British Comedy Guide

George Formby - Britain's Original Pop Star. George Formby. Copyright: Smooth Operations.

George Formby - Britain's Original Pop Star

BBC Radio 2 documentary. 2 episodes (1 series) in 2011. Stars Stuart Maconie and George Formby.

George Formby - Britain's Original Pop Star

Stuart Maconie discusses the life and work of George Formby and asks whether he was, in fact, Britain's first pop star

BBC Radio 2
2   (1 series)
Stuart Maconie and George Formby
Stuart Maconie
Ian Callaghan

Stuart Maconie celebrates the life and career of George Formby, perhaps Wigan's most famous son, and asks whether he was, in fact, Britain's first pop star.

Born into a showbiz family, George soon outshone his father, becoming a star of stage and screen who seduced audiences as far afield as Scandinavia, the Soviet Union and South Africa.

While he might now be seen as a figure from a bygone era, his private life was actually more in keeping with that of a contemporary tabloid-fascinating rock star. Stuart discovers that Formby was a much more complicated character than the "cheeky chappie" caricature which endures.

Even in his work there were contradictions. George sang about a Chinese laundry man called Mr Wu, yet in 1946 defied threats from the National Party leader Malan and performed for black audiences in South Africa. His songs were also not always as clean as his windows, with the BBC choosing to censor some of his more suggestive lyrics.

The documentary explores allegations of morphine addiction, subversion and battles with Christian moralists. Stuart also examines George's relationship with his wife and manager, Beryl, who ruled the star and rarely allowed him to kiss his leading lady on screen.

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