A Largely Favorable Account of the Career of the Great Comedian
HEROES OF COMEDY was never a series designed to explore the psychological complexities of its subjects. Rather it strung together a series of clips from film and television, together with a series of largely favorable testimonials from the subject's contemporaries or admirers. This profile of Frankie Howerd is a case in point: offstage he was an incredibly complex character, unable - or unwilling - to come to terms with his latent homosexuality, and perpetually fretting about whether his act would be a success on stage or not. Every tic, every pause, every glance at the audience was always impeccably rehearsed; it was part of Howerd's genius as a performer to make all of these gestures seem spontaneous. In this profile, however, Howerd's life as a comedian - first on radio, and then on films and television - is traced, with the help of reminiscences from luminaries such as Eric Sykes and Cilla Black. We learn about his rapid climb to stardom in VARIETY BANDBOX; his emergent radio career during the Fifties; his decline in the early Sixties, which was abruptly halted when he appeared at Peter Cook's Establishment Club in 1962; his burgeoning television career in series such as UP POMPEII!!; and his second renaissance during the Nineties, when he became something of a cult among the student population. What emerges most tangibly from this profile is Howerd's durability as a performer; he seemed to reinvent himself in successive decades without appearing to change much of his comic material. Like many comedians, he might have been a tortured soul offstage, but he gave pleasure to millions of people on stage, radio and television, and for this we should be grateful.
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