January 2, 2017


Tommy Trinder (1909-1989) b. London, England.

Tommy Trinder

From the age of 12 when, an early school leaver, Trinder threw in his job as an errand boy and went on the stage to make people smile. Touring South Africa with a revue company in 1921, he appeared as a boy vocalist at Collins’ Music-Hall the following year. The son of a London tram driver, Tommy always possessed a quick wit. Trinder spent years touring Britain on variety bills as a stand-up comic before nationwide success found him. It began to come in 1937 with the revues Tune In and In Town to-Night, by which time music-hall audiences had become familiar with the leering smile, the pork-pie hat and the wagging finger. The British cinema, regaining confidence after its mid-1930s slump, drew him in, but straitjacketed him into roles that most light comedians could have played. Sailors Three (1940), a genuinely funny war comedy that harnessed him with Claude Hulbert and Michael Wilding as three friends who capture a German pocket battleship, boosted his standing. Trinder’s robust performance brought him further roles with the film’s makers, Ealing Studios, with whom he was to do his best film work.

Meanwhile, he had virtually taken up residence at the London Palladium. Back at Ealing, he successfully played two fairly straight roles laced with his own engaging brand of humour and native London wit. The Foreman Went to France (1942) was the story of a true wartime exploit, and The Bells Go Down (1943) a smoke-grimed tribute to die work of London’s firemen in the Blitz. He was, ironically, taken back to Australia by his final Ealing venture, Bitter Springs (1950), another salt-of-the-earth role in this story of a family fighting to make a new life in Aborigine country. With the arrival of independent television in the London area in 1955, a big variety show was mounted called Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Trinder was the obvious choice as compere, and he did his old stamping-ground proud, becoming the top British TV star of the time. He continued to appear in pantomimes and cabaret, but further film appearances were only cameos. He celebrated his 80th birthday shortly before his death from heart problems.

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