impromptu format with live music.

Top of the Pops was a weekly television programme shown on BBC One from 1964 (continuing until the Twenty-first Century.) It was traditionally shown every Thursday evening, except for a short period on Fridays. Each weekly programme consisted of performances from some of that week’s best-selling popular music artists, with a rundown of that week’s singles chart. For the first three years Alan Freeman, David Jacobs, Pete Murray and Jimmy Savile rotated as presenters.

It featured live music (although it was never quite clear how much of it was mimed.) It always ended with the number one record, which was the only record that could appear in consecutive weeks. The show would include the highest new entry and (if not featured in the previous week) the highest climber on the charts, and omit any song going down in the chart.

PansPeople

When I was at University in the late sixties, Top of the Pops was the one television programme guaranteed to fill the Common Room with students watching its communal television set. (In those days this was the only way we could see television at University.) One reason was our love of pop music but another feature which attracted the all-male audience was the one song almost every week presented to the accompaniment of some vigorous dancing by Pan’s People. They replaced an earlier group, The Go-Jos, and danced to the only song where the singers were not in the studio.

[By modern standards, Pan’s People would not raise an eyebrow. But in the sixties and seventies the opportunity to see scantily clad young ladies on television were few and far between. As students we were sometimes disappointed when they kept to more voluminous clothing. In later programmes they were replaced by other dancing girls, such as Legs & Co in the late seventies.]

LegsandCo

[Yes, I know, there is absolutely no reason to include the above picture as it’s far too late for my blog.]

Ready, Steady Go was the early ITV pop show on Friday evenings from 1963 to 1966. It was live, initially just broadcast in the London area but later shown nationally. It show went out early on Friday evenings with the line “The weekend starts here!”, and was introduced by the Surfaris’ “Wipe Out”, later by Manfred Mann’s “5-4-3-2-1” and later still two other tunes. It was more youth-orientated and informal than Top of the Pops and was notable for featuring the audience as dancers and for the interaction of artists and audience. The producers chose the audience in London clubs, picking out the best or the most fashionably dressed dancers.

Initially, most performances were mimed but by the mid-sixties some performed live and the show switched to all-live performances in 1965. The programme was never broadcast in the United States, perhaps because it was still in black and white.

Cathy_McGOWAN_6

The best known presenters were Keith Fordyce and Cathy McGowan, though early shows were introduced by Dusty Springfield.

[There will be more about pop music in a later blog.]

camay

A Diversion about Soft Skin

Lady Saunders (born Caterina Irene Elena Maria Imperiali di Francavilla) better known as Katie Boyle was an Italian-born British actress, television personality, and game-show panelist, a former agony aunt, best known for two things. She presented the Eurovision Song Contest (of which more in a minute) in the sixties and seventies. And she featured in a long-running series of adverts for Camay Soap, always presented as a luxury soap with a rich, creamy lather. (Too expensive for us!) She did also appear often in What’s My Line and Juke Box Jury.

Eurovision Song Contest

I haven’t included this annual extravaganza within Pop Music because I’m not sure it used to be really anything like UK pop music. It has been broadcast every year since 1956. Early programmes were fraught with technical difficulties – at a time when television rarely ventured outside its studios in London. (It continues now as one of the most watched non-sport events in the World.)

I remember it from 1959 with Sing Little Birdie by Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson. In the late sixties Sandie Shaw (Puppet on a String,) Cliff Richard (Congratulations) and Lulu (Boom Bang-a-Bang) were more memorable.

Each country sings its entry to the competition in a live television show. After the performance of each song, there is a long process of voting for the winner that used to be much slower and more complicated. Now we have telephone voting. Back in the sixties each country had a panel of musical experts in their own country deciding on the votes. So we needed international telephone calls to each country – at a time when telephones had difficulty making connections over just a few miles. Often lines were unobtainable and so they went to the next country and came back later.

Now they read out just the top few entries. Then, they would list them all, with each being repeated, slowly and clearly, in English and French. Our compere when the programme came from England was Katie Boyle, always impressive in her multi-lingual conversations. She provided television commentary for the annual Eurovision BBC programme through the sixties until Terry Wogan took over.

In the early years singers always had to use their native language for the competition – but winners often had an English language version ready for release the next day!

doctor-who1_l_m

Doctor Who

I said it was going to be random. We come to Science Fiction next and in particular, Doctor Who. For its first incarnation it ran for 26 seasons from 1963 to 1989, usually in stories which ran to about six episodes. It ran early on Saturday evenings, was aimed at younger viewers with the intention of being educational. It alternated between stories about the past and others about the future or in outer space. For the first series the Doctor’s companions were a science teacher, a history teacher and his own granddaughter. (He has always been ‘The Doctor.’ In spite of the name of the programme his name is never Doctor Who!)

I never liked the historical episodes and gradually they have become more Science Fiction in nature.

Sadly in the late sixties and early seventies large amounts of early BBC recorded programmes were lost or wiped and much of Doctor Who from the first two Doctors, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, has been lost.

I can remember a much more low profile Doctor without his now ubiquitous sonic screwdriver but there was also amazing cliff-hangers at the end of each episode, leaving the fate of the World on a knife edge. But something always turned up at the beginning of the next episode!

The concept of regeneration was a masterstroke of invention, enabling the recasting of the main character, first prompted by William Hartnell’s poor health. (The term “regeneration” was not initially conceived of until the Doctor’s third on-screen regeneration however; the first Doctor had a “renewal,” and the Second Doctor underwent a “change of appearance”.) It allowed the older Doctor to be replaced by characters with different personalities. He also managed to keep a constant stream of changing companions. I don’t think they ever explained why the Doctor abandoned his granddaughter or how he came to have one in the first place.

After William Hartnell for three years we had Patrick Troughton. Then Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker continued into the seventies. Series from the nineties onwards have presented a very different image of the Doctor and his activities aimed at an older audience and with more of an element of horror.

I have to admit that technology of the sixties and seventies was not as it is now. Just as Children’s Television relied on puppets, sometimes with very visible strings, so the prosthetics that made alien creatures from outer space were far from realistic. We knew they were people dressed in complex structures with little ability to show facial expressions but we accepted them as they were.

What was impressive for the times was the opening music produced by Ron Grainger and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It was way ahead of any form of electronic music available at the time when we relied on orchestral instruments. I loved it.

Enterprise

Star Trek

The other Science Fiction from the late sixties was Star Trek and I mean, of course, just what is now known as the Original Series. It was an American television series created by Gene Roddenberry that followed the adventures of the star-ship USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) and its crew. I think that programmes were shown in Britain on BBC very soon after their US release.

Each episode started with the spoken introduction: “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the star-ship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

It was set in the Milky Way in the relatively near future – so it suffered some of the faults of trying to predict how technology would advance. Their communicators are way behind modern mobile phones but warp speed travel, instant transporters and voice activated food replicators still look far beyond our capabilities.

With low ratings it was cancelled after three seasons but it was repeated often and became a cult classic. (Many years later we had several major Star Trek films and four new series – The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise.)

startrek

The ship was led by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner); first officer (i.e. second-in-command) and science officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy), who was half Vulcan; and chief medical officer Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) normally called ‘Bones.’ Other significant crew members were Lieutenant Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, chief engineer and second officer (James Doohan); Communications officer Uhura (Nichelle Nichols); helmsman Sulu (George Takei); Ensign Chekov (Walter Koenig) and Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett who also voiced the ship’s computer.)

[While Sulu, Chekov and Uhura had first names that rarely appeared, Spock because he was half-Vulcan only had one name. Female Vulcan characters had names like T’Pau or T’Pol.]

I have to admit to being a Star Trek fan through all of its incarnations although at times the plots are not quite believable. They were never surprised that on all other planets everyone spoke perfect (US) English and the rules of physics would be bent so that any event, even if planet wide would be instantaneous.

muir-and-norden

Other People

I am going to end with some short notes about five more people who deserve a mention. If you know them you will remember them as fondly as I do. I will take two of them together – Frank Muir and Dennis Norden. They worked together from before my time writing for the radio programme Take it From Here (featuring Jimmy Edwards and June Whitfield) and continued to appear together for decades in radio and television programmes together such as My Word! And My Music!

Percy Thrower was a British gardener, horticulturist, broadcaster and writer born, known nationally through presenting various gardening programmes, sometimes described as “Britain’s first celebrity gardener”.

Percy Edwards was an English animal impersonator, ornithologist, and entertainer. He became a household name after his animal imitations in the radio shows Ray’s a Laugh with Ted Ray, and playing Psyche the dog in the radio series A Life of Bliss. It was said that at the height of his career he could accurately imitate over 600 birds, as well as many other animals. Among other things, he provided the voices for the killer whales in Orca (1977), the Reindeer in Santa Claus: The Movie (1985), sheep and bird sounds on Kate Bush’s song The Dreaming, and the alien in the film of the same name. He appeared occasionally on BBC TV’s pre-school series Play School as a storyteller, in 1967 and from 1973 through 1980.

Finally, Stanley Unwin, sometimes billed as “Professor” Stanley Unwin, was a British comedian, actor and comic writer, and the inventor of his own language, “Unwinese”, a corrupted form of English in which many of the words were altered in playful and humorous ways, as in its description of Elvis Presley and his contemporaries as being “wasp-waist and swivel-hippy”. Unwin claimed that the inspiration came from his mother, who once told him that on the way home that she had “falolloped (fallen) over” and “grazed her kneeclabbers”.

 

I knew this was going to be a long post. I think that’s about all for television … but I may think of some more later. [Although most of this post comes from my memories I have used Wikipedia to check dates and add some background material.]

 


3 Comments

[98] ‘Evening, All’

I have done several blogs about Television, from its origins and Children’s Television. I have so many memories of television. After looking at some early heroes and a whole list of famous characters from television and radio I still had a few people and television programmes that I had kept back. I couldn’t fit them into my last television blog so here are the rest – it may still be too many for one more post! It’s a fairly random bunch left, in no particular order. (I have not attempted to be chronological.)

Dixon  dixonDockGreen

Dixon of Dock Green

This television series ran from 1955 to 1976 and like so much early television most of the episodes have been lost. It was about petty crime and the police at a police station in the fictional London area of Dock Green (based on Paddington Green.) Central to the series was its eponymous hero PC George Dixon played by Jack Warner in all of its 432 episodes. In those days it was all live television.

Dixon was a typical ‘bobby’ patrolling the streets and knowing everyone sympathetically. Policing used to be mainly done on foot in contrast to later series such as Z Cars from the mid-sixties, which reflected more violent crime and more aggressive police culture.

(Jack Warner was a well-known comedian and actor from before the War and was sixty when Dixon started. In later series he was too old for an active PC and the character Dixon became a desk sergeant as shown in the picture above.)

It was a very popular series and was well received by police forces for the way it portrayed police life. Another character was PC Andy Crawford, a new recruit at the beginning but soon to become a member of the family by marrying Dixon’s daughter – so in many ways Dixon was a paternal figure.

Every episode started with Jack Warner saluting and saying ‘Evening, all.’ (At first it was ‘Good evening, all’) And they would end with a few words of wisdom from Dixon and a final ‘Goodnight, all.’ He was so much seen as a real policeman that he would end each series saying that he would be on holiday for a few weeks.

I could say that we never missed an episode but in those days there were no other channels to watch.

Lone_ranger_silver_1965

The Lone Ranger (and other Westerns)

I suspect they all came from America but in the fifties and sixties Westerns formed a major genre for films and television programmes. They were about the early years when everyone carried and used a six-shooter and the Sheriff was the only law enforcement. As children we played ‘Cowboys and Indians.’ (It was long before political correctness and the ‘Indians’ – or ‘Redskins’ were always the baddies, routinely killing and scalping the cowboys. Nowadays we call them Native Americans – or at least that’s what they are called in the USA. We don’t have cause to talk about them here now that we don’t have Westerns.)

In particular, the Lone Ranger was a regular series on Children’s Television. The Lone Ranger was a character associated with books and films but mostly from television, running through the fifties on US television and repeated in the UK. It starred Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels as his faithful Indian companion Tonto.

Every episode started with the hero on his white stallion, Silver, dashing off to the cry of “Hi-yo Silver!” And every episode ended with someone asking, “Who was that masked man?” with the reply, “He’s the Lone Ranger,” while the two galloped off into the distance. Other catch-phrases were Tonto calling his companion, “Kemo-sabe,” which meant something like ‘faithful friend’ in the fictional Indian dialect of Tonto; the use of silver bullets; and Rossini’s William Tell Overture as signature tune.

The Lone Ranger was supposed to be the only survivor from a group of Texas Rangers. To conceal his identity he wore a mask and was never unmasked. (Sometimes he used disguises without the mask.) The Lone Ranger kept to a strict moral and behavioural code: He used perfect grammar without slang; he never shot to kill, just to disarm; he never called himself the Lone Range but might sometimes present a silver bullet; he never drank or smoked – saloons looked more like cafes and he would drink a ‘sarsaparilla with a dash of cherry.’ [Wikipedia associates this with another Western series but I think it was the Lone Ranger.]

TW3RadioTimes

That Was the Week That Was

Known more often as TWTWTW or just TW3, this programme was a landmark in television with its satirical look at politics and World affairs – often aimed at the Prime Minister (Harold Macmillan) and his cabinet. Until then the Establishment was largely uncriticised. TW3 was not afraid to criticize politics, the monarchy, racism, the class system and even the BBC. It relied on up-to-the-minute news and ran live. It ran for just two years in 1962 and 1963 but introduced many familiar figures, especially David Frost.

I remember Bernard Levin, once punched by the person he was interviewing; Lance Percival with his improvised calypsos; Willie Rushton, Roy Kinnear and the singer Millicent Martin (local with Ilford connections.) The programme opened and closed with Millicent singing the theme tune with words about the news of the week and that particular broadcast.

It ran on Saturdays, late in the evening, and would over-run or under-run as the cast more or less improvised. Despite large viewing figures it was not continued after 1963 as the BBC feared it was affecting its impartial status.

SteptoeAndSon

Steptoe

Fondly remembered for its two main characters, Steptoe and Son was a comedy series of the mid-sixties (with a few more in the early seventies) about a father and son team of rag-and-bone men, perhaps a little after such employment was common. It was often dramatic and tragic in parts but the overall impression was of comedy. It was the first UK situation comedy to use actors rather than comedians.

(It originated from a single half-hour comedy in the Comedy Playhouse series of 1962, which was so well received that it generated the series later.)

The father, Albert Steptoe was a ‘dirty old man,’ in many senses, while his son, Harold had social aspirations and wanted greater things. [Wikipedia says of Albert: ‘He is lazy, stubborn, narrow-minded and foul-mouthed, and has revolting personal habits. He is content with his place in the world, utterly unpretentious and downright cynical. He can be extremely vindictive and does everything he can to prevent Harold, his son, from improving himself.’ Of Harold, it has: ‘He wants to move up in the world — most of all to escape from the family home and his stifling relationship with his father … He likes to see his business as antiques rather than junk.’]

The episodes generally revolved around disagreements between the two, Harold’s attempts to bed women and momentary interest over things found on his round. Much of the humour derives from pathos, especially Harold’s continually thwarted attempts to better himself and the love/hate relationship between the pair.

Albert almost always comes out on top, and routinely and effortlessly proves himself easily superior to his son whenever they compete, for example in their frequent game-playing, such as snooker, Scrabble and badminton. Harold takes them desperately seriously and sees them as symbols of his desire to improve himself, but his efforts come to nothing every time. His father’s success is partly down to superior talent but is aided by cynical gamesmanship and undermining of his son’s confidence. In addition, Albert habitually has better judgement than his son, who blunders into all sorts of con tricks and blind alleys as a result of his unrealistic, straw-clutching ideas.

Sachs
The Good Old Days

This light entertainment show, which ran from the early fifties to the eighties, modelled itself on Victorian Music Hall. It recreated an authentic atmosphere with the audience dressing in period costume. Leonard Sachs was the compere and the audience joined in the singing, especially the closing song, ‘Down at the Old Bull and Bush.’ Over its long run it featured so many famous singers and comedians that it would be impossible to list a significant subset.

The_Goon_Show_(cast_photo)

The Goons and the Goodies

The Goon Show was a radio comedy show of the fifties broadcast on the Home Service (which became Radio Four) with occasional repeats on the Light Programme (later Radio Two.) It was created by its main writer Spike Milligan, who was also one of its main characters. The others were Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe. (All three continued long after the Goons, Milligan as a comic, Sellers mainly as an actor and Secombe mainly as a singer.)

Its humour was surreal, often with bizarre sound effects, and it affected much of later British comedy.

There were regular character roles such as Neddie Seagoon, Eccles, Bluebottle, Jim Moriarty and Major Denis Bloodnok, each with their own contrived voices and several regular catchphrases which quickly moved into the popular speech – such as: “He’s fallen in the water!” “You dirty, rotten swine, you! You have deaded me!” and variations of “Ying Tong Iddle I Po.” You will, of course remember the novelty hit song “The Ying Tong Song,” from my blog about holidays and the third one about Music.

The Goodies, a television series of the seventies, was equally zany and surreal. (Yes, I know, it shouldn’t be here if it was seventies, but it’s my blog.) It was written by its three stars Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie.

The series’ basic structure revolved around the trio, always short of money, offering themselves for hire — with the tagline “We Do Anything, Anytime, Anywhere” — to perform all sorts of ridiculous but generally benevolent tasks. Under this loose pretext, the show explored all sorts of off-the-wall scenarios for comedic potential. The show featured extensive use of slapstick, often performed using sped-up photography and clever, low-budget, visual effects.

Royal Command Performance

I remember this annual event as a spectacular variety show from early times. Wikipedia is not clear when it changed its name to the Royal Variety Performance or when it started being televised. It has always had major international stars performing there and the television presentation starts with the arrival of HM the Queen (or her representative from the Royal Family.) After the show we see the cast being presented to her before she departs. Of course it used to be live but now we have it the week after and its significance has diminished.

Sunday Night at the London Palladium

This was a British television variety show that was hosted from the London Palladium theatre in London’s West End, originally produced for the ITV network, from 1955 to 1969. The name was changed to The London Palladium Show in 1966. (There have been revivals in the seventies and this Century.)

Regular hosts included Tommy Trinder, Bruce Forsyth, Norman Vaughan, Jimmy Tarbuck, Jim Dale and Ted Rogers but it is mostly remembered for Bruce Forsyth. There were many other guest comperes for one or more shows

I remember it as a bit like the Royal Variety Show as it featured various acts, generally with a very well-known finale. It started with the Tiller Girls (glamourous synchronized dancers in the style of Busby Berkeley) and lesser acts in the first part and then there was the game show, Beat the Clock, the format of which was rather like Bruce Forsyth’s later programme, The Generation Game.

Current Affairs and Science

Panorama is a BBC Television current affairs documentary programme first broadcast in 1953 (and still running.) It has been presented by many presenters, but I remember mainly Richard Dimbleby, from 1955 until his death in 1965.

Tonight was a BBC television current affairs programme presented by Cliff Michelmore and broadcast live on weekday evenings from 1957 to 1965. It covered the arts and sciences as well as topical matters and current affairs with some light-hearted items. Reporters included Alan Whicker, Fyfe Robertson, Kenneth Allsop, Chris Brasher, Julian Pettifer, Brian Redhead and Polly Elwes.

The style was informal with no attempt to hide studio equipment. Sometimes Cliff Michelmore perched on the edge of his desk, unfazed by his desk telephone letting him know about technical problems. There were regular appearances from Cy Grant, singing a topical calypso (Like Lance Percival in TW3,) and folk singers Robin Hall and Jimmie MacGregor. Cliff Michelmore was known for his catchphrase when closing the show, “That’s all for tonight, the next ‘Tonight’ will be tomorrow night. Until then, good night!”

It was during an edition of Tonight broadcast on the evening of Friday 22 November 1963 that BBC television broke the news of the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy to UK viewers.

Horizon is an ongoing and long-running British documentary television series on BBC, running since 1964, covering topics in science and philosophy.

Tomorrow’s World was a BBC television series on new developments in science and technology, transmitted from the mid-sixties until 2003. In its early days it was hosted by the former Spitfire pilot Raymond Baxter. (Raymond, who also gave radio commentary at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the funerals of King George VI, Winston Churchill and Lord Mountbatten of Burma, and the first flight of Concorde, was born in Ilford and educated at Ilford County High School, from which he was expelled after being caught smoking. He did not go on to a college or university. He was the only famous Old Parkonian I ever heard about while at school.)

Ok, I give in. I will split here; still more to come …

 


8 Comments

[84] Yarroo!

I have done several posts about television and my television heroes of the fifties and sixties and may have given the impression that I have done them all. But I have kept back several programmes and people for special mention, mostly very early memories. Here they are.

Whats-my-Line-Panelist-Collage

[A] What’s My Line?

There was an original US version of this programme, but the British version ran from 1951 to 1963, regularly chaired by Eamonn Andrews (Top Left in the picture above.) It always had a panel of four and the picture shows David Nixon (Bottom Left), Lady Isobel Barnett (Bottom Right), Barbara Kelly (Top Centre) and Gilbert Harding (Top Right.)

It was a panel game based on guessing people’s occupations through a series of questions. The guest would sign in on a blackboard, give a very short, usually incomprehensible mime of an action in their job, and then state whether they were salaried (i.e. paid monthly) or wage-earners (paid weekly.) I suppose that this gave a clue as to whether they were middle-class or working-class occupations. (These distinctions were clearer then.) There were, of course, many very obscure occupations.

The panelists could only ask yes/no questions and a ‘no’ passed the questioning down the line of panelists. To win the round, they had to get to the occupation before ten noes were marked up against them.

[Every week there was a special celebrity round where the panel wore blindfolds and they had to guess the identity of a celebrity. The mystery guest was not always successful in disguising his – or her – voice.]

There were several other radio and television revivals in the seventies, eighties and nineties, on various channels.

Panelists

I will start with the regular chairman Eamonn Andrews (1922-1987), who I may have mentioned before. He was an Irish ex-boxer who was very well known for many television shows.

He was first known on radio, as a commentator for major heavyweight fights on the Light Programme, and also as a presenter of the long-running Sports Report on BBC’s Light Programme from 1954-1965. In 1965, he left the BBC to join ITV, where he pioneered talk shows with The Eamonn Andrews Show.

Apart from What’s My Line, he is well known for presenting UK’s version of This Is Your Life, between from 1955 until his death in 1987, and the Children’s television show Crackerjack. (“CRACKERJACK”)

He was a regular presenter of the early Miss World pageants.

That's_Life_Tom_Breaks

[This is Your Life is worth a mention because it was much more significant in the days when communication was more difficult. In a carefully engineered way, the subject of the Big Red Book would be introduced to people he had not met for years, generally ending with a long lost relative flown over from Australia or other distant lands. Now with Google, Facebook, mobile phones and relatively cheap and easy air transport, the show would have little impact.]

davidnixon8_zps4bd25de9

David Nixon (1919-78) was a magician and television personality in the days when magic was mostly card tricks, sleight of hand and prestidigitation. I remember him as pleasant, always smiling and bald. Much of his entertainment career came earlier but in 1954 he rose to wider fame with What’s My Line? Later he presented various series including the British version of Candid Camera, Comedy Bandbox (later David Nixon’s Comedy Bandbox and he was Basil Brush’s first partner. His magic shows included Tonight with David Nixon, David Nixon’s Magic Box and The David Nixon Show (1972).He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1973 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the Magic Circle Headquarters in London. He then famously presented an episode of the programme the following year, in which the subject was Eamonn Andrews.

Barnet_lady_isobel_panellist

Isobel Barnett (1918-80)

I always assumed that Isobel was form the House of Lords because she was always known as Lady Isobel Barnett, but her claims to the title were of a more lowly form. She came from Aberdeen, the daughter of a doctor. After qualifying herself as a doctor she and married solicitor and company director Geoffrey Barnett. He was knighted for political and public services to the city of Leicester; she gave up her medical career and became a Justice of the Peace.

She rose to popular fame with What’s My Line, where she appeared for ten years. She was elegant and witty, regarded by audiences as the epitome of the British aristocracy, although she was neither an aristocrat, nor married into the aristocracy – the title Lady Isobel was not strictly accurate.

She also made regular appearances on the BBC radio series Any Questions, on the radio panel game Many a Slip and on the women’s discussion series The Petticoat Line. And she was in demand as an after-dinner speaker.

In 1956, a reviewer predicted that an alien visiting from another planet could ask anyone between the ages of seven and 70 “What is What’s my Line?” and “Who is Isobel Barnett?” and be confident of getting an answer!

[It’s no longer fashionable to appear to be Upper Class. John Julius Cooper, 2nd Viscount Norwich, was known simply as John Julius Norwich in his television and radio career – which including hosting My Word! And the regional radio Round Britain Quiz. Kirstie Allsopp, presenter of Location, Location, Location, does not use the title due to the daughter of a Peer.]

barbarakelly5by Vivienne, vintage bromide print, 1950-1956

 

 

 

 

Barbara Kelly (1924-2007) was Canadian, appearing often with her husband Bernard Braden (1916-1993) She started in programmes with him and appeared in a few films before her run as a regular panellist in What’s My Line? Later she introduced Criss Cross Quiz, a general knowledge game based on noughts and crosses.

Bernard is probably best remembered for On the Braden Beat, a popular consumer affairs television programme made for ITV in the sixties. This Saturday late-night show, which also examined current political issues, was interspersed with light-hearted sketches and music.

Gilbert Harding (1907-60)

Apart from What’s My Line? He was a regular panelist on the radio programme Twenty Questions. He was notorious for his irascibility and was characterized in the newspapers as rude. His fame sprang from an inability to suffer fools gladly, and many 1950s viewers watched for the chance of a live Harding outburst.

cyril

 

Cyril Fletcher (1913-2005) was another regular panelist. He was a comedian and actor, best known for his humerous recitations, which he called Odd Odes.

Two other less regular panelists I remember were Katie Boyle (mentioned in a blog to come, under Eurovision) and Marghanita Laski.

Whacko

[B] Whack-o!

I am continuing with programmes in random order. Whack-O! was a television series, what we would now call a sitcom, starring Jimmy Edwards, written by Frank Muir and Denis Norden, broadcast from 1956–60 – with a later series in 1971–72.

(Older readers will remember Jimmy Edwards from his earlier entertainment career, particularly in the early radio series Take it From Here as the father in The Glums.)

Like so much early television, most of the show’s episodes are lost. Only three of the original black-and-white episodes are known to exist today; and from the colour revival series of the 1970s, only one is known to have survived

The star of the series took the part of Professor James Edwards, the drunken, gambling, devious, cane-swishing headmaster – who tyrannized both staff and children at Chiselbury public school, described in the opening titles as “for the sons of Gentlefolk”. He was in some ways similar to Sergeant Bilko as he tried to swindle the children out of their pocket money to finance his many schemes.

I remember Jimmy Edwards, seen almost always with the cane shown in the picture above, flexing or swishing it. Of course in those days, canes were widely used for corporal punishment, probably even more widely in public schools. [Non-UK readers should note that in those days ‘Public Schools’ were the private, fee-paying schools. State schools were free and public. Now the fee-paying schools call themselves Independent Schools.]

The only other character I remember was the rather effeminate deputy Head, Oliver Pettigrew played by Arthur Howard.

Gerald Campion as Billy Bunter

 

[C] Billy Bunter

Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School was a BBC Television show broadcast from 1952 to 1961, based on the Greyfriars School stories by author Charles Hamilton (writing as Frank Richards) who also wrote all the scripts for the television show.

As for Whack-o! most of the series have been lost. The first series were broadcast as live performances and no tele-recordings were made. The majority of the remaining episodes have been lost to the BBC’s policy of wiping archived recordings in the 1960s and 1970s. A total of nine episodes still exist in the BBC’s archive.

The setting was similar to that of Whack-o! but concentrated more on the boys than the staff. Bunter was overweight, over-eating and always after loans from his friends to buy food. He always claimed to have a postal order in the post to him!

Bunter was portrayed by actor Gerrald Campion, who was 29 when he was cast in the role, married with two children – a relatively lightweight 11 stone 2 pounds, compared with Bunter’s weight of 14 stone 12. (That’s 156 pounds and 208 pounds for US readers.) His ‘catchprase’ was ‘Yarroo!’

Apart from Mr Qelch, the teacher, the character I most remember was Hurree Jamset Ram Singh, portrayed with the exaggerated speech and mannerisms of India in a way that would probably be considered racist today.

There were other characters that would become famous later – Michael Crawford as Frank Nugent and Melvyn Hayes as Harold Skinner.

 

I’m not sure I’m even halfway yet in my list but there is enough to come for at least one more post …


9 Comments

[77] Wakey-Wakey!

I am going back to some more memories of the ‘wireless’, which in my early years was more significant than television. OK, when I talk of the wireless and television I mean radio and TV – but all such distinctions are rapidly disappearing into the vast all-encompassing Internet in all its forms.

I have so far looked at the Radio programmes Mrs Dale’s Diary and Two-Way Family Favourites and some early television in [31] TV Heroes and [73] More TV (as well as Children’s Television in Blog [29] and Blog [33].)

But I am going to abandon attempts to be logical or chronological because programmes went on for years and started jumping between radio and television. There are still people and programmes I am saving for another blog and there are many I was aware of but did not listen to avidly. (Journey into Space, with its title spoken with an air of terror, Life with the Lyons … deserve an honourable mention. Dick Barton, ITMA and others were before my time!)

Radio

Radio had been around longer than television but had not developed much further by the 50s. As for televisions, radio sets were a luxury. Valve-based sets could be large and heavy, maybe the size of a microwave oven and nearly as heavy. They were not portable and households would not think of having two sets. (Cheap, portable sets came with transistors in the mid-sixties.) Tuning was manual and not a simple process.

There were three channels, the Light Programme, (later to form the basis of BBC Radio 2,) the Home Service, (which would become Radio 4,) and a limited classical music channel, the Third Programme (now Radio 3.) We never listened to the Third Programme – It was just classical music which did not feature in the life of my parents.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is something like our old radio, about 70 or 80 cm wide. It has two controls – one for volume (which also acted as an on/off switch) and one for manual tuning. The chart on the front shows several radio stations around Europe and the tuning dial had to be turned to approximately the right frequency. Of course there weren’t that many stations available even allowing for some long-distance reception. (Quality of reception depended on the frequency band, the time of day and the weather!)

Sunday Lunch

I have looked at Sunday Lunch which kept Mum pretty busy, so we listened to the radio for much of Sundays. I am finding it difficult to pin down times but I think Family Favourites was followed by Billy Cotton for an hour, then two separate half-hour comedies. This blog will look at these Sunday programmes only. I may have missed out some.

billy_cotton_band_show

Billy Cotton

The Billy Cotton Band Show was broadcast on the BBC Light Programme from 1949 until 1968. I think it ran from noon to one o’clock every Sunday.

The band leader, Billy Cotton, was a larger-than-life Cockney character who started each show with the cry “Wakey-Wakey!” followed by the band’s signature tune Somebody Stole My Gal.”

The show transferred to BBC Television in 1956, usually on Saturday evenings running until 1965. Regular entertainers included Alan Breeze, Kathie Kay, and the pianist Russ Conway. The pianist Mrs Mills made her first television appearance on the show.

[Sir Bill Cotton, the BBC television producer and executive was his son, originally known as Billy Cotton Junior.]

I have to mention Alan Breeze specifically. I always felt that he could have been much more famous if he went out on his own. He was born in 1909 in West Ham, the son of Louis Breeze, a concert and oratorio singer. At the beginning of his career, Alan sang in working men’s clubs, restaurants and even theatre queues. He produced some 78 recordings, for example from his later repertoire: ‘I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts’. He produced recordings at film studios for actors who could not sing and met Billy Cotton, who changed his career forever. He started with Billy Cotton in 1932, without a contract, and stayed for 36 years. He became one of the most popular UK vocalists, on radio, television and in theatres around the United Kingdom. His recordings are still occasionally heard on the radio.

(I suspect that I would not have like him so much, or remembered him so fondly, if his name had not been Alan!)

archie

Educating Archie (1950-58)

Educating Archie was a BBC Light Programme comedy show featuring ventriloquist Peter Brough and his doll Archie Andrews. It was a very popular programme even though a ventriloquist act seemed incongruous and silly on radio. It averaged 15 million listeners, and a fan club of 250,000 members. It was my favourite of the Sunday comedy shows.

The show introduced several comedians who later became well known including Tony Hancock as Archie’s tutor, who would greet Archie with a weary “Oh, it’s you again” and always replied to a put down by him with “flipping kids”. Other “tutors” included Benny Hill, Harry Secombe, Dick Emery, Bernard Bresslaw, Hattie Jacques and Bruce Forsyth together with a young Julie Andrews as Archie’s girlfriend. Later, Beryl Reid took this role, playing Monica in the style of St. Trinians with catchphrases, “jolly hockey-stick” and “as the art-mistress said to the gardener”. Beryl Reid also played a young Brummie girl, with the catchphrase: “Evening each, moy noyme’s Mar-leen”.

Max Bygraves later played Archie’s tutor with catch-phrases, “I’ve arrived , and to prove it, I’m here” and “That’s a good idea … son!”.

Later attempts to transfer Archie to television were hampered by the fact that Peter Brough was not a good ventriloquist. You could see his lips moving!

clitheroe

The Clitheroe Kid (1957-72)

The Clitheroe Kid was featured diminutive Northern comedian Jimmy Clitheroe in the role of a cheeky schoolboy, who lived with his family at 33 Lilac Avenue in an unnamed town in the North of England. Nearly three hundred episodes were broadcast. (Younger readers will spot a similarity with the Krankies!)

Jimmy Clitheroe was 35 when he started playing the part in 1956, but he could pass as an 11-year-old boy because he had never grown physically beyond that age, though in later years his face gave his real age away. The series was made with a studio audience and there were frequent gales of laughter at Jimmy’s schoolboy humour, as well as at Alfie Hall’s mangling of the English language as he tried to explain something and made it worse. Jimmy wore a schoolboy’s blazer and cap even for radio recordings, to maintain the appearance that he was 11 years old. Real children never appeared in the show, as this would have given away that Jimmy was an adult acting a part; so he talked of his pal Ozzie and his friends in the “Black Hand Gang” (who would punish any member caught in the company of a girl) but they never actually appeared.

navylark

The Navy Lark (1959-77)

The Navy Lark was a radio sit-com about life aboard a British Royal Navy frigate named HMS Troutbridge, (a pun on HMS Troubridge, an actual Royal Navy destroyer) based in HMNB Portsmouth. In series 1 and 2, the ship and crew were stationed offshore at an unnamed location known simply as “The Island”. In series 2 this island was revealed to be owned by Lt. Cdr. Stanton.

It was transmitted on the Light Programme and subsequently BBC Radio 2. For most of its run, it starred Leslie Phillips, Jon Pertwee and Stephen Murray whose names rotated in order of precedence every episode over the entire 15 season run.

Episodes were self-contained, normally consisted of Sub Lt Phillips, scheming Chief Petty Officer Pertwee, and bemused Lt. Murray trying to get out of trouble they created for themselves without their direct superior, Commander (later Captain) “Thunderguts” Povey finding out. Scenes frequently featured a string of eccentric characters, often played by Ronnie Barker or Jon Pertwee. [You may find this a bit reminiscent of Sergeant Bilko in the Phil Silvers Show.]

Its clearly identifiable characters acquired enduring catchphrases. From Sub Lieutenant Phillips: “Corrrrr”, “Ooh, nasty…”, “Oh lumme!”, and “Left hand down a bit.” “Ev’rybody down!” was a phrase of CPO Pertwee’s, necessitated by a string of incomprehensible navigation orders by Phillips, and followed by a sound effect of the ship crashing. Also, whenever Pertwee had some menial job to be done, Able Seaman Johnson was always first in line to do it, inevitably against his will: “You’re rotten, you are!” The telephone response from Naval Intelligence (Ronnie Barker), was always an extremely gormless and dimwitted delivery of “‘Ello, Intelligence ‘ere” or “This is intelligence speakin'”.

Other recurring verbal features were the invented words “humgrummit” and “floggle-toggle” which served to cover all manner of unspecified objects ranging from foodstuffs to naval equipment.

leslie_1   Leslie_2

Leslie Phillips

Many of the characters heard on these early radio shows went on to fame in television or films and several have been mentioned in earlier blogs. Here I have to mention Leslie Phillips, an English actor who came to prominence in films in the fifties, generally acting as a suave charmer with an exaggerated upper-class accent, in the style of Terry-Thomas. After a notable success in the Carry On films and the Doctor series, he moved away from comedy into more character roles such as the Harry Potter series and many TV sitcoms, as well as stage work.

He made his first film appearances as a child in the 1930s and is the only actor still alive who performed at Pinewood Studios in its first week of opening in 1936. Called up to the Army in 1942 he rose to the rank of Lance-Bombardier in the Royal Artillery. Due to his acquired upper class accent, he was selected for officer training and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in 1943.

It was during the 1950s that he became known for playing amusing English stereotypes. His seductive voice has been his trademark as well as his catchphrases, “I say, Ding Dong” “Hello” and “Lumme!” which were partly, if not wholly, based on those of fellow cad actor Terry-Thomas. He appeared in three of the early Carry films, Carry On Nurse, Carry On Teacher and Carry On Constable. In the 1960s he took over from Dirk Bogarde in several of the ‘Doctor’ film comedies.

In 1982 he decided to move away from the kind of lecherous twits with suave chat-up lines which had characterised much of his previous work. He has remained busy in both stage and television productions.

Beyond our Ken (1958-64) and Round the Horne (1965-68)

These two were very similar, hosted by Kenneth Horne. Both are puns on his name. They also starred Kenneth Williams, Hugh Paddick, Betty Marsden and Bill Pertwee, with announcer Douglas Smith.

There were many regular sketches featuring regular characters. One of the most popular sketches was Julian and Sandy, featuring Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams as two flamboyantly camp out-of-work actors, speaking in the gay slang Polari, with Horne as their comic foil, at a time when homosexuality was illegal.

There were parodies of popular British TV entertainers such as Eamonn Andrews (“Seamus Android”, played by Pertwee), Simon Dee, Wilfred Pickles (both played by Williams), and “Daphne Whitethigh“, presumably based on journalist Katharine Whitehorn.

The shows featured the supposed old English folk singer, Rambling Syd Rumpo, played by Williams, who sang such nonsense ditties as “Green Grow My Nadgers Oh!”, “Song of the Bogle Clencher” and “Ballad of the Woggler’s Moulie”. All Rambling Syd’s songs were new words set to traditional tunes, such as “The Lincolnshire Poacher”, “Oh My Darling, Clementine” and “Widecombe Fair”.

Although I remember all these programmes I have again used Wikipedia to check dates and provide additional information.

I think I am about done for radio but more television to come…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


13 Comments

[73] 23 Railway Cuttings

For this blog I will look at many of the people who I remember well from television of the fifties and sixties. Some may have appeared on the radio at first and some continued for many years afterwards. Many of them also appeared in films or in the pop music charts. I will do them alphabetically (by first names) with notes and dates (and most pictures) added with much help from Wikipedia.

As with the short obituaries that I occasionally write, I keep wanting to write ‘fondly remembered’ or ‘well-loved’ for all of these. But some are still living, some still performing.

There is no logical system for selection – just my failing memory. If you can’t see your favourites from radio and television here they may appear in other blog posts or perhaps they slipped through the net.

Benny_Hill

Benny Hill

Alfred Hawthorne Hill (1924-1992)

The Benny Hill Show ran on television from the mid-fifties to the end of the eighties, including sketches, slapstick, mime, parody and double entendre. His theme tune, Yakety Sax was often shown with a farcical animated chase scene involving Benny and several scantily-clad women. He also made several comedy records and is well known for ‘Ernie, the fastest Milkman in the West,’ which topped UK charts in Christmas 1971. I remember him for his wicked leer, perhaps more from after the sixties. His show was on ITV which we didn’t watch much earlier. (Most of my early memories are BBC.)

BobMonkhouse

Bob Monkhouse (1928-2003)

Initially a comedy writer and comedian, Bob was known later for hosting game shows, particularly the Golden Shot from 1967 to 1972, also Celebrity Squares, Family Fortunes and others. He was sharp with ad lib humour.

BrianRix

Brian Rix (1924-)

For most of the fifties and sixties Brian appeared in farces at the Whitehall Theatre, London and these Whitehall farces were regularly shown on television. It’s a form of drama, with improbable and absurd situations, that has gone out of fashion nowadays but was very popular at the time. All the televised farces seemed to star Brian with many other well-known actors and actresses.

He had a long marriage with the actress Elspet Gray, with whom he worked. In 1951 the first of their four children was born, a daughter with Down syndrome (in those days referred to as mongolism.) There was no welfare support for such children and certainly no education. The only offering the state made was to place them old, Victorian, run-down so-called hospitals where “patients” were left to their own devices for hours on end. The Rixes were determined to try and do something better and became involved with various charities. His personal experience and his leading position as a fundraiser led to Brian applying to work for Mencap. When he retired in 1987 he became chairman and later president.

charlieDrake

Charlie Drake

Charles Edward Springall (1925-2006)

I was particularly endeared to Charlie because he was even shorter than me. His comedy was often slapstick and his catchphrase was “Hello, my Darlings!” I will leave it to Wikipedia to explain that ‘the catchphrase came about because he was short, and so his eyes would often be naturally directly level with a lady’s bosom. Because of this and because in his television work he preferred appearing with big-busted women, the catchphrase was born.’

His Charlie Drake Show of 1960-61 ended with a serious accident during a live transmission. (Most television used to be live then.) He had arranged for a bookcase to be set up to fall apart during a slapstick sketch but over-enthusiastic workman had “mended” the bookcase before the broadcast. The actors working with him, unaware of what had happened, proceeded with the rest of the sketch which required that they pick him up and throw him through an open window. He fractured his skull and was unconscious for three days. It was two years before he returned to the screen.

After four films, none of them successful, he returned to television in 1963. I still remember the show in which an extended sketch featured an orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, in which Drake appeared to play all the instruments. As well as conducting he featured as the player of a triangle waiting for his cue to play a single strike – which he subsequently missed.

[I know what you are thinking – 1812 Overture – That would have been a good one for Music lessons at ICHS – Of course it was!]

The show also included a recitation of The Listeners by Walter de la Mare.

“Is there anybody there?” said the Traveller; Knocking on the moonlit door;

And his horse in the silence champed the grass; Of the forest’s ferny floor;

And a bird flew up out of the turret; Above the Traveller’s head:

And he smote upon the door again a second time; “Is there anybody there?” he said.

But no one descended to the Traveller; No head from the leaf-fringed sill

Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes; Where he stood perplexed and still.

But only a host of phantom listeners; That dwelt in the lone house then

Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight; To that voice from the world of men:

Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair; That goes down to the empty hall,

Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken; By the lonely Traveller’s call.

And he felt in his heart their strangeness; Their stillness answering his cry,

While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf; ‘Neath the starred and leafy sky;

For he suddenly smote on the door, even; Louder, and lifted his head:–

“Tell them I came, and no one answered; That I kept my word,” he said.

Never the least stir made the listeners; Though every word he spake

Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house; From the one man left awake:

Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup; And the sound of iron on stone,

And how the silence surged softly backward; When the plunging hoofs were gone.

He made a few recordings, notably ‘My Boomerang Won’t Come Back,’ in 1961. (Nowadays, with political correctness, it would not have been seen in the same way with its references to Australian aboriginal culture.)

Dave_Allen_1968

Dave Allen

David Tynan O’Mahoney (1936-2005)

Coming from Australia and appearing on British television from the late sixties to the early nineties. His shows interleaved pre-recorded sketches with his dry humour directed from a high chair as he smoked and sipped whiskey. (Wikipedia says that it was ginger ale but we were certainly led to believe that it was whiskey.) He had lost half a finger, which he would allude to sometimes with humour. The truth was that it was an industrial accident.

His humour, especially the sketches, was often controversial and frequently featured Roman Catholicism and priests. (By modern standards it would be tame but then standards used to be very different.)

You could never quite tell how much of his Catholic upbringing had stayed with him but he came across as partly lapsed and agnostic. He always ended by toasting the audience with the words, “Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you”, an original catchphrase that included everyone and typified his amiable style.

DesOConnor

Des O’Connor (1932-)

I still think of Des as a singer from his records of the late sixties and seventies but he has done a lot more on television – comedy; hosting chat shows and game shows; presenting the Royal Variety Performance; and more recently presenting Countdown with Carol Vorderman. (And also as the butt of humour from Morecambe and Wise!)

DickEmery

Dick Emery

Richard Gilbert Emery (1915-1983)

I am not surprised to find that after some early entertainment appearances, Dick Emery was associated with some of my other childhood memories – Educating Archie, Tony Hancock and Michael Bentine. But he was most remembered from the Dick Emery Show through the sixties and seventies, featuring many sketches in which he appeared as various flamboyant characters. Most famous of these was Mandy, a buxom blonde interviewed with a series of double entendres. She always ended with, “Ooh, you are awful … but I like you.”

Eric_Sykes_publicity_photo

Eric Sykes (1923-2012)

Eric started as a script writer and came to fame in the sixties in his series, ‘Sykes and a …’ This was an early situation comedy, featuring Hattie Jacques as his sister and sometimes Deryck Guyler as ‘Corky’ the local policeman and Richard Wattis as the snobbish neighbour Mr Brown.

For most of his career he was almost totally deaf and he continued for many years even with declining sight. He had short appearances in one of the Harry Potter films.

HarryWOrth

Harry Worth

Harry Bourlon Illingsworth (1917-1989)

A comedy actor with long BBC running television in the late fifties and throughout the sixties. He portrayed himself as a charming, gentle man bemused by life and will be remembered for his visual illusion of levitation, using a shop window. (High Street shops and department stores, particularly fashion shops, used to show samples of their good in shop windows. This practice has now virtually disappeared.)

Remembered, as his comedy character, as a thoroughly nice man. In those days humour was always clean.

Hattie_Jacques_-_signed

Hattie Jacques

Josephine Edwina Jaques (1922-1980)

A comic actress, known perhaps mainly for the Carry On films but also from many other radio and television series – ITMA (before my time); Educating Archie with Peter Brough (mentioned in another blog) and Tony Hancock. For many years she appeared with Eric Sykes (see below) as his sister in his television series. It was, in the words of Wikipedia, ‘a role that endeared her to the public.’

johnnyMorris

Johnny Morris

Ernest John Morris (1916-1999)

He was a natural mimic and impersonator, who first appeared on television as The Hot Chestnut Man, a short slot in which he was shown sitting roasting chestnuts, while he told a humorous yarn in a West Country accent, often ending with a moral. His catchphrase was used near the beginning of the programme, when he gave his young viewers a brief outline of the week’s story and asked whether he’d told it before: “Didn’t I ? ………… I thought I did”.

Later he was known for many television programmes, mostly for Children’s Television and to do with animals. He presented Animal Magic from 1962 to 1984, co-presented by others including Gerald Durrell, Tony Soper and Terry Nutkins. It was discontinued when his anthropomorphic treatment fell out of fashion.

I absolutely loved his soft, calm voice and his anthropomorphism. While we watched animals, he would not only voice their thoughts (in a humorous, not serious, way.) He would give them extended conversations and human emotions in his intonation.

JuneW

June Whitfield (1925-)

June has been a well-known (and well loved) comedy actress since the early fifties, appearing in several popular sitcom series. In the seventies and eighties she starred in series with Terry Scott and even in the nineties she appeared with Jennifer Saunders in Absolutely Fabulous.

KenDodd

Ken Dodd (1927-)

Ken has for many years been a comedian, singer-songwriter and actor, known most for his fast on-line stand-up comedy style, his trademark unruly hair and protruding teeth, his “tickling stick” and his famous, upbeat greeting of “How tickled I am!”. He works mainly in the style of Music Hall, although he has occasionally appeared in drama, including as Malvolio in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

He has also been a singer recording serious songs, of which the most famous were ‘Happiness’ and ‘Tears’ in the mid-sixties. ‘Tears’ is among the best ever selling singles of the UK.

Kennethwilliams

Kenneth Williams (1926-88)

He came to fame on the radio in Hancock’s Half Hour with Tony Hancock, mostly playing funny voice roles, with his nasal, whiny, camp-cockney inflections and his catchphrase, “Stop messing about … “) He also featured in the radio series Beyond Our Ken and Round the Horne.

He continued to work on the stage and in films, particularly the Carry On films; in Radio programmes such as Just a Minute; and on television including the children’s storytelling series Jackanory.

Lenny

Lenny the Lion

I loved Lenny the Lion and have taken the liberty of not putting him alphabetically under Terry Hall (1926-2007) who was an English ventriloquist credited as being one of the first to use a non-human puppet. Terry appeared regularly on television with Lenny, a very timid lion, whose catchphrase was “Aw, don’t embawass me!”

Terry created Lenny the Lion in 1954 after he visited the zoo while working at the summer season in Blackpool. Lenny was made from an old fox fur and papier-mâché, with a golf ball for the nose. He originally had a mouthful of fearsome teeth, but they were removed to avoid scaring children in the audience.

The Lenny the Lion Show ran on from 1957 to 1960, followed by Lenny’s Den in 1959 to 1961, and the pop music show Pops and Lenny in 1962 to 1963. They remained popular throughout the 1960s, appearing on stage in Blackpool and on television. Lenny advertised Trebor mints for three years. They continued to work through the 1970s, appearing on television in Crackerjack and 3-2-1. From 1977 to 1980, Hall regularly appeared in the educational television programme Reading with Lenny.

PerryComo

Perry Como

Pierino Ronald Como (1912 – 2001)

An American singer often seen on British television through several decades known for his relaxed style, similar in some ways to Des O’Connor and Val Doonican. His hits included ‘Magic Moments’ and ‘Catch a Falling Star.’

PhilSilvers

Phil Silvers (1911-1985)

An American comedy actor. I remember the Phil Silvers Show, (which I loved) where he played Sergeant Ernie Bilko at Fort Baxter. In the USA it ran for nearly 150 episodes, all black-and-white, in the late fifties. I think repeats in the UK continued for long afterwards.

Bilko ran the Motor Pool but never seemed to do any work, normally gambling and devising other money-making routines. I still remember his henchmen, Rocco Barbarella and Steve Henshaw; camp cook Rupert Ritzik with his loud-mouthed wife and Duane Dobermanm, the archetypical slob. The camp commandant, Colonel Hall, always knew that Bilko was up to something but never quite knew what.

Pinky_and_Perky_original_appearances

Pinky and Perky

I nearly forgot this pair, as I forgot them in considering Children’s Television. They were stiffly moving puppets, originally marionettes but later animated cartoons, singing and dancing, anthropomorphic puppet pigs with their own television series, created by Czechoslovakian immigrants Jan and Vlasta Dalibor. They were originally going to be named “Pinky” and “Porky” but there was a problem registering Porky as a character name. They were very alike. Pinky wore red clothes and Perky wore blue, but this distinction was of little use on monochrome TV, so Perky often wore a hat.

Pinky and Perky spoke and sang in high-pitched voices, created by re-playing original voice recordings at twice the original recorded speed; a technique also used by Ken Dodd’s Diddymen and the Chipmunks.

Rolf_Harris

Rolf Harris (1930-)

I can’t leave out Rolf, an Australian entertainer whose career encompassed work as a musician, singer-songwriter, composer, comedian, actor, painter and television presenter.

He is well known for his musical compositions Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport, which became a hit in Australia, the UK, and the United States, and Jake the Peg. (So says Wikipedia. I have to add Two Little Boys, a song he sang but did not write.) He played the didgeridoo; was credited with the invention of the wobble board; and was associated with the Stylophone. During the 1960s and 1970s, he was a popular television personality in the UK, later presenting shows such as Rolf’s Cartoon Club and Animal Hospital.

I remember his painting on live television shows, usually with a huge canvas and an industrial sized paint brush. His catchphrase was, “Can you see what it is yet?”

SidJames

Sid James

Solomon Joel Cohen (1913 – 1976)

A South African-born English actor and comedian who came to fame as Tony Hancock‘s co-star in Hancock’s Half Hour, which ran on television from 1956 until 1960, then from the Carry On films, with the top billing role in seventeen of them, and in television sitcoms for the rest of his life.

Remembered for a lascivious persona, sometimes described as “the grand old man of dirty laughter.”

Tony-hancock

Tony Hancock (1924-1968)

I was tempted to describe Tony Hancock as ‘Arguably, one of the best ever British comedians,’ but in my mind there is no argument. He was our best ever comedian. I have also been dodging round mention of another show – but it has to be said that for the 1951–52 series, Tony was a cast member of Educating Archie, where he mainly played the tutor to the nominal star, (a ventriloquist’s dummy.) His appearance in this show brought him national recognition.

In 1954, he was given his own eponymous BBC radio show, Hancock’s Half Hour, which lasted for seven years and over a hundred episodes in its radio form, and from 1956 ran concurrently with an equally successful BBC television series with the same name. The show starred Hancock as Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock living in the shabby “23 Railway Cuttings” in East Cheam, one of the first of what we now all sitcoms. Most episodes portrayed his everyday life as a struggling comedian with aspirations toward straight acting.

Sid James featured heavily in both the radio and TV versions, while the radio version also featured Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques and others.

Tony became an enormous star in Britain. Like few others, he was able to clear the streets while families gathered together to listen to the eagerly awaited episodes.

As an actor with considerable experience in films, Sid James became more important to the show when the television version began. The regular cast was reduced to just the two men, allowing the humour to come from the interaction between them.

From 1959 it became the first television series to be recorded before transmission, something technically impossible earlier.

Hancock became anxious that his work with Sid James was turning them into a double act and the last BBC series in 1961, retitled simply Hancock, was without him. Two episodes are among his best-remembered. “The Blood Donor“, in which he goes to a clinic to give blood, contains famous lines such as, “A pint? Why, that’s very nearly an armful!” The other instalment is “The Radio Ham“, in which Hancock plays an amateur radio enthusiast who receives a mayday call from a yachtsman in distress, but his incompetence prevents him from taking his position.

Val_Doonican_1971

Val Doonican

Michael Valentine “Val” Doonican (1927 – 2015)

A well-known and popular Irish singer of traditional pop, easy listening, and novelty songs, who was noted for his warm and relaxed style. In the United Kingdom he had five successive Top 10 albums in the 1960s as well as several hits on the UK Singles Chart, including “Walk Tall” and “Elusive Butterfly“. The Val Doonican Show, which featured his singing and a variety of guests, had a long and successful run on BBC Television from 1965 to 1986. He had a gentle baritone voice and, according to The Guardian, he had “an easygoing, homely charm that enchanted middle England”.

There were many others. Some I have forgotten. Some are down in my notes to be mentioned elsewhere. I could also have mentioned: Arthur Askey, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Gracie Fields, Groucho Marx, Joyce Grenfell (“George, Don’t do that!”), Les Dawson, Morecambe and Wise, Prunella Scales, Richard Briers, Terry-Thomas, Terry Scott, (see June Whitfield) Tommy Cooper, Tony Hart, (and Morph) The Two Ronnies, Vera Lynn, Victor Borge (who once over-ran a live show by about an hour and a half – It was so good, they couldn’t cut him off,) Wilfrid Pickles and many others. Some were more famous before the fifties; some were mostly famous after the sixties.

I have to admit I have really enjoyed writing this one. It has brought back memories.


4 Comments

[38] “I’m Worried about Jim.”

Philips%20462A

Mrs Dale’s Diary

I cannot describe my very early life without mentioning Mrs Dale’s Diary. Observant readers will have noted the earlier reference in [26] ‘All I want is Music, Music, Music, Music!’ (There is always time to go back and read the blogs you have missed.)

Mrs Dale’s Diary was the first significant BBC serial drama (what we now call soaps). It was first broadcast on 5 January 1948 on one of the three radio services available then, the BBC Light Programme (which later became Radio 2.) It ran until 25 April 1969. It was broadcast every weekday afternoon, with a repeat the following morning.

My mother was an avid fan. I don’t think she missed an episode. In fact, I think she heard them all twice. In those days, our radio was a large, heavy piece of equipment, something like a metre long, twice the size of our first television (which came much later). We called it the ‘wireless’. It was not portable. Mum would turn it on a few minutes early to warm up and we heard the closing sounds of Calling All Workers, the closing signature tune to Music While you Work. Mrs Dale came next. Both broadcasts of Mrs Dale were timed nicely to coincide with a sit-down and a cup of tea.

Teacup

The programme always started with an introduction spoken by Mrs Dale, as if she were writing her diary. (The format was copied later in The Archers, where Tom Forrest used to introduce the omnibus edition with a chat about his week as a gamekeeper.)

The central character, Mrs Mary Dale, and her doctor husband Jim, represented middle-class society. They lived in the fictional London suburb of Parkwood Hill. (Later in the series, they were relocated to the fictional new town of Exton New Town.)

Mrs Dale’s mother was Mrs Freeman, whom Jim always called, rather gravely, “mother-in-law”. The family had one daughter, Gwen, and a son, Bob. Mary’s sister Sally lived in Chelsea and moved in more exotic circles. The Dales and their friends (not forgetting Captain, Mrs Freeman’s cat,) got along in almost perfect harmony – they were respectable, comfortable and middle-class.

[I wonder about Jack Woolley’s dog in The Archers, also named Captain. It seems a bit of a coincidence. I have never met a real cat or dog called Captain.]

Mrs Dale, was played by Ellis Powell until she was sacked in controversial circumstances in 1963 (partly because of her drinking habits, according to the biographer of her replacement) and replaced by Jessie Matthews. Ellis had earned less than £30 a week, but her voice was as well known in Britain as that of Queen Elizabeth II – heard twice a day by seven million devoted listeners.

In 1962, in an attempt to modernize it, the serial was renamed The Dales. The linking narratives by Mrs Dale were dropped. The changes included a new theme tune composed by Ron Grainger, composer of the futuristic theme tune for Doctor Who. In its last years, it became more sensational. Mrs Dale became a councillor, a position she had to relinquish when she caused a man’s death by careless driving. A heart attack forced Dr Dale to retire from practice.

When it became The Dales, it tried to copy The Archers, originally a medium to disseminate information to the agricultural community, and to give an insight into rural affairs to the public. Medical stories began to appear. When it ran a story about the importance of women having regular cervical smear tests checking their breasts for lumps, the junior health minister praised the programme, saying it had encouraged thousands of women to see their doctor.

The serial ran for 5,431 episodes, culminating with the engagement of Mrs Dale’s daughter Gwen to a famous TV professor on April 25, 1969. Unfortunately, the BBC Sound Archives only have five complete episodes of Mrs Dale’s Diary and seven of The Dales.

The catchphrase seized on by caricaturists as typical of Mrs Dale’s narrative was “I’m rather worried about Jim…” Indeed, the phrase was a staple of many comedy programmes, radio and television, in the early 1960s aiming to poke fun at safe, staid and undemanding middle-class lifestyles. The last episode ended with Mrs Dale saying, “There’s one thing that won’t change – I shall always worry about Jim…”

What I remember was the rather ridiculous story line when Jim retired. He lost his house with the practice and had to find accommodation for himself, his wife and his mother-in-law. He never gave a straight answer until the final episode, when he announced to Mary that the next day they were all off on a World Cruise and would find somewhere to live when they came back. It all sounded a bit impractical to me.

I have found a short clip from the final programme!

[I have relied more than usual for Wikipedia for this entry.]

Soaps

It’s strange that the term ‘soap opera’ had been around for years in the USA before we used it in the UK. We had Mrs Dale, the Archers, Coronation Street and several other shorter-lived serials, but never used the term ‘soap’ until Eastenders.

The Archers

I have to mention The Archers, which started in 1951, because many people will have listened to it with fond memories, just as our family had Mrs Dale. I have followed the Archers, on and off since about the seventies but I can’t put it down as a formative memory from the fifties or sixties.

 


5 Comments

[33] Thunderbirds are Go!

In the world of Children’s television we follow on from  [29] ‘Was it Bill or Was it Ben?’,and come next to two programmes linked in my memory – I think they were shown one after the other, on Saturdays, from 1956 to 1958:

Champion the Wonder Horse

Champion the Wonder Horse was re-broadcast from an American Series, The Adventures of Champion. It was, not surprisingly, about a horse called Champion, always saving the day in an almost human way. I think that I was always drawn to programmes featuring animals. The main characters also included a 12-year-old boy, Ricky North, and an Alsatian [US: German Shepherd] dog, Rebel. Like many old television programmes, what remains in the memory is the signature tune, ‘… Champion! The Wonder Horse!’

Micky_Dolenz_Braddock_Circus_Boy_1958

Circus Boy

The format of basing a programme round a boy and his faithful animal friend came up often. (I won’t mention Lassie.) Circus Boy was another of this type, and another import from the US. It featured Micky Dolenz as Corky, an orphaned circus boy, whose parents had died in a trapeze accident. He was adopted by Joey the Clown, and often seen with a young circus elephant, Bimbo.

[Micky Dolenz was known at the time as Mickey Braddock. He later became the drummer and lead singer of the Monkees, in the late sixties.]

I was always told that the pianist Hoagy Carmichael appeared playing the piano, at least in the closing credits, but I cannot find confirmation of this on the Internet.

Captain_Pugwash_(1975)_title_sequence

Captain Pugwash (1957-66)

This was a black-and-white cartoon, again narrated by Peter Hawkins. (The colour picture above is from a later series.) It was about the sailors on a pirate ship, the Black Pig, all of whom were far too timid to be real pirates. As well as the Captain, the main characters were the Master Mate, Barnabas, Willy and Tom the Cabin Boy. Cut-throat Jake on his ship the Flying Dustman, was the arch-enemy.

It was one of the first such series to use the theme of an inept eponymous hero and a minor character who secretly always saves the day. Tom was the most intelligent and resourceful member of the crew, the only one who could cook and the only one who could actually sail a ship. Although Pugwash would never admit it, Tom’s ability to think up schemes always stopped the Captain from being a total failure as a pirate.

Like most children’s programmes it had a catchy signature tune.

[There is a persistent urban legend about double entendres in the names and script of the series that was successfully disproved back in the nineties in a libel case against a now defunct newspaper.]

Blue Peter (from 1958)

I have to put in Blue Peter because it has been an iconic part of Children’s television (and now CBBC) for over fifty years. It just has not made an impression on me. I must have watched some its programmes but I can’t think of anything interesting to say about it. It did have a catchy signature tune.

Noggin the Nog (1959-65)

Noggin used simple stop-motion animation, mostly black-and-white with a few later ones in colour. It told the story, in the form of a Norse saga, of Noggin, the good-natured son of Knut, King of the Nogs, when King Knut dies. There are many adventures, always involving Noggin’s evil uncle, Nogbad the Bad. Other regular characters include: Thor Nogson – Noggin’s friend and Captain of the Royal Guard; Olaf the Lofty – an eccentric but well-meaning inventor; Graculus – a big green bird who arrives in the first episode; and Groliffe – a friendly ice dragon who Noggin befriends. Any trouble encountered is usually caused by Nogbad the Bad, who never gives up trying to claim Noggin’s throne for himself.

It was narrated by Oliver Postgate, whose voice was the sort of voice I could listen to all day. Noggin was my favourite, but he did other series such as Ivor the Engine (and, of course, Bagpuss, which sadly came too late for me to squeeze it into the sixties.)

NogginStamp

Noggin received an accolade achieved by very few Norse characters, real or imaginary. He appeared, with the Ice Dragon reading him a note from Nogbad, on a commemorative stamp in 1994, one of a set of ten on the theme of ‘messages’, featuring characters from British children’s literature. All the characters were pictured holding a message. Noggin’s note reads: “I, Nogbad the Bad do hereby promise to be Good.” [It must be from a later series, but it is still Noggin.]

Doctor Who (1963-89. Not the later, continuing revival.)

It is not clear whether Doctor Who was aimed at children. It always seemed to be timed just after the main Children’s Hour, so perhaps it was aimed at both children and adults. In the first series, the Doctor was an older man and his main companion was his granddaughter, so it certainly seemed then to be aimed at children.

[I could say a lot about the revival series. Now, the Doctor’s companions are attractive young women, with a significant, almost romantic, role in the plot. I think it tries to attract young men and women as well as children. New versions of the Doctor are younger. Sorry, I seem to have used the word ‘plot’ in conjunction with the modern Doctor Who programmes! When I watch, I try to find two or more pieces of action, which are related logically into some plot. Just occasionally, I can do it, not often. That’s enough: Grumpy Old Man!]

I watched Doctor Who from the original episode and I loved it. When we see these episodes now, the sets and make-up look primitive and unbelievable, but at the time, they were forward looking showing worlds, characters and monsters we had never seen before. (I was always disappointed when they turned up on the Earth in the past. That was not exciting.)

They differed from many other programmes in that the plot covered a whole series. At the end of each episode, you wanted to see what happened next. (Links were sometimes contrived. Sometimes the next episode seemed to say that the previous ending had not quite happened in the same way.)

It did well to transition between the different Doctor characters, but I liked William Hartnell best. They seemed to want to deliberately make them all different, so they became a bit quirky.

StingrayMarina

Supermarionation

I have to put these three together – Stingray (1964); Thunderbirds (1964-65) and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967-68) They were all produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, using the techniques of supermarionation, and in colour! The technique was hailed as revolutionary and brought great success for these British producers in the UK and America.

But they were still marionettes. The strings were less often openly visible but the characters looked like painted wooden puppets, move in a very stilted way (like puppets on strings), and spoke without doing anything more than opening and closing their puppet-like mouths!

What made the series were the futuristic themes. Thunderbirds was the best liked and most successful, based on the Tracy family. Jeff, an eccentric widowed multi-millionaire had five sons, named after successful astronauts of the time – Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon and Alan. They were the secret force, International Rescue, using advanced land, sea, air and space rescue vehicles (called, with great imagination, Thunderbird 1, Thunderbird 2, and Thunderbirds 3, 4 and 5) from their secret island base, hidden beneath Tracy Island.

They were ably assisted by the scientist, Brains, and a rich aristocrat, Lady Penelope with her cockney butler and chauffeur, Parker, driving an amphibious, pink Rolls-Royce:

Brainsfab_1

The puppetry was still relatively crude but the futuristic vehicles always operated in tense situations, with dramatic background music. Not surprisingly, the Thunderbird machines always managed to save the day in a rescue that finally just succeeded against all odds, and the Tracy family was just as successful in maintaining the secrecy of International Rescue.

The other two used similar techniques but their scenarios did not maintain the same tense drama.

[I can’t take the thread of Children’s television beyond the mid sixties as I was then about twenty and off to University.]

Summary

As television advanced, and Children’s Television in particular, there are trends marked by developing technology, with marionettes becoming cartoons of gradually improving quality (and more modern computer generated animation.)

There are obvious similarities in all these programmes, some general themes in what the producers thought would make good television. They are nearly all episodic, with the ‘hero’ getting into some trouble, or stumbling into a nasty situation, with a happy ending – Good triumphing over Evil. (Perhaps that is a bit exaggerated for the Flower Pot Men!) Perhaps this was an educational aim, teaching all of us to be Good. (Doctor Who used a series instead of an episode, as explained above.)

There is another thread where the hero is a young boy, helped by a real or mythical animal friend. This is obviously aimed at appealing to boys who liked animals. It worked with me!

And there is an element of fantasy and imagination, developing in later years into Science Fiction. Perhaps those of who still love Star Trek, Doctor Who and The Hunger Games are just grown-up children at heart.

We all follow children’s television on our own, then with our children. My grandchildren have just grown beyond the stage where I can watch In the Night Garden with them. I will have to wait for the next generation …