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All our Yesterdays

Hancock’s Half Hour
By Martin Kelner on May 28, 2002 - 2:34:00 PM

All Our Yesterdays
Article dated: Tuesday 28 May 2002
Hancock’s Half Hour

Tony Hancock was a huge success on radio, which in the early fifties was still the dominant medium. Tens of millions gathered round their radios for the weekly gag-packed half-hours from 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, starring "the lad himself", Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques, and Bill Kerr. When the series transferred to TV - initially running simultaneously with the radio programme - the consensus was that it did not work. The patter between Hancock and Sid James seemed a little forced, and the visual gags were mostly rather lamely grafted on.

But in those less competitive times, the BBC was able to show patience, lavish a little love and affection on the programme, and by series four and five it was a triumph. Series seven, called simply Hancock, which included The Radio Ham, The Blood Donor, and The Lift, may have provided British comedy with its finest half- hours. Only Fawlty Towers comes close. More than that, the bumptious homburg-hatted character Hancock created with scriptwriters Ray Galton and Alan Simpson ranks alongside Chaplin's tramp and Keaton's innocent as a comic original.

Classic gag: Hancock to fat lady in blood donor centre: "Just think Cliff Richard might get some of yours." (A beat) "That'd slow him down a bit."

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