Ray Galton And Alan Simpson
Perhaps, Britain’s best known comedy writers. Ray Galton and Alan Simpson are best known for their classic sitcom Steptoe and Son and for their work with Tony Hancock, but there were others that we perhaps don’t associate with the pair.
Raymond Percy Galton was born in Paddington on 17th July 1930, Alan Francis Simpson was born in Brixton on 27th November 1929. The two men met in 1948 at Milford Sanatorium where they werer both being treated for tuberculosis.
Previous to their meeting Alan Simpson had worked as a shipping clerk, whilst Ray Galton was employed at the Transport and General Workers’ Union.
It was whilst at the sdanitorium the two decided to write some comedy shows together. There was an amateur radio room at the sanitorium provided for occupational therapy. They had decided on comedy as a vehicle to write for as they both listened to the popular radio comedies of the time ie, The Goons and Take It From Here and therefore had become interested in the subject. They wrote four scripts together for broadcast on the sanitorium’s radio entitled “Have You Ever Wondered” that was in 1949.
On leaving the hospital, Alan Simpson was asked by a church concert party, of which he was a member, if he could write them a show. He contacted Ray Galton, and by 1951 they were writing professionally for the BBC. In 1952 they met one Tony Hancock.
In 1955, Galton and Simpson, along with Eric Sykes, Johnny Speight and Spike Milligan formed the cooperative, Associated London Scripts, originally based above a greengrocer’s in Shepherd’s Bush, West London. The company was purchased by Robert Stigwood in 1967.
Their break in comedy writing came with the Derek Roy vehicle Happy Go Lucky, although this was not a success. They turned their hand to Radio Variety which lead to them writing for Tony Hancock. In November 1954 they began writing a radio sitcom for Hancock entitled Hancock’s Half Hour. The radio series would run until 1959 and from 1956-1960 there would be a television seriesof the same name. In 1961 Hancock’s Half Hour underwent some minor revisions at the request of Tony Hancock and was retitled ‘Hancock’ this was their last work with Hancock.
After the break with Hancock in 1961,they were commissioned by the BBC to write a series of ten one off comedies under the umbrella title Comedy Playhouse, this ran until 1962, after which the series continued but without Galton and Simpson.
Out of Comedy Playhouse came ‘The Offer” a play about a Father and Son who are Rag and Bone men. That proved to be such a hit with audiencesthat it lead to another success for the duo as the BBC commissioned a full series, entitled Steptoe and Son. In total eight series were made between 1962 and 1974.
When Steptoe and Son came to an end in 1974. both writers continued to work solidly including several projects with Frankie Howerd,but they had no further high-profile successes.
Duncan Wood, the former Hancock and Steptoe producer now at Yorkshire Television, commissioned The Galton & Simpson Playhouse, a seven-part series broadcast in 1977, featuring leading actors of the time such as Leonard Rossiter and Arthur Lowe. None of these shows produced another series.
Alan Simpson formally retired from scriptwriting in 1978, concentrating on his business interests, and Ray Galton collaborated in several projects with Johnny Speight.
In October 2005 Galton and John Antrobus premiered their play Steptoe and Son in Murder at Oil Drum Lane at the Theatre Royal, York. The play is set in the present day and relates the events that lead to Harold killing his father, and their eventual meeting thirty years later (Albert appearing as a ghost).
in 2000 their eforts were rewarded with them being awarded the OBE for their contribution to British television.