Another chance to hear the play Happiness on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday 31st March at 2.15pm. David Threlfall stars as the madcap entertainer, Ken Dodd, in Ian Billing’s comedy drama about winning hearts and minds. It’s 1988 and the comedian faces charges of tax evasion. The drama imagines what it must have felt like for someone confronted with the prospect of being cut off from doing what they love most in the world. The story tracks the year-long battle with the tax-man including the 1989 trial where the entertainer is finally acquitted on all charges.
Renown Films have just issued Volumes 2 of Music Hall And Variety Act Memories. Priced at £20.00, this is a 3 DVD set containing over 10 hours of 13 films and shorts:
Disc One: A NIGHT IN A MUSIC HALL (1939) A musical short directed by Arthur Dreifuss, starring: Pinky Tomlin, Betty Atkinson, Nell Kelly, Estelle Preston, Ben Black & His Hollywood Orchestra. THE WINDMILL GIRLS (AND BOYS!) Exclusive documentary on the artistes of the Windmill Theatre. MURDER AT THE WINDMILL (1949) British crime film directed by Val Guest, stars: Garry Marsh, Jack Livesey, Peter Butterworth, Jon Pertwee & Jimmy Edwards. THE KENTUCKY MINSTRELS (1934) British music hall film directed by John Baxter, starring Harry Scott & Eddie Whaley. MUSIC HALL GREATS – TELL ME ANOTHER (1976) Dick Hills interviews variety greats Arthur Askey, Roy Hudd, Roy Castle, Dickie Henderson, Tommy Trinder, Charlie Drake, Norman Wisdom, Billy Dainty, Max Wall and Reg Varney with anecdotes and insights into working the ‘halls’.
Disc 2: TOP OF THE BILL (1971) Once ‘lost’ documentary about the great days of variety, introduced by Ben Warriss, President of the society of entertainers ‘The Water Rats’. He is joined by Charlie Chester and Wee Georgie Wood, who set the scenefor artistes from comedians to singers to acrobats, including Davy Kaye, Sally Barnes and others brought to life by gifted imitators Peter Cavanagh and Ken Goodwin. SPRINGTIME (1946) Director: Montgomery Tully. Stars: Peter Graves, Carol Raye & Lawrence O’Madden. When Captain Winster gave a brooch to a lady in 1911 his father turned him out of the house. The subsequent history of the brooch is explained by the present day Mrs Ware, with its significance for her mother and Tony’s relatives. Carol Raye is charming in the dual lead role and excels in both the modern (1946) musical numbers as well as those of the late Edwardian period in which most of the film is set. THE GREAT GABBO (1929) Director: James Cruze. Early musical with big production numbers. Stars: Erich von Stroheim, Betty Compson, Donald Douglas, Marjorie Kane, George Grandee, John F. Hamilton and Harry Ross. HIGHLIGHTS OF VARIETY (1938) comedy musical short from the Bell & Howell Music Hall featuring Ernest Shannon and Sam Browne.
Disc 3: STARS FROM THE SCREEN Clips from four British musical films of 1934. The Camels are Coming with Jack Hulbert; Aunt Sally withCicely Courtneidge; Evergreen withJessie Matthews OBE and Road House withMusic Hall star Violet Loraine. HARMONY LANE (1954) Directed by Lewis Gilbert, a musical comedy starring Max Bygraves, The Beverley Sisters, Dora Bryan and Jack Billings. WHEN YOU COME HOME (1947) British comedy film directed by John Baxter starring Frank Randle. As Grandad Randle he recounts his life as a music hall odd job man, with flashbacks to his younger days. YOU WILL REMEMBER (1941) Robert Morley stars in this musical biography of Leslie Stuart, in the British music halls. Cast: Emlyn Williams, Dorothy Hyson, Nicholas Phipps, Tom E. Finglass, Gertrude Musgrove, with anearly appearance by Roddy McDowall.
Barry Humphries returns for his 4th series of Forgotten Musical Masterpieces on Radio2 on Sunday 14th March at 9pm. For the next four Sundays, revel in music you won’t hear (sadly) on any other Radio 2 show. Barry promises music from the first half of the Twentieth Century and in the first show he will be including tracks by Elsie Carlisle, Douglas Byng and Marion Harris.