As part of our celebrations of the 70th anniversary of Hancock’s Half Hour TV series we are turning this week over to Tony Hancock: charting his career from his early days in Happy Go Lucky and Educating Archie to his huge success with scriptwriters Galton and Simpson.
Initially aimed at the Armed Forces. Calling All Forces was a radio show on the BBC Home Service. Whilst there are many articles and listings for the show it is difficult to pin down the exact transmission dates, but we believe it ran between 1951 and 1952.
The show was the biggest show of the day attracting the biggest names of the time. It is perhaps most significant for the meeting up again of Tony Hancock with Ray Galton and Alan Simpson (their paths had crossed during Happy Go Lucky, resulting in them writing some material for Hancock’s appearance on Workers’ playtime).
In a 2014 interview they told us how the ‘reunion’ came about “a BBC producer asked us to write the last six of a weekly show called Calling All Forces – which had previously been written by Bob Monkhouse and Denis Goodwin. They’d written about 80 episodes for the first 18 months – why they didn’t do the last six we never found out. They said they were going on holiday. We thought, we’ve never even been in the forces, but we agreed to do it. Tony Hancock was in it, but he was second billing to Charlie Chester. We wrote those six shows and then the BBC changed the name of it to Star Bill which ran for another two years, without Charlie Chester, and elevated Hancock to the star.”
Ted Ray and later Charlie Chester and Tony Hancock introduce the stars of the day in this variety show mixing music and comedy.
By 1953 the show had changed it’s name to Star Bill, same format with Tony Hancock as presenter.
Ted Ray (1951)
Charlie Chester and Tony Hancock (1952)
Tony Hancock (host of Star Bill)
Channel: BBC Light Program
Written By: Bob Monkhouse and Dennis Goodwin Series 1, Series 2 Episodes 1 -10 Ray Galton and Alan Simpson: Series 2 Episodes 11 – 16 and Star Bill
1951 – 1952 as Calling All Forces
1953 – 1954 as Star Bill