Tony Hancock (1924-1968) b. Birmingham, England.
Hancock is regarded by many as the greatest radio and television comedian of his day from any country. Born in Birmingham to a hotelier and part-time entertainer who died when he was still a boy, Hancock had already tried stand-up comedy at 16 and made his first radio broadcast in 1941. During wartime service with the RAF, he worked in ENSA concert parties and gang shows. After early post-war struggles he got a job as a comedian at the Windmill Theatre. Radio bookings began to come in from 1949, in 1953, Hancock became the resident comedian on radio’s All-Star Bill, working again with Graham Stark and, for the first time, writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. When the first series of Hancock’s Half Hour began in 1954, featuring a talented cast that included Sid James, Hattie Jacques, Kenneth Williams and Bill Kerr. It soon took off, which is more than can be said for Hancock’s first film appearance, as a bandmaster in a deadly army comedy, Orders Are Orders.
The character of Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock was rude, arrogant, stubborn, childish and pompous – and much-loved by millions of listeners. The show went on until 1959 and ran on television from 1956. Despite increasing dependence on alcohol, and often having to read his lines from cue cards, he turned out some wonderful half-hours, including The Blood Donor, The Bowmans and The Radio Ham. There was another film, The Rebel (1961) also written by Galton and Simpson, casting Hancock as a London clerk who becomes an artist in Paris. Galton and Simpson had partially written several other film ideas when Hancock decided not to work with them again, in films or TV. Instead, he did The Punch and Judy Man (1963), a melancholy film comedy that cast him as a seaside entertainer with a nagging wife. That was really the end, although there was an abysmal TV series, Hancock’s, and three episodes of a comedy series made in Australia, where he committed suicide with a combination of alcohol and pills.