Spent the last 5 years or so reading as many biogs. I could find on comedians and comic actors I liked as I find it fascinating to read about their life and how they came to get where they were and any juicy bits, which are far and few between of course.
And so, I finally got around to reading this one on Will Hay. I had been putting it off as it is quite a heavy tome and am a slow reader - once a day in the "library". Also, have never understood "speed readers" as they cannot possibly take everything in - I will re-read something if I do not fully understand it!
So, "Will Hay" by Graham Rinaldi - in one word BRILLIANT! Also has a good selection of photos, which is sometimes annoyingly lacking in other biogs.
Most biogs. are quite light reading but the research that has gone into this book is amazing and I congratulate Mr Rinaldi. The minutiae show much, much research and the reader should want for little more about Will Hay and the people he surrounded himself with. The notes at the back are just as interesting as the biog.
There is much to read, so these odd snippets that fascinated me should not spoil I hope and maybe could be looked on more as tasters.
Will shaved his head so that his teacher's scratch wig would look more authentic.
He was Hancock's favourite comedy actor whom he admired for his timing/pauses, which of course TH became known for too and other fans of his work relating to that were the likes of Arthur Lowe, Jack Benny and Harry Enfield.
Will was not only a highly respected astronomer but was also a skilled aviator and engineer.
Ghost of St Michael's for e.g. was to be called Murder at St Michael's but you cannot have a comedy with "murder" in the title, especially during the war!! And there was an uncredited Gerald Campion in the film, along with Charles Hawtrey and John Laurie doing his Dad's Army "sinister part".
Speaking of Hawtrey, his relationship with Will Hay was similar to the Alistair Sim/George Cole one in that Will took Charles under his wing so to speak, but later Charles Hawtrey got too big for his boots, and this was borne out by a biography I read about him a couple of years ago - he was a bit of an acting snob.
In "Boys Will Be Boys" there was an uncredited Clive Dunn who apparently was in the crowd of school boys at the rugby match, although I failed to spot him.
But what I did confirm was when Moore Marriott forgot his lines in the non-Will Hay film "Cheers Boys Cheers". He clearly says to Moffatt "Ooh, I've forgotten what I was going to say now. Here Graham, you tell him. Go on." (Marriot was playing a character Geordie and Moffatt his usual Albert). Clearly this was missed by the producer/editor and shows the professional he was as Moffatt carried on with his lines as though nothing had happened.
Desmond Llewelyn (Q in James Bond) had his first film (uncredited) "acting" role in "Ask a Policeman" as the Headless Coachman !! Yes! That was him!
Jimmy Perry, while watching a Will Hay film realised that the characters were just what he was looking for as a starting point for Dad's Army - that is pompous man, stupid boy and old duffer.
Will was a bit of a lady's man (who was never without a pretty girl on his arm apparently), and you can see here why........................
...............and after 28 years of marriage he was separated from his wife Gladys, but she would never divorce him, and eventually he took up with a Norwegian model/beauty Randi (leave it!) Kopstadt.
A very early silent clip of Will in his teacher role, and although it doesn't say so, I am sure that the boy is Will's son Billy who appeared with him on a number of occasions in this part.
And the missing clip is here, BUT WHY someone hasn't edited it in with the above I have no idea as it wouldn't have been that difficult and saved the confusion and their explanation!
(This Was Yesterday - Reel 2 1955)
Missing few seconds clip is at 6.00 minutes :-
Will at a Water Rats do looking frail:-
Fascinating comedy clips (including some with Will Hay) introduced by Sid James - Laughter And Life 1928-1960 :-
One of my favourite lines that is quoted in the book :-
Will Hay as the local Fire Chief Viking in "Where's That Fire?", when some visiting fire people, including a senior Fire Chief, ask about Will's qualifications :-
Viking (Will Hay) : "Albert, Harbottle, come here. Hey, tell these gentlemen what I am"
Albert : "What out loud?"
And finally a couple of TV programmes mentioned in the biog. that would be worth seeing IF they were still in an archive somewhere :-
Galton and Simpson adapted/recycled "The Economy Drive" with Arthur Lowe in Hancock's part and James Beck in Sid's. A pilot was made, and the BBC were pleased with it, but Beck died and so did the revived series. Being an ardent Hancock fan, I wonder............................
(G&S were big fans of Will Hay and saw a similarity between him Hancock and Lowe - small pompous man against the world)
In 1964 to celebrate Churchill's 90th birthday the BBC put on a star-studded night, which included a Narkover sketch with Ted Ray (close friend of WH) in Will's schoolmaster part, Gerald Campion (TV's Billy Bunter) in the Albert schoolboy part and Wilfrid Brambell as Harbottle.
As I say, both would be fascinating to see, and a book well worth reading - not just for Will Hay but people he worked with and the early days of British cinema.