Arthur Askey. Copyright: BBC.

Arthur Askey

Arthur Askey was a comedian and actor, and a very early television performer, appearing on the BBC during the 1930s. Born in Liverpool, he became a much-loved comic across records, television, stage, radio and film, where he enjoyed a string of his own starring vehicles. Working right up until a few months before his death in 1982, celebrated catchphrases include "Hello, playmates!", "I thang yew", and "before your very eyes...".

Biography

Arthur Askey was born in Dingle, Liverpool, and was raised at 90 Rosslyn Street, Liverpool. He was educated at St. Michael's Council School and the Liverpool Institute for Boys, and after leaving school he served in the armed forces in World War I, entertaining the troops by performing in several plays and productions.

Next, Askey worked as a clerk for Liverpool Corporation, Education Department, and formed part of a touring concert party that frequented music halls. He would achieve mainstream success from 1938, when he starred in the first regular radio comedy series in existence, the BBC's Band Waggon.

With regard to cinema, during the Second World War Askey would go on to feature in a number of Gainsborough Pictures comedy films, including Band Waggon, based on the radio show, Charley's (Big-Hearted) Aunt, The Ghost Train, I Thank You, Back Room Boy, and Make Mine A Million.

Askey's humour is beloved for its playful warmth, whimsical use of catchphrases, and bubbly character. Part of his charm and appeal had to do with his physical presence: he was quite short, at 5" 2, 1.58m), was energetic and upbeat at almost all times, and wore distinctive horn-rimmed glasses.

Regarding television, in the early 1930s Askey regularly appeared on the earliest form of BBC television broadcasting - the spinning disc, invented by John Logie Baird, that scanned vertically and contained a mere 30 lines. It was so hard to distinguish faces at this low resolution that Askey had to be heavily painted with make-up in order to make him recognisable. One television turned electronic, increasing its capacity to 405 horizontal lines, Askey was a familiar face on variety shows.

In 1960 Askey streed in the ITV sitcom play series Arthur's Treasured Volumes, taking on a number of different roles across the 6 episodes. In 1963 he also starred in the BBC Light Programme comedy Arthur Askey Time, which showcased the full range of his comedic talent.

Askey also enjoyed a lively and successful career in theatre, appearing in the West End musical Follow The Girls and making many stage appearances as a pantomime dame. What is more, his musical song-and-dance recordings were widely known across the nation. These tunes included "The Bee Song", "The Thing-Ummy Bob", and "Big-Hearted Arthur" (also his nickname), integral parts of his stage and television act for many years.

Askey was the subject of This Is Your Life on two separate occasions: in 1959, surprised by Eamonn Andrews, and in 1974, when Andrews, dressed as Humpty Dumpty, again shocked him while discussing the art of pantomime.

Throughout the 1970s the topical, satirical magazine Private Eye regularly quipped that Askey and the Queen Mother had never been seen in the same room together, joking that they were about the same height and age and that therefore the Queen Mother could be Askey in drag.

Askey worked in comedy throughout his life until just a few days before he was hospitalised in July 1982 due to poor circulation and gangrene. Both of his legs had to be amputated, and he died shortly after at St. Thomas' Hospital in London on 16 November 1982. He is buried in Putney Vale Cemetery.

Title
Arthur Askey CBE
Gender
Male
Nationality
England
Born
Wednesday 6th June 1900
Died
Tuesday 16th November 1982 (aged 82)

Credits

 
Year Production Role
2012 Michael Grade's History Of The Pantomime Dame Self (Archive Material)
1979 Puss-In-Boots Dame Flora
1976 Tommy Cooper's Guest Night Guest
1972 The Alf Garnett Saga Self
1970 David Nixon's Magic Box - Series 1
  1. E5 - Episode Five
Guest
1963 Arthur Askey Time Self
1961 The Dickie Henderson Show - Series 1
  1. E25 - The Butler
The Butler
1960 Arthur's Treasured Volumes
  1. E6 - The Curse Of The Bellfoots
Clarence Twigger
1960 Arthur's Treasured Volumes
  1. E5 - A Slight Case Of Deception
Corporal Fluter
1960 Arthur's Treasured Volumes
  1. E4 - Pillbeam Of Twickenham
Cavendish Pillbeam
1960 Arthur's Treasured Volumes
  1. E3 - The Command Performer
Tom Merrydew
1960 Arthur's Treasured Volumes
  1. E2 - The History Of Mr Lacey
Wilfred Lacey
1960 Arthur's Treasured Volumes
  1. E1 - A Blow In Anger
Raymond Brown
1960 Arthur's Treasured Volumes Various
1959 Make Mine A Million Arthur Ashton
1959 Make Mine A Million Writer (Additional Material)
1957 Askey Galore! Self
1955 Arthur Askey Self
1955 Love And Kisses Actor
1951 Arthur Askey Self

Non-comedy TV and film credits might be found here:
Arthur Askey on IMDb

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