Tony Hancock is one of the best known British comedians and actors, whose shows like Hancock’s Half Hour are now British comedy classics.
He was born in Birmingham in 1924, but three years later his family moved south to Bournemouth, where his father worked as an entertainer at the Railway Hotel in Holdenhurst Road which he also ran.
He went to Durlston Court Preparatory School, which was a boarding school, and then to Bradfield College in Reading, but left school at 15.
He joined the RAF in 1942, failed entry to ENSA, the organisation for entertaining the troops, and ended up working with the Ralph Reader Gang Show, as a comedian at the Windmill Theatre in London. This presented him with the opportunity to appear on radio, and Tony was soon to appearing on radio shows like Worker’s Playtime, Variety Bandbox and Educating Archie, where he played the tutor to a ventriloquist’s dummy.
The latter show made him nationally famous,and in 1954 he was given his own radio show, Hancock’s Half Hour, which lasted for 7 years, and eventually transferred to television.
Tony’s shows often involved other well known comedians from the period, including Sid James, Hattie Jacques, Bill Kerr and Kenneth Williams.
From 1956 to 1957 the Tony Hancock Show was a hit on BBC Television, and most people in the UK if not aware of anything else that he did are familiar with the episode where he had to give blood, entitled The Blood Donor.
A minor car accident in 1959 left him with concussion, after which Tony struggled to remember his lines, and subsequent shows were recorded instead of being shown live.
Tony Hancock suffered from depression caused by a mixture of egotism and self doubt, which led him to ostracise many of those who had helped him on the road to success, and his life headed on a path of self destruction.
The Punch And Judy Man followed, a sitcom about a failing seaside entertainer, which borrowed much from his growing up in Bournemouth, and he also became a script writer for Steptoe And Son, one of the UK’s best loved comedies, which was cloned in the USA as Sandford And Son.
He committed suicide in 1968, in Sydney. Australia.
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