Early episodes are lost. With the exception of two episodes from 1964, the episodes from October 1960 onwards survive intact (though sometimes only as telerecordings edited for export), and have been issued on DVD. See more »
In 1966, comedian Arthur Haynes died of a heart attack at the age of 52. He had been I.T.V.'s top comedy star of the late 50's/early '60's, their answer to Hancock. He started out in music hall, then was booked to appear on an I.T.V. show with Charlie Chester called 'Strike A New Note'. It was by all accounts a disaster, but Haynes impressed viewers enough to land his own show which subsequently ran for ten years. It consisted basically of sketches written by the great Johnny Speight ( quite long these were, sometimes only two per show ) in which he played characters such as a conniving tramp, a burglar, and a homeowner. There were songs from artistes as varied as Alma Cogan, The Springfields ( including Dusty ) and The Rolling Stones.
Haynes' comic persona was that of a belligerent so and so who would adhere rigidly to a point of view no matter how absurd it was. The sketch in which he leaped to the defence of a man trying to take a grandfather clock aboard a crowded bus is a good example. He was like a British W.C. Fields in some ways; the archetypal 'awkward bugger' who holds up post office queues for what seems like ages arguing over postage rates and the like. He also had a habit of bragging about his war record, as Deryck Guyler's caretaker did a few years later in 'Please Sir'.
The tramp sketches proved most popular, inspiring a one-page strip in the long-running children's paper 'T.V. Comic'. Arthur would often be seen with Dermot Kelly, who played his sidekick 'Irish'. I have a sketch on bootleg disc in which the pair report the theft of four pence to a baffled policeman ( Nicholas Parsons, who was Haynes' straight man for many years ). Even with a fuzzy picture and poor sound it had me howling with laughter. Along with Parsons and Kelly, the show also featured Wendy Richard, Rita Webb, Leslie Noyes, Patricia Hayes, and even a young Michael Caine! From a historical perspective, the sketches in which Haynes played Richard's dad are most interesting, as the seed was planted there which grew eventually into 'Till Death Us Do Part'.
Haynes and Parsons made an unlikely partnership; the former flat-capped, moustached, working class and bloody proud of it, mate, the latter fresh-faced, good-looking and ever-so posh. Despite their differences, they clicked, and became showbiz celebrities.
After Haynes suggested they go their separate ways, he died, and although the country went into mourning very little of his work has been seen since, apart from the odd showing of the 1966 film 'Doctor In Clover' ( in which he managed to steal every scene he was in, no mean feat considering the cast also included Leslie Phillips and James Robertson Justice ), Channel 4 in its early days repeated an edition of his show as part of a Fifties theme night, and in 1995 'Heroes Of Comedy' devoted an edition to him. Now at long last his shows are due to come out on D.V.D., and not before time either.
Some watching for the first time will invariably find his show 'dated'. Well, if you do not like old films or television shows to look old then give this a wide berth. Those of us who love vintage British comedy will be in our element. Aged very well? The four editions I viewed recently certainly had not, yet still managed to amuse and entertain.
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