Hancock, The Blood Donor, 1961
To celebrate the 60th anniversary, in 2014, of the first broadcast of Hancock’s Half Hour on BBC Radio. Comedy scriptwriting legends Ray Galton and Alan Simpson presented a very special series of posts, in which they shared their own personal favourite episodes from their work on TV and Radio.
G&S: For our first post we’ve picked an episode from the last series we did with Tony, The Blood Donor
BCC: For the first one of the series you’ve picked perhaps the best loved of all Hancock shows, The Blood Donor as your favourite show from the final series.
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.
The Blood Donor, 1961
Perhaps Tony Hancock’s best remembered piece of work, a firm favourite among both Hancock fans and the writers themselves, The Blood Donor was the penultimate episode of Hancock’s final series for the BBC and possibly one of the most revered pieces of British comedy to this day. Almost everybody can recite those famous words.
Whilst it remains popular, the episode was tinged with sadness, as Ray and Alan told us, Hancock had been involved in a car accident and in order to avoid postponement teleprompters were used. Opinion on the effects of this are split. Many die hard Hancock fans feel this is one of his poorest TV performances, others feel there is no real difference between this and other classic Hancock performances. There are those that feel that this was the start of a steady decline, indeed the writers themselves pointed out “he lost some of his facial expressions” and that as he became more reliant on the prompters he didn’t need to learn his lines and began to drink more.
Despite everything it remains a true classic.
Hancock is feeling public spirited, as he answers the call from a poster he’s seen on the wall of the local laundry. “Something for the benefit of the country as a whole” he declares to the nurse as he enters the hospital.
When the Doctor takes a sample Hancock believes he’s done his bit and turns to leave. When the Doctor advises him that this is just a sample, Hancock is shocked to find that the requirement is a pint and utters those immortal words ” A pint? why that’s nearly an armful ! From here on in it’s one classic line after another.
It’s not long before he finds that a deposit can soon be followed by a sudden withdrawal.
Written By: Ray Galton and Alan Simpson
Produced By: Duncan Wood
Originally Transmitted: 23rd June 1961
In October 1961 Pye Records produced an audio remake of “The Blood Donor” (duration: 28’10”) starring most of the original cast, together with a remake of “The Radio Ham” (duration: 27’40”) from the same series. These were produced in the style of the radio shows, complete with an (invited) studio audience, and released as an LP in 1961. These recordings have been available more or less continuously ever since, and are also found on several British comedy compilation sets.
The script was re-recorded in 2009 for a BBC Radio 2 series of remakes of Galton and Simpson works. “The Blood Donor” starred Paul Merton, with Suzy Aitchison as the nurse, the role played by her mother 48 years earlier. It was first transmitted in March 2009.