Jun 292018
 

On this date in 1613, the Globe Theatre, built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, was destroyed by fire caused by stage effects during a production of Henry VIII. A second Globe Theatre was built on the same site, and was opened in June 1614. It was closed by an Ordinance issued on 6th September 1642. Examination of old property records has identified the plot of land occupied by the Globe as extending from the west side of modern-day Southwark Bridge Road eastwards as far as Porter Street and from Park Street southwards as far as the back of Gatehouse Square. However, the precise location of the building remained unknown until a small part of the foundations, including one original pier base, was discovered in 1989 beneath the car park at the rear of Anchor Terrace on Park Street. The shape of the foundations is now replicated on the surface. Because the majority of the foundation lies beneath 67—70 Anchor Terrace, a listed building, no further excavations have been permitted.

The Globe was owned by actors who were also shareholders in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Two of the six Globe shareholders, Richard Burbage and his brother Cuthbert Burbage, owned double shares of the whole, or 25% each; the other four men, Shakespeare, John Heminges, Augustine Phillips, and Thomas Pope, owned a single share, or 12.5%. (Originally William Kempe was intended to be the seventh partner, but he sold out his share to the four minority shareholders, leaving them with more than the originally planned 10%). These initial proportions changed over time as new shareholders were added. Shakespeare’s share diminished from 1/8 to 1/14, or roughly 7%, over the course of his career.

The Globe was first built in 1599 using timber from an earlier theatre, simply known as The Theatre, which had been built by Richard Burbage’s father, James Burbage, in Shoreditch in 1576. The Burbages originally had a 21-year lease on  the site where the theatre was built but owned the building outright. However, the landlord, Giles Allen, claimed that the building had become his with the expiry of the lease. On 28th December 1598, while Allen was celebrating Christmas at his country home, Peter Street, a carpenter, supported by the players and their friends, dismantled The Theatre beam by beam and transported it to Street’s waterfront warehouse near Bridewell. With the onset of more favorable weather in the following spring, the material was ferried over the Thames to reconstruct it as The Globe on some marshy gardens to the south of Maiden Lane in Southwark. While only a hundred yards from the congested shore of the Thames, the piece of land was situated close by an area of farmland and open fields. It was poorly drained and, despite its distance from the river, was liable to flooding at times of particularly high tide. A “wharf” (that is, levy) of raised earth with timber revetments had to be created to keep the building above the flood level. The new theatre was larger than the building it replaced, so that even though they used the older timbers as part of the new structure, the Globe was not merely the old Theatre newly set up at Bankside. It was probably completed by the summer of 1599, possibly in time for the opening production of Henry V and its famous reference in the Prologue to the performance crammed within a “wooden O”.

On 29th June 1613 the Globe Theatre went up in flames during a performance of Henry VIII  when a theatrical cannon, set off during the performance, misfired, igniting the wooden beams and thatching. According to one of the few surviving documents of the event, no one was hurt except a man whose burning breeches were put out with a bottle of ale. It was rebuilt in the following year. Like all the other theaters in London, the Globe was closed down by the Puritans in 1642. It was pulled down in 1644–45 to make room for tenements.

A modern reconstruction of the theatre, named Shakespeare’s Globe, opened in 1997, with a production of Henry V. It is an approximation of the original design, based on available evidence of the 1599 and 1614 buildings, and is located approximately 750 feet (230 m) from the site of the original theatre. The Globe’s actual dimensions are unknown, but its shape and size can be approximated given that scholars have been making conjectures for the past 200 years. The evidence suggests that the Globe was a three-storey, open-air amphitheater approximately 100 feet (30 m) in diameter that could house up to 3,000 spectators. The Globe is shown as round on Wenceslas Hollar’s sketch of the building, later incorporated into his etched Long View of London from Bankside in 1647. However, in 1988–89, the uncovering of a small part of the Globe’s foundation suggested that it was a polygon of 20 sides.

At the base of the stage, there was an area called the pit or yard, where, for a penny, people (the “groundlings”) could stand on a rush-strewn earthen floor to watch the performance. During the excavation of the Globe in 1989 a layer of nutshells was found, pressed into the dirt flooring. Vertically around the yard were three levels of seats, which were more expensive than standing room. A rectangular stage platform, known as an apron stage, thrust out into the middle of the open-air yard. The stage measured approximately 43 feet (13.1 m) in width, 27 feet (8.2 m) in depth and was raised about 5 feet (1.5 m) off the ground. On this stage, there was a trap door for use by performers to enter from the “cellarage” area beneath the stage.The back wall of the stage had two or three doors on the main level, with a curtained inner stage in the center (although not all scholars agree about the existence of this supposed “inner below”), and a balcony above it. The doors entered into the “tiring house” (backstage area) where the actors dressed and awaited their entrances. The floors above may have been used as storage for costumes and props as well as management offices. The balcony housed the musicians and could also be used for scenes requiring an upper space, such as the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet. Rush matting covered the stage, although this may only have been used if the setting of the play demanded it.[23]

Large columns on either side of the stage supported a roof over the rear portion of the stage. The ceiling under this roof was called the “heavens,” and was painted with clouds and the sky. A trap door in the heavens enabled performers to descend using some form of rope and harness. The stage was set in the south-east corner of the building, so as to be in shade during afternoon performances in summer.

If you are used to plays on modern stages or on film, a play staged in the reconstructed Globe can be an eye opener I expect, but I treat such things as fodder for tourists rather than serious investigation into the Elizabethan stage. I spent decades studying original documents from Elizabethan times in my research concerning stage dances, and have no trouble reconstructing aspects of Elizabethan drama without having to have an actual theater built and real actors performing on it. What I can’t do – no one can – is recreate the living culture of Elizabethan England. You can find numerous YouTube videos about the experience of doing Shakespeare in the reconstructed Globe (including an excruciatingly large number that talk about “most unique” and “very unique” experiences – which drives me nuts). I expect actors can learn something about Elizabethan theater practices by acting in plain daylight with the audience at their feet, but they can get a similar experience by performing at an outdoor rock concert. And . . . modern actors are playing to modern audiences. These audiences are all attentive and engaged by the reconstruction. Elizabethan audiences were nowhere as easy to please. When they disliked an actor they threw things at him as well as booing and jeering. Elizabethan audiences shouted comments at the actors, and all the actors were male. The women’s parts were played (mostly) skillfully by boys and young men. They were so good, in fact, that one Elizabethan courtier who saw women playing women part’s in Italy wrote back home saying that they were surprisingly good – almost as good as English boys !!! Elizabethan audiences did not have all the movie special effects that we are bombarded with, and sated by. The effect that burned the Globe down would have been a real marvel to them, and, as Henry V’s prologue tells us, they had to use their imaginations so much more. In the video above, I like the playful cutting between the Elizabethan stage and modern movie effects. It makes my point.

The Globe has, I am glad to say, experimented with Elizabethan pronunciation of the lines, and this video is instructive:

Just as we cannot recreate the world of Elizabethan theater, we cannot really duplicate Elizabethan cooking because we do not have their skills, their tastes, their kitchens, nor their ingredients. We do have their recipes, however, and we can make a stab at them. I have talked about the pitfalls of trying to recreate historic dishes from contemporary recipes many times before. This site gives all the recipes from Thomas Dawson’s Good huswifes jewell (1587). The printed title is, The good husvvifes ievvell VVherein is to be found most excellent and rare deuises for conceits in cookerie, found out by the practise of Thomas Dawson. Whereunto is adioyned sundry approued reseits for many soueraine oyles, and the way to distill many precious waters, with diuers approued medicines for many diseases. Also certaine approued points of husbandry, very necessarie for all husbandmen to know. The recipes are given in slightly modernized spelling, so they are a bit easier to read than the original, but the instructions are skimpy. Here, for example, is a bread recipe:

To make fine bread.

TAke halfe a pound of fine suger well beaten, and as much Flower, and put thereto foure Egges whites, and being very wel beaten, you must mingle them with Anniseedes bruised, and being all beaten together, put into your mould melting the sawce ouer first with a litle butter, and set it in the Ouen, & turne it twice or thrice in the baking.

This looks more like an angel cake than bread, but worth a try. This recipe for veal breast is also a little cryptic:

To make a pudding in a breast of Veale.

TAke Peresely, Time, washe them, pricke them, and choppe them small, then take viii. yolkes of egges grated bread and halfe a pint of creame beeing verie swéete, then season it with Pepper, Cloues, and Mace, Saffron, and Sugar smal Raisons and Salt, put it in and Roste it and serue it.

I am assuming that you make up this mixture, wrap a breast of veal around it, and roast it. In other words, it is a kind of stuffing.

Aug 232015
 

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Today is the birthday (1912) of Eugene Curran “Gene” Kelly, legendary dancer, actor, singer, film director, producer and choreographer. He was known for his energetic and athletic dancing style, his good looks, and the likeable characters that he played on screen. Kelly was a dominant force in musical films until they fell out of fashion in the late 1950s. His many innovations transformed the Hollywood musical and he is credited with almost single-handedly making the ballet form commercially acceptable to film audiences. Add him to the list of screen giants who never won an academy award and who had to be given a lifetime achievement award (think Charlie Chaplin, Peter O’Toole etc) out of embarrassment.

Kelly was born in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh. He was the third son of James Patrick Joseph Kelly, a phonograph salesman, and his wife Harriet Catherine Curran. His father was born in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, to an Irish Canadian family. His maternal grandfather was an immigrant from Londonderry in Northern Ireland, and his maternal grandmother was of German ancestry. When he was eight, Kelly’s mother enrolled him and his brother James in dance classes. They both rebelled: “We didn’t like it much and were continually involved in fistfights with the neighborhood boys who called us sissies. I didn’t dance again until I was fifteen.” At one time his childhood dream was to play shortstop for the hometown Pittsburgh Pirates. By the time he decided to dance, he was an accomplished sportsman and able to defend himself. He attended St. Raphael Elementary School in the Morningside neighborhood of Pittsburgh and graduated from Peabody High School at age sixteen. He entered Pennsylvania State College as a journalism major, but the 1929 crash forced him to work to help his family. He created dance routines with his younger brother Fred to earn prize money in local talent contests. They also performed in local nightclubs.

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In 1931, Kelly enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh to study economics and became involved in the university’s Cap and Gown Club, which staged original musical productions. After graduating in 1933, he continued to be active with the Cap and Gown Club, serving as the director from 1934 to 1938. He was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh Law School.

Kelly’s family had opened a dance studio in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. In 1932, they renamed it The Gene Kelly Studio of the Dance. They opened a second location in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1933. Kelly served as a teacher at the studio during his undergraduate and law student years at Pitt. In 1931, he was approached by the Rodef Shalom synagogue in Pittsburgh to teach dance, and to stage the annual Kermess. This venture was successful enough that they retained his services for seven years, until he left for New York.

Kelly eventually decided to pursue a career as a dance teacher and full-time entertainer, so he dropped out of law school after two months. He began to focus more and more on performing, and later claimed: “With time I became disenchanted with teaching because the ratio of girls to boys was more than ten to one, and once the girls reached sixteen the dropout rate was very high.” In 1937, having successfully managed and developed the family’s dance school business, he finally did move to New York City in search of work as a choreographer, then on to Hollywood where he was a major influence on the art of dance on film. He experimented with lighting, camera techniques and special effects in order to achieve true integration of dance with film, and was one of the first to use split screens, double images, live action with animation and is credited as the person who made the ballet form commercially acceptable to film audiences.

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There was a clear progression in his development, from an early concentration on tap and musical comedy style to greater complexity using ballet and modern dance forms. Kelly himself refused to categorize his style: “I don’t have a name for my style of dancing. It’s certainly hybrid. I’ve borrowed from the modern dance, from the classical, and certainly from the American folk dance – tap-dancing, jitterbugging…But I have tried to develop a style which is indigenous to the environment in which I was reared.” He especially acknowledged the influence of George M. Cohan: “I have a lot of Cohan in me. It’s an Irish quality, a jaw-jutting, up-on-the-toes cockiness – which is a good quality for a male dancer to have.” He was also heavily influenced by Dancing Dotson, whom he saw perform at Loew’s Penn Theatre around 1929. He was briefly taught by Frank Harrington, an African-American tap specialist from New York. However, his main interest was in ballet, which he studied under Kotchetovsky in the early 1930s. Generally speaking, he tended to use tap and other popular dance idioms to express joy and exuberance – as in the title song from Singin’ in the Rain or “I Got Rhythm” from An American in Paris, whereas pensive or romantic feelings were more often expressed via ballet or modern dance, as in “Heather on the Hill” from Brigadoon or “Our Love Is Here to Stay” from An American in Paris.

According to Jerome Delamater, Kelly’s work “seems to represent the fulfillment of dance-film integration in the 1940s and 1950s”. While Fred Astaire had revolutionized the filming of dance in the 1930s by insisting on full-figure photography of dancers while allowing only a modest degree of camera movement, Kelly freed up the camera, making greater use of space, camera movement, camera angles and editing, creating a partnership between dance movement and camera movement without sacrificing full-figure framing. Kelly’s reasoning behind this was that he felt the kinetic force of live dance often evaporated when brought to film, and he sought to partially overcome this by involving the camera in movement and giving the dancer a greater number of directions in which to move. In 1951, he summed up his vision as follows: “If the camera is to make a contribution at all to dance, this must be the focal point of its contribution; the fluid background, giving each spectator an undistorted and altogether similar view of dancer and background. To accomplish this, the camera is made fluid, moving with the dancer, so that the lens becomes the eye of the spectator, your eye”. Kelly’s athleticism gave his moves a distinctive broad, muscular quality, and this was a very deliberate choice on his part, as he explained: “There’s a strong link between sports and dancing, and my own dancing springs from my early days as an athlete. I think dancing is a man’s game . . .”

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He also sought to break from the class-conscious conventions of the 1930s and early 40s, when top hat and tails or tuxedos were the norm, by dancing in casual or everyday work clothes, so as to make his dancing more relevant to the cinema-going public. As his first wife, actress and dancer Betsy Blair explained: “A sailor suit or his white socks and loafers, or the T-shirts on his muscular torso, gave everyone the feeling that he was a regular guy, and perhaps they too could express love and joy by dancing in the street or stomping through puddles…he democratized the dance in movies.” In particular, he wanted to create a completely different image from that associated with Fred Astaire, not least because he believed his physique didn’t suit such refined elegance: “I used to envy his cool aristocratic style, so intimate and contained. Fred wears top hat and tails to the Manor born — I put them on and look like a truck driver.”

Here’s a few videos of Kelly’s most iconic moments. First the title song from Singin’ in the Rain where he reputedly made sure the water was warm.

Then there’s this scene from It’s always Fair Weather where you know that if he straps on skates he’s going to start dancing:

Here he is with Tom and Jerry (mostly) in Anchors Aweigh.

And from Thousands Cheer, dancing with a mop:

I’ve often struggled with finding a recipe with posts that seemingly are as ungastronomic as they come – the elevator, the typewriter, a solar eclipse . . . but somehow I’ve always managed. Kelly the jaw-jutting, muscular Irish-American defeats me. Look at these quotes from his first and last wives. First, Betsy Blair:

Gene always eats late at night, too. Loves to eat at night. Favorite midnight snack being hot dogs and tea. He’ll drink pots of tea. And he’s mad for ice-cream, especially chocolate. The freezing unit in our icebox always contains a full supply of Schwab’s Drugstore ice-cream. Gene also loves candy. There is a steady supply of Gene’s favorite chocolate peppermints from his favorite candy store in Pittsburgh in a little cupboard in the breakfast room. The cupboard is just behind his place at the table so that he can always reach it easily. Besides hot dogs, ice cream and candy, Gene’s favorite food is steak and potatoes.

Then Patricia Ward whom he was married to from 1990 until his death in 1996.

Our first date we ate boiled hot dogs and watched the World Series. The next night we had frozen chicken pot pie. His favorite food was a fried bologna sandwich.

I despair. Drug store ice cream, candy, hot dogs, and fried bologna !!! What exactly do I do with that? The classics of so-called “American” cuisine (using the word “cuisine” loosely). About the only saving grace is chicken pot pie. My late wife was a fan of frozen chicken pot pies, and when she was on chemotherapy, and had little appetite, she would manage to eat one when nothing else worked. So, the freezer was full of them. Not to be too snobbish I will say that I’ve certainly eaten frozen pot pies and hot dogs on many occasions when I was too busy to get out the pots and pans – and enjoyed them.

Here’s a classic recipe for chicken pot pie from the Betty Crocker page:

http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/chicken-pot-pie/60237278-5f5b-4658-a583-8d085fea6dba

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If you prefer homemade, it’s very simple and can be dressed up. Chicken pot pie is basically an individual two-crust pie filled with poached chicken, carrots, and peas in a cream sauce. Nothing difficult about that. When I make it, which is rare, I add fresh parsley, fresh thyme, and freshly ground black pepper to the cream sauce to spice it up a bit.

May 122015
 

Tony Hancock

Today is the birthday (1924) of Anthony John “Tony” Hancock, English comedian and actor, and for my money the greatest comic of all time. Surprisingly a 2002 poll in the U.K. found that he was still ranked #1 out of all U.K. comedians.

Hancock was born in Southam Road, Hall Green, Birmingham, but from the age of three was brought up in Bournemouth where his father, John Hancock, who ran the Railway Hotel in Holdenhurst Road, worked as a comedian and entertainer. After his father’s death in 1934, Hancock and his brothers lived with their mother and stepfather at a small hotel called Durlston Court. He attended Durlston Court Preparatory School, a boarding school at Durlston in Swanage, and Bradfield College in Reading, Berkshire, but left school at the age of fifteen.

In 1942, during World War II, Hancock joined the RAF Regiment. Following a failed audition for the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), he ended up on the Ralph Reader Gang Show. After the war, he returned to the stage and eventually worked as resident comedian at the Windmill Theatre, a venue which helped to launch the careers of many comedians at the time, and took part in radio shows such as Workers’ Playtime and Variety Bandbox.

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Over 1951–52, for one series, Hancock was a cast member of Educating Archie, in which he mainly played the tutor (or foil) to the nominal star, a ventriloquist’s dummy. His appearance in this show brought him national recognition, and a catchphrase he used frequently in the show, “Flippin’ kids!”, became popular. The same year, he made regular appearances on BBC Television’s popular light entertainment show Kaleidoscope. In 1954, he was given his own BBC radio show, Hancock’s Half Hour.

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Working with scripts from Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, Hancock’s Half Hour 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. Most episodes portrayed his everyday life as a struggling comedian with aspirations toward straight acting. Some episodes, however, changed this to show him as being a successful actor and/or comedian, or occasionally as having a different career completely such as a struggling (and incompetent) barrister. Radio episodes were prone to more surreal storylines, which would have been impractical on television, such as Hancock buying a puppy that grows to be as tall as himself.

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Sid James featured heavily in both the radio and TV versions, while the radio version also included regulars Bill Kerr, Kenneth Williams and over the years Moira Lister, Andrée Melly and Hattie Jacques. The series rejected the variety format then dominant in British radio comedy and instead used a form drawn more from everyday life: the situation comedy, with the humor coming from the characters and the circumstances in which they find themselves. Owing to a contractual wrangle with producer Jack Hylton, Hancock had an ITV series, The Tony Hancock Show, during this period, which ran in 1956 and 1957 either side of the first BBC television series.

During the run of his BBC radio and television series, Hancock 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. His character changed slightly over the series, but even in the earliest episodes the key facets of ‘the lad himself’ were evident. It’s difficult to put into words what made his character(s) so funny. Chiefly, I think, it was his unique combination of cynicism, self aggrandizement, and a misplaced sense of his own worldly wisdom. On the show, and in life, he was not a happy man. On the show this was hilarious; in life it was not.

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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 humor to come from the interaction between them. James’s character was the realist of the two, puncturing Hancock’s pretensions. His character would often be dishonest and exploit Hancock’s apparent gullibility during the radio series, but in the television version there appeared to be a more genuine friendship between them.

Up until the Hancock series, every British television comedy show had been performed live owing to the technical limitations of the time. Hancock’s highly strung personality made the demands of live broadcasts a constant worry, with the result that, starting from the autumn 1959 series, all episodes of the programs were recorded before transmission. He was also the first performer to receive a £1,000 fee for his performances in a half-hour show.

Hancock became anxious that his work with James was turning them into a double act and the last BBC series in 1961, retitled simply Hancock, was without James. 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 was 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 recording his position.

Returning home with his wife from recording “The Bowmans”, an episode based on a parody of The Archers, Hancock was involved in a minor car accident and was thrown through the windscreen. He was not badly hurt, but suffered concussion and was unable to learn his lines for “The Blood Donor”, the next show due to be recorded. The result was that Hancock had to perform by reading from teleprompters, and could be seen looking at camera or away from other actors when delivering lines. From this time onwards, Hancock came to rely on teleprompters instead of learning scripts whenever he had career difficulties.

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In early 1960, Hancock appeared on the BBC’s Face to Face, a half-hour in-depth interview program conducted by former Labour MP John Freeman. Freeman asked Hancock many searching questions about his life and work. Hancock, who deeply admired his interviewer, often appeared uncomfortable with the questions, but answered them frankly and honestly. Hancock had always been highly self-critical, and it is often argued that this interview heightened this tendency, contributing to his later difficulties. According to Roger, his brother, “It was the biggest mistake he ever made. I think it all started from that really. …Self-analysis – that was his killer.”

The usual argument is that Hancock’s mixture of egotism and self-doubt led to a spiral of self-destructiveness. Cited as evidence is his gradual ostracism of those who contributed to his success: Bill Kerr, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques and Sid James, and finally his scriptwriters, Galton and Simpson. His reasoning was that to refine his craft, he had to ditch his catch-phrases and become realistic. He argued, for example, that whenever an ad-hoc character was needed, such as a policeman, it would be played by someone like Kenneth Williams, who would appear with his well-known oily catchphrase ‘Good evening’. Hancock believed the comedy suffered because people did not believe in the policeman, they knew it was just Williams doing a funny voice.

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Hancock read widely and avidly in an attempt to discover “the meaning of life,” including large numbers of philosophers, classic novels and political books. He was a supporter of the Labour Party, and admired Michael Foot above any other politician.

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Hancock starred in the 1960 film The Rebel, where he plays the role of an office worker-turned-artist who finds himself successful after a move to Paris, but only as the result of mistaken identity. Although a success in Britain the film was not well received in the United States: owing to the existence of a contemporary television series of the same name, the film had to be renamed, and the new title, Call Me Genius, inflamed U.S. critics. Bosley Crowther in The New York Times thought Hancock “even less comical” than Norman Wisdom. British comedy has always had a mixed reception in the U.S. It’s a cultural thing; I cannot tolerate U.S. sitcoms.

His break with Galton and Simpson took place at a meeting held in October 1961, where he also broke with his long-term agent Beryl Vertue. During the previous six months, the writers had developed – without payment and in consultation with the comedian – three scripts for Hancock’s second starring film vehicle. Worried that the projects were wrong for him, the first two had been abandoned incomplete; the third was written to completion at the writers’ insistence, only for Hancock to reject it. Hancock is thought not to have read any of the screenplays. The result of the break was that Hancock chose to separately develop something previously discussed and the writers were ultimately commissioned to write a Comedy Playhouse series for the BBC, one of which, “The Offer”, emerged as the pilot for Steptoe and Son. To write that “something previously discussed”, which became The Punch and Judy Man, Hancock hired writer Philip Oakes, who moved in with the comedian to co-write the screenplay.

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In The Punch and Judy Man (1962), Hancock plays a struggling seaside entertainer who dreams of a better life; Sylvia Syms plays his nagging social climber of a wife, and John Le Mesurier a sand sculptor. The depth to which the character played by Hancock had merged with Hancock himself is clear in the film, which owes much to Hancock’s memories of his childhood in Bournemouth. I rank The Punch and Judy Man as one of the most brilliant movies of all time, especially its deeply insightful, and moving analysis of personality and culture.

He moved to ATV in 1962 with different writers, though Oakes, retained as an advisor, disagreed over script ideas and the two men severed their professional (but not personal) relationship. The initial writer of Hancock’s ATV series, Godfrey Harrison, had scripted the successful George Cole radio and television series A Life Of Bliss, and also Hancock’s first regular television appearances on Fools Rush In (a segment of Kaleidoscope) more than a decade earlier. Harrison had trouble meeting deadlines, so other writers were commissioned, including Terry Nation.

Coincidentally, the transmission of the series clashed in the early months of 1963 with the second series of Steptoe and Son written by Hancock’s former writers, Galton and Simpson. Critical comparisons did not favor Hancock’s series. Around 1965 Hancock made a series of 11 TV advertisements for the Egg Marketing Board. Hancock starred in the ads with Patricia Hayes as Mrs Cravatte in an attempt to revive the Galton and Simpson style of scripts. Slightly earlier, in 1963, he featured in a spoof Hancock Report – hired by Lord Beeching to promote his plan to reduce railway mileage in advertisements. Hancock reportedly wanted to be paid what Beeching was paid annually – £34,000; he was offered half that amount for his services.

Hancock continued to make regular appearances on British television until 1967, but by then alcoholism had affected his performances. After hosting two unsuccessful variety series for ABC Television, The Blackpool Show and Hancock’s, he was contracted to make a 13-part series called Hancock Down Under for the Seven Network of Australian television. This was to be his first and only television series filmed in color; however, after arriving in Australia in March 1968 he only completed three programs, which remained unaired for several years.

Hancock committed suicide, by overdose, in Sydney, on 24 June 1968. He was found dead in his Bellevue Hill flat with an empty vodka bottle and a scattering of amylo-barbitone tablets. In one of his suicide notes he wrote: “Things seemed to go too wrong too many times”. His ashes were brought back to the UK by satirist Willie Rushton in an Air France hold-all, in the first-class cabin in deference to his fame. They were buried in St. Dunstan’s Church in Cranford, west London. Spike Milligan commented in 1989: “Very difficult man to get on with. He used to drink excessively. You felt sorry for him. He ended up on his own. I thought, he’s got rid of everybody else, he’s going to get rid of himself and he did.” A tragic, but fitting, epitaph for a comic genius.

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In a 2002 poll, BBC radio listeners voted Hancock their favorite British comedian. Commenting on this poll, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson observed that modern-day creations such as Alan Partridge and David Brent owed much of their success to mimicking dominant features of Tony Hancock’s character. “The thing they’ve all got in common is self-delusion,” they remarked in a statement issued by the BBC. “They all think they’re more intelligent than everyone else, more cultured, that people don’t recognise their true greatness – self-delusion in every sense. And there’s nothing people like better than failure.” Mary Kalemkerian, Head of Programmes for BBC 7, commented: “Classic comedians such as Tony Hancock and the Goons are obviously still firm favourites with BBC radio listeners. Age doesn’t seem to matter – if it’s funny, it’s funny.” Dan Peat of the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society said of the poll: “It’s fantastic news. If he was alive he would have taken it one of two ways. He would probably have made some kind of dry crack, but in truth he would have been chuffed.”

This site has many of Hancock’s Half Hour videos all in one file. You can spend hours here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-0nxbXnyQw&list=PLlO-tYBPIVZ_ZUAQypjIwOf92eL-uGp52

Purchase College alums will find the origin of our old school colors, Heliotrope and Puce, here:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007wp6j  (when it is available — the episode is called “The Last of the McHancocks”)

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Given that Hancock spent part of his boyhood in Bournemouth, and used a south coast resort as the setting for The Punch and Judy Man, I thought English seaside food would be just the ticket for today’s recipe. I spent a few years of my infancy – in between Argentina and Australia – living with my great-aunt Lucy in Eastbourne. Not quite your typical south coast town ; more like “God’s waiting room” with all of its rich old ladies being wheeled along the front. But it’s a majestic place with a pier, bandstand, and decorative gardens. I return once in a while for fish and chips, cockles, mussels, fresh crab and the like. In a recent survey of Brits on their bucket lists (things to do before you die) in England, the number one was eating fish and chips on the beach. In the 1950s and 60s fish and chips came wrapped in newspaper, but Health and Safety put a stop to that. Now you get white butcher paper or a polystyrene container. Or . . . you can eat on the pier. That is, overall, a better option because you do not have to fight off the seagulls (my old friend in Eastbourne, Trish, calls them “flying rats”), as you do if you are eating directly on the beach or out in the open. Quality varies greatly from pier to pier unfortunately.

From my college days onward I’ve spent quite a few summers somewhere along the south coast of England from Kent to Cornwall. All have the classics of the Brit seafood world, but there are places that stand out for their specialties. I’ve never been able to get my fill of prawn sandwiches in Swanage, honeycomb ice cream in Sidmouth (bathed in Devonshire clotted cream), or whitebait and fresh sardines in Padstow. But, of all of these delights, crab sandwiches in Cornwall are the cat’s whiskers for me. The key for me is SIMPLICITY. You can add all manner of ingredients such as fancy herbs, celery etc etc. All I want is fresh, fresh, fresh crab, mayonnaise, a little parsley and lemon, and hearty brown bread. I prefer my own mayonnaise but store bought will do. ALWAYS use fresh crab.

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©Crab Sandwich

Start with fresh, live crab – one per sandwich. Place in boiling, salted water for about 10 minutes per pound. Remove the pot from the stove and let cool until you can handle the crabs.

Twist off the claws and legs. Reserve the les for stock unless you fancy an endless job scrounging for tiny bits of meat. Crack the claws gently with a nutcracker. Do not smash them because you will get shell fragments in the meat. Remove the meat with a nut pick or similar. A toothpick will do. With the crab on its back you will see an outlined shape – fat on females, more slender on males. You can pry this open with a knife, or holding the body in both hands, push at the base with both thumbs. This exposes the meat.

Pull away and discard the feathery white lungs (‘dead man’s fingers’). Pull away the stomach sac. You will find both white meat and brown meat. If you like you can separate them and use them in layers in the sandwich. I usually just mix them together. Take your time because there is lots of meat in hidden corners.

Place the meat in a metal bowl and shake. If you have missed any bits of shell you will hear it clicking and you can take it out. Mix with a little mayonnaise, chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice. Go easy on the mayonnaise, the crab is the main player. Slice a whole loaf of brown bread – not too thickly – spread the crab mix on one side, top with the other, cut in half diagonally and serve with a simple salad of greens and tomato drizzled with olive oil and a drop of lemon juice.

Try not to eat the sarnie in one bite. On a good day I have four.

A final episode for old time foodies:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b009h7l4

Saveloy and chips with brown sauce, please. Fried egg sandwich for the missus.