British Classic Comedy Talk to Galton and Simpon – Hancock, 1961

Hancock – The Final BBC TV Series

This year marked the sixtieth anniversary of the very first Hancock’s Half Hour on BBC Radio.  Looking back at sixty years of the great British sitcom.  Earlier in the year we spoke to legendary writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson about their most famous works.

Today we go back to 1961 and the final BBC TV series for Tony Hancock.  We first ran this back in early November.

BCC: When Tony Hancock felt that he was becoming a double act with Sid James and asked you to write the next series as a solo project for him, were there any misgivings given the successful formula that had run for six years ?

G&S: No, actually there were discussions between us and Tony.  We both felt that perhaps it was becoming a double act in the eyes of the public.  In actual fact it was anything but, Sid James was a highly paid film actor at the time, one take James was his nickname as he only ever needed one take to get a shot right.  Tony on the other hand only had Hancock’s Half Hour, so we both agreed to write a final series with Tony on his own.  We wrote a series called Citizen James for Sid, but because of Steptoe commitments we were only able to write the one series.  The show went on for another two series but was written by Sid Green and Dick Hills.

Hancock’s Ark Hour !

G&S: That last BBC series wasn’t quite the last we were involved with Tony.  In 1964, Leslie Bricusse, who wrote Dr Doolittle had written a musical based on Noah.  He asked us to comedy it up, which we did.  He said it was perfect for Hancock.  We pointed out that Hancock could neither dance nor sing, but he showed the script to Tony anyway.  Tony was keen, but it had been three years since his last Hancock TV show and he just wasn’t fit enough.

The Blood Donor, 1961

BCC: I can remember watching a drama about the final years of Hancock and I always got the impression that The Blood Donor was the final episode.  However years later I realised Son and Heir was the final transmitted episode, was that the last Hancock episode written?

G&S: Son and Heir was the last Hancock written.  Unfortunately, just before we were due to film the Blood Donor Tony was involved in a car accident, he suffered concussion after his head shattered the windscreen of the car.  The BBC had two options postpone or use teleprompters.  Tony decided to use the teleprompter, as a result, he lost some of his facial expressions concentrating on the prompter.  As he became more reliant on the prompters he didn’t need to learn his lines and began to drink more.

BCC: When you wrote The Blood Donor did you ever think it would become the revered piece of classic British comedy it’s become? Most people of a certain age know those immortal words off by heart “a pint?, why that’s very nearly an arm full!”

G&S: Not really, we had an idea it was good, as we knew how it would finish.  Normally we wrote as we went along.


Tomorrow: we reach that all important date 60 years to the day since the first broadcast of Hancock’s Half Hour, as Galton and Simpson discuss it’s origins.