Desert Island Discs – IV

“…and your fourth record?”

I could check when the radio repeats took place, but it feels like cheating. I’d heard Hancock before but I’m not sure how or when. There had been cassettes at the library I’m sure, the old BBC logo on the cover. And there were some repeats on the television in the early evening. Prime time black and white repeats. Of course it wasn’t unusual to encounter black and white broadcasts at the time. There was Bilko, of course. And Channel 4 had showed the Beverly Hillbillies and I Love Lucy and The Munsters when it started, and in my head they were all in black and white. I loved Bilko. The careful construction. The characterisation. And Silvers. Oh, Phil Silvers. So sharp, so quick, never looking out of control. Even in The Court Martial as poor Private Harry Speakup is drummed out of the army Silvers improvises around the chimp reaching for the phone. Unflustered, masterly. I bought my granny a compilation of Bilko episodes, and never saw her laugh as much as she did when the chimp was making his way through the various tests before being sworn in. She laughed and laughed until tears left trails on her cheeks. Thinking about these shows sends me down youtube trails where I end up in old American What’s my line episodes, skipping from blindfolded guess the celebrity round to blindfolder guess the celebrity round.  And there were black and white films on regularly. Every Friday night used to have an old Rathbone Sherlock Holmes or a Charlie Chan film, and Laurel and Hardy and Harold Lloyd regularly appeared in the holiday schedules. And Christmas wasn’t Christmas without the BBC2 presents of RKO movie seasons and another late night view of Cat People. I can’t remember what was in the black and white repeats but remember picking up VHS recordings of The Missing Page, The Lift, and The Blood Donor. And after catching the radio repeats one Christmas – starting with, of all things, The TV set – not one of the great episodes, and not with the perfect radio cast (Griselda Pugh in the person of Hattie Jacques was some way off at that point) – I went out and started looking for Hancock audio cassettes, and years later the CD box sets of the radio series. There is something special about the radio series. It is perfectly cast – Hancock’s delivery and pauses are a joy but Sid James and Bill Kerr were my favourites: the wide boy and the hopelessly naïve colonial. And Hattie Jacques is imperious – businesslike, flirtatious, a counterweight to the others. And of course Kenneth Williams through snide voice or others.  And the writing is wonderful. One liners built from character or situation, characters so well defined, so well inhabited, that even sighs can generate laughs. I could have picked a number of episodes. I love the pretension of Hancock (anticipating The Rebel) in The Poetry Society, Fred’s pie stall, the guest appearance of James Robertson Justice in Last of the McHancocks, Hancock’s retreat from society and Sid’s cash in in the Wild Man of the Woods, and the perfection of Sunday afternoon at home. But I’d choose the episode I listened to more than any other, a TV episode. I’ve bought Twelve Angry Men in various formats, repackaged and rebundled. As a single cassette with The Lift, as part of the Hancock’s Half Hour 3 double cassette, on VHS, on DVD in the single series, and then in the box set, and latterly in MP3 form. I love each part – the courtroom sequence, the toing and froing with the judge with Sid egging Hancock on, the jury scenes with Sid’s vote switch, Hancock’s speech, the slow act of persuading the jurors to change their votes, and Hancock’s final switch back. “Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you?” The Corsican brothers comparison “and I say we’ve got the good one”. “He said he thought they were teddy boys”. On and on. I still laugh through it, waiting for each pause, the slight stumble (deliberate or accidental?) between wife and life. Few half hours have given me more pleasure. And so my fourth choice – Hancock’s Half Hour: Twelve Angry Men

 

 

 

 

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About loveandgarbage

I watch the telly and read when not doing law stuff and plugging my decade and a half old unwatched Edinburgh fringe show.
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