See also

Alfred Hawthorne HILL (1924-1992)

picture

Alfred Hawthorne HILL

picture

Alfred Hawthorne HILL

picture

Alfred Hawthorne HILL

Name: Alfred Hawthorne HILL
Sex: Male
Father: Alfred Hawthorn HILL (1893-1972)
Mother: Helen Florence CAVE (1894-1976)

Individual Events and Attributes

Birth 21 Jan 1924 Southampton, Hampshire
Occupation Comedian1
Death 19 Apr 1992 (age 68) Teddington, Middlesex1
7 Fairwater House, Twickenham Road, Teddington

Individual Note 1

Note by Graham Eric Hoadly:

 

Two slim claims to fame:

 

Benny Hill's 1st cousin twice removed (Caroline Langridge) married my 2nd cousin twice removed (Roland Montague Riley) !!!!

 

and

 

Benny Hill's 1st cousin twice removed (Reuben John Langridge) married my 2nd cousin twice removed (Frances Caroline Riley) !!!!

 

Reuben and Caroline were siblings as were Frances and Roland.

 

 

And for my two penn'orth - I like Benny Hill - I thought he was a great comic and his shows always made me hoot - hooray for political incorrectness say I - and I'm proud of this VERY tenuous connection!

 

All information relating to the family of Alfred Hawthorn Hill (Benny Hill) was given to Graham Hoadly by his cousin Sue Grady - who had it from the original research of Teresa Hill. Graham has endeavoured to qualify the material using GRO Parish Register and Census sources.2

Individual Note 2

Another spooky co-incidence: Benny Hill played the Toymaker in the film of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - Graham Hoadly played the Toymaker in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang The Musical at the London Palladium!

Individual Note 3

Benny Hill the comedian

 

Beginnings

Alfred "Alfie" Hill was born in Southampton, where he and his brother attended Tauntons School. During the Second World War Hill was one of the scholars evacuated with the school to Bournemouth School, East Way, Bournemouth. After leaving Tauntons School, Hill worked variously as a milkman in Eastleigh, bridge operator, driver and drummer, before he finally got a foot in the door of the entertainment industry by becoming an assistant stage manager. Inspired by the 'star comedians' of British music hall shows, Hill set out to make his mark in show business. For the stage, he changed his first name to 'Benny', in homage to his favourite comedian, Jack Benny. Hill began appearing at working men's clubs and Masonic dinners before graduating to nightclub and theatre jobs. Hill auditioned for Soho's famed Windmill Theatre (home of Revudeville, a popular show of singers, comedians and nude girls), but he was not hired. Benny's first job in professional theatre as a performer was as Reg Varney's straight man, beating a then-unknown Peter Sellers for the role.

 

 

[edit] Private life

Hill worked compulsively and had only a few friends, although colleagues who knew him closely insist that he was never lonely, but content with his own company. He never married, although he did propose to two women — one the daughter of a British writer — and was rejected by both. He never owned his own home, nor even a car, instead preferring to rent a small flat in Teddington, a convenient walking distance to the studios of Thames Television, where he taped his shows. His mother lived with him until her death shortly before his. Before his move to Teddington, he lived at 22 Westrow Gardens in Southampton. [citations needed]

 

Travelling was the one luxury he consistently permitted himself. Hill became a first-degree Francophile, enjoying frequent visits to Marseille. Until the 1980s, he could enjoy the anonymity of France's outdoor cafes, public transport, and socialising with local women. Besides mastering French, Benny also could 'get by' speaking German, Dutch and Italian in his travels. Hill's overseas holidays were often gathering missions for comedic material, some newly inspired by foreign surroundings, or borrowed from regional acts.

 

Hill was a distant relative of the Australian actress and singer Holly Valance (Hill's cousin being Valance's grandfather).

 

 

[edit] Early career

Between the end of the war and the dawn of television, he worked as a radio performer. His first appearance on television was in 1949 in the television programme Hi There. He continued to work intermittently until his career took off with The Benny Hill Show in 1955 on BBC Television. Recurring players on his show during the BBC years included Patricia Hayes, Jeremy Hawk, Peter Vernon, Ronnie Brody, and his co-writer from the mid-1950s to early 1960s, Dave Freeman. He remained mostly with the BBC through 1968, except for a few isolated sojourns with ITV station ATV in 1957–1960 and again in 1967. He also had a short-lived radio programme, Benny Hill Time, which ran on BBC Radio's Light Programme service from 1964 to 1966. In addition, he attempted a sitcom anthology, Benny Hill, which ran for three series from 1962 to 1963, in which he played a different character in each episode. In 1964, he played Nick Bottom in an all-star TV film production of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

 

 

[edit] Films and recordings

Benny Hill's film credits include parts in nine films including Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965); Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), in which he played the relatively straight role of the Toymaker; The Italian Job (1969); and, finally, a clip-show film spin-off of his early Thames shows (1969–73), called The Best of Benny Hill (1974).

 

Hill's audio recordings include "Gather in the Mushrooms" (1961), "Transistor Radio" (1961), "Harvest of Love" (1963), "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)" (1971), among many others. He also appeared in the video of the song "Anything She Does" by the band Genesis.

 

Hill's song, "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)," on the Best of Benny Hill album made the UK Chart as Christmas Number One Single in 1971. A link to the lyrics is provided in the External Links section of this article.

 

 

[edit] The Benny Hill Show

 

A scene from The Benny Hill ShowIn 1969, his show moved from the BBC to Thames Television, where The Benny Hill Show remained until its cancellation in 1989, with an erratic schedule of one-hour specials.

 

Ben Elton criticised him for sexism, as did other comedy performers who came to fame in the 1980s[1]. A common criticism was that Hill played a "dirty old man" who chased women in public places, when in point of fact it was an established part of the comedic style of The Benny Hill Show that the women always chased Hill. Hill and his producer Dennis Kirkland believed that this misrepresentation of his show demonstrated that Hill's critics could not have actually watched his programmes.[2]

 

Similar charges were also aimed at the Carry On films which became unfashionable amongst the media elite at the time. To quote his biographer Mark Lewisohn, "In Britain, Benny Hill is taboo . . . I have seen people recoil at the mention of his name." His show is rarely repeated on terrestrial, satellite or cable TV, although it has recently been aired on the BBC America cable channel. Fans from outside the UK, especially Americans, are often surprised and disappointed to learn of this. An Australian TV channel, Seven Network has shown some episodes lately called "Great Comedy Classics".

 

Harry Enfield parodied Benny Hill's style in a 1995 sketch. Ironically not only did the sketch star Ben Elton, it featured Elton chasing women instead of the other way around. The sketch was called Benny Elton.

 

 

[edit] Celebrity fans

Charlie Chaplin, who died in 1977, was an avid fan of Hill's work: Hill had earlier discovered that his childhood idol Chaplin was a fan when he was invited to Chaplin's home in Switzerland by Chaplin's family and discovered that Chaplin had a vast collection of Benny's work on video. Apparently, Hill and Dennis Kirkland were the first people outside of family to be invited into Chaplin's private study.

 

Radio and TV show host Adam Carolla has also claimed that he was an avid fan of Benny Hill and that he considered Hill "as American as the Beatles." Indeed, during an episode of The Man Show, Carolla performed (in what was billed as a tribute to "our favourite Englishman, Sir Benny Hill") in a slightly more risqué takeoff of the "undercranked" sketches that Hill popularised. Carolla played a rude and lecherous waiter—a role Hill essayed numerous times in his shows — and the sketch featured many of the staples of Hill's shows (including a Jackie Wright-esque bald man, as well as the usual scantily clad ladies).

 

Comedian Carlos Mencia is also known to give tributes to Hill at the end of his show, Mind of Mencia, saying that he was an inspiration to him.

 

In a documentary (Benny Hill: The World's Favorite Clown) filmed before Hill's death, a variety of celebrities (Burt Reynolds, Michael Caine, John Mortimer, Mickey Rooney, and Walter Cronkite, among others) expressed their appreciation of and admiration for Hill and his humour (and in Reynolds' case, the appreciation extended to the Hill's Angels as well).

 

In 2006, the broadcaster and critic Garry Bushell launched a campaign to erect a statue of Benny in Southampton, with the support of Barbara Windsor, Brian Conley and many other British comedy favourites. Those taking part in the first fund-raising concert included Neville Staple, Right Said Fred and Rick Wakeman.

 

 

[edit] Death

Hill's health began to decline in the early 1990s. He suffered heart problems, and on 11 February 1992, doctors told him that he needed to lose weight, and recommended a heart bypass. He declined, and was diagnosed a week later with renal failure.

 

Benny Hill died on or about 19 April 1992 (Easter weekend), alone in his flat at 7 Fairwater House, Twickenham Road, Teddington, at the age of 68. On 21 April, concerned neighbours had called the police, who then found Hill, deceased, sitting in his armchair in front of the television. On the day that Benny Hill died, a new contract arrived in the post to him from Central Independent Television.

 

The cause of death was listed as coronary thrombosis. (His death closely coincided with that of another British comedy icon, Frankie Howerd, who died on 19 April aged 75.)

 

He was buried at Hollybrook Cemetery near his birthplace in Southampton. In October 1992, following rumours that he was buried with large amounts of gold jewellery, an attempt was made by thieves to exhume his body. However, when authorities looked into his open coffin the following morning, there was no treasure within it, and consequently, only the culprits know for sure whether anything valuable was inside. Hill was re-buried with a new coffin lid and a solid slab placed across the top of the grave. These circumstances were similar to that of Romy Schneider after her burial.

 

 

[edit] Last will

In Hill's will, he had left his estimated £10 million (GBP) estate to his late parents. Next in line were his brother Leonard and sister Diana, neither of whom he had enjoyed the closest of relationships with, and both of whom were also deceased. This left his seven nieces and nephews, amongst whom the money — approximately £7.5 million — was divided. A note was found among his belongings assigning huge sums of money to his close friends Sue Upton, Louise English, Henry McGee, Bob Todd and Dennis Kirkland, but because it was neither signed nor witnessed, the note had no legal standing.

 

 

[edit] Is Benny Hill Still Funny?

On 28 December 2006, Channel 4 broadcast the documentary Is Benny Hill Still Funny?. The programme featured an audience that comprised a cross-section of young adults who had little or no knowledge of Hill's comedy style. The aim was to discover whether or not the "politically incorrect" criticism of Hill was valid to a generation that enjoyed the likes of Little Britain, The Catherine Tate Show and Borat. The participants were asked to watch a 30-minute compilation that included examples of Hill's humour from both his early BBC and later Thames shows. The responses were continuously measured and the results demonstrated that nobody took offense at any of the sketches shown. In addition, the "appreciation" figure was revealed to be very respectable, which would have guaranteed a series commission had it been a modern television pilot programme. Hill's silent "Wishing Well" sketch was discovered to be the most popular. Alternative comedian Ben Elton, a harsh critic of Hill in the 1980s, was interviewed in the programme. Although still having reservations on certain aspects of Hill's sketches, Elton admitted he was an admirer of Hill's talent and abilities as a comic performer. There is now a growing school of thought which recognises Hill as a comic genius who fell foul of social change and was rejected while he was still in his prime.

 

 

[edit] Running Gags

Fans have described the usual chase scene included in the Benny Hill Show as a 'running gag that is a running gag'. The tune used in all the chases, "Yakety Sax", is commonly referred to as 'The Benny Hill Theme'. It has been used in form of parody in many ways by television shows, a small number of films and video games.

 

 

[edit] See also

Individual Note 4

From IMDB:

 

Date of Birth

21 January 1924, Southampton, Hampshire, England, UK (some sources say 1925)

 

 

Date of Death

20 April 1992, Teddington, Middlesex, England, UK. (heart attack)

 

 

Birth Name

Alfred Hawthorn Hill

 

 

Nickname

King Leer

 

 

Height

5' 9½" (1.77 m)

 

 

Mini Biography

He was born Alfred Hawthorn Hill in 1925. It was his grandfather who introduced him to Burlesque Shows and the theatre from where the young Benny Hill was to draw much of his comic inspiration. After his national service with the army during WW2, Benny came to London, adopted the stage name Benny Hill (in homage to his all time favourite comedian Jack Benny) and began appearing in variety shows. He briefly formed a double act with Reg Varney and did radio shows. But it was his talent for impressions and comic timing that were to give him his first big break on TV with the show "Hi There" in 1949. "The Benny Hill Show" (1955) began in 1955. Its pioneering combination of cheeky humour, songs and impressions were to make it a hit for the next 40 years.

 

Benny also broadened his career with cameo appearances in films such as The Italian Job (1969), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes (1965). He also had a hit record in 1971 with "Ernie The Fastest Milkman In The West". In 1979 "The Benny Hill Show" (1955) was shown in America for the first time and Benny went on to become one of the biggest stars on US TV. The show itself has been seen in 109 countries and won a BAFTA as well as Golden Rose Of Montreaux Award. Benny Hill's TV career came to an end in 1989, when his show was dropped, but his popularity continued and he completed a US TV special, Benny Hill's World Tour: New York! (1991) (TV) shortly before his death in 1992.

 

IMDb Mini Biography By: Al Crow

 

Trade Mark

Expert in featuring in fast moving, mute comic short subjects, with funny music, and massive persecutions at the end.

 

Reverse salute called the "Benny Hill salute".

 

His inimitable smirk in close-up looking directly into the camera

 

 

 

Trivia

Comedian.

 

Was one of only a handful of TV comedians (the others being Milton Berle and Jackie Gleason) who had control over the circumstances of production of their respective TV shows.

 

Died in his favorite chair while watching television.

 

At the time of his death, a large box was found in his apartment. The many awards and honours he had earned throughout his career had been placed in the box as if they were unimportant to him.

 

Despite his wealth and success, he never owned a car, did his own shopping, lived in a two room apartment, but never used the second floor. According to one of his obituaries, he once refused to repair the leaky roof in his mother's home because it was "too expensive".

 

After complaints that his television comedy sketches were too sexual, he began casting children to appear on his shows. But instead of hiring professional child actors, he hired the children of the television crew, stating that their laughing to his sight gags were genuine.

 

When Hill died in April 1992, his estate was worth an estimated £10 million. The only will Hill created left his estate to his parents who both died years ago. Next in line were his brother and sister, neither of whom he had a close relationship with, but like his parents are also dead. As a result, Hill's estate was divided among his seven nieces and nephews.

 

His father and uncle were circus clowns, performing in the circus until they both left for military service during WWI.

 

Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith, pg. 216-217. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387.

 

Related to Holly Valance. His cousin is her grandfather.

 

Born on the same day as Telly Savalas, whose "Kojak" (1973) character he impersonated on his 1969-1989 Thames TV show.

 

Was born on the same day that V.I. Lenin died.

 

He was the star of Genesis' music video for "Everything She Does" in 1986 (from "Invisible Touch" album). It was the band's idea to cast him. He played his "Fred Scuttle" character who is the new head of backstage security. Needless to say his incompetence - due mainly to his wandering eye for the ladies - lets all manner of people into the bands dressing room. The video used many of Benny's trademark gags (smoke out of the ears, speed-ed up film..) and a separate, customized, version was shot to use as the opening to the group's world tour.

 

Died of a heart attack while sitting in front of his television inside his apartment. He was found by a producer friend of his who had to climb through a window to let police in. Benny was in his pajamas (what he normally wore around his home). Sitting next to him on a small stand was an unsigned contract which Benny was considering to begin a new series with his friend.

 

Appeared on the cover of TV Times for the week that ITV started broadcasting in colour.

 

His simple but ingenious film-tricks are copied by many, for example "Austin Powers".

 

 

 

Personal Quotes

[When asked to comment on rumours that he had sexual affairs with women who appeared on his shows]: I never yell, I never tell, but I'm grateful as hell.

 

"Girls are like pianos. When they're not upright, they're grand."1

Individual Note 5

BENNY HILL. Born (Alfred Hawthorn Hill) in Southampton, Hampshire, England, 21 January 1925. Attended local schools in Southampton. Served with Royal Engineers during World War II. Began as amateur entertainer in Southampton, while also working in shops and as milkman before taking the job of assistant stage manager and actor, East Ham Palace, London, 1940; made TV debut, 1949; became popular radio guest in the early 1950s; had his own BBC television show in 1955; made film debut, 1956; comedy star with his own long-running comedy sketch show; moved from BBC to Thames Television, 1969-89. Recipient: Daily Mail TV Personality of the Year, 1954; TV Times Hall of Fame, 1978-79; TV Times Funniest Man on TV, 1981-82; Charlie Chaplin International Award for Comedy, 1991. Died in Teddington, London, 19 April 1992.

 

TELEVISION SERIES

 

1949 Hi There

1952 The Service Show

1953 Show Case

1955-89 The Benny Hill Show

 

FILMS

 

Who Done It?, 1956; Light Up the Sky, 1960; Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, 1965; Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, 1968; The Italian Job, 1969; The Waiters, 1969; The Best of Benny Hill, 1974; To See Such Fun, 1977; Benny Hill: The Motion Picture, 1979; The Unedited Benny Hill, 1983; Le Miracule, 1986; The Benny Hill Special, 1987.

 

RADIO

 

Educating Archie; Archie's the Boy.

 

STAGE (selection)

 

Stars in Battledress, 1941; Paris by Night; Fine Fettle.

 

RECORDINGS

 

Ernie (the fastest milkman in the West), 1971.

 

FURTHER READING

 

Johnson, Terry. Dead Funny. London: Methuen Drama, 1994.

 

Smith, John. The Benny Hill Story. New York: St. Martin's, 1989.1

Individual Note 6

HILL, BENNY

 

British Comedian

 

Benny Hill was born in Southampton in the south of England in 1924. His family was lower middle class, Hill's father being the manager of a medical appliance company. Hill was attracted early to the stage and saw many live stage shows at the two variety theatres in Southhampton. Hill saw army service in the later years of World War II and it was there that he began to perform as a comedian. After demobilisation, Hill began working in variety theatre where he slowly learned his craft. In 1956 Hill starred in the feature film comedy Who Done It ?(Ealing Studio). Hill starred as a hapless, bungling private detective. The film was only mildly funny although Hill did display touches of the comic slapstick and characterisation that were to become part of his genius. However the film was only moderately successful and did nothing to further Hill's career. Instead it was in the new medium of television that Hill was to shine.

 

Hill's career as a British comedian fits between that of earlier figures such as Tony Hancock and later performers such as Frankie Howerd. Whereas Hancock established his definitive comic persona in radio and then extended this to television, Hill was in effect created by television. Yet Hill was also the most traditional of comedians and his programs had strong roots in variety theatre, revolving around comic songs, routines and sketches rather than an on-going comic characterisation and situation. And although Hill had his own show on the BBC as early as 1955, his career was actually launched by the 1960s vogue for comedy on British television. Other British comedians such as Ken Dodd, Charlie Drake and Frankie Howard were also to gain their own shows around the same time but none had the comic genius and stamina of Hill.

 

Part of this genius lay in his writing. Hill wrote all his own material, a grueling task which explains the relatively small number of programs produced. Indeed under his later contract with Thames Television, Hill was given full control of his program such that he could undertake a program when, in his opinion, he had accumulated enough comic material. Hill also had a hand in producing some of the offshoots of The Benny Hill Show such as the 1970 half-hour silent film Eddie in August.

 

Although all his material was original, Hill nevertheless owed a comic debt to U.S. entertainer, Red Skelton. Like Skelton, Hill worked in broad strokes and sometimes in pantomime with a series of recurring comic personae. Hill even adopted Skelton's departing line from the latter's show that ran on network television from 1951 to 1971: "Good night, God bless." However, Hill was without Skelton's often-maudlin sentimentality, substituting instead a ribald energy and gusto. Equally though, Hill's humour was very much in a broad English vaudeville and stage tradition. The socialist writer, George Orwell once drew attention to the kind of humour embodied in the English seaside postcard--henpecked and shrunken older men and randy young men, both attracted to beautiful young women with large breasts and frequently tearing or missing some of their underwear and an older, fatter and unattractive mother--and some of this also fed into Hill's television comedy just as it was to feed into the Carry On feature films.

 

While Hill's publicity often portrayed him as a kind of playboy who liked to surround himself with beautiful, leggy showgirls, this was an extension of his television persona and had nothing to do with his private life. In fact Hill never married and lived alone in what would have been a lonely life had it not been for the heavy work demands imposed by the television show.

 

Hill's humour with its smut and double-entendres was never entirely acceptable to the moral standards of some and his sexism made him seem increasingly old-fashioned. The forces of political correctness finally had their way in 1989 when Thames Television canceled the program due not to only complaints about its smuttiness but also because its old-fashioned sexism had become increasingly intolerable. Thames finally sacked Hill. In his last television appearance, in 1991 he appeared as himself, the subject of the BBC arts documentary series, Omnibus. Although over the last three years of his life, Hill was to talk in interviews about a comeback, it was the end of his career. He died alone at his home in April of 1992. The cause of death was a heart attack. Benny Hill once told an interviewer that, like Van Gogh, he would be appreciated in 100 years time. The statement implied that he was not recognised as a great comedian and was belied by the enormous international popularity of his program and by the fact that in the 1970s and 1980s he was several times voted the Funniest Man in the World by the British television audience.

 

-Albert Moran1

Sources

1Sue Crisp, "Email from Sue Crisp to Graham Hoadly 16th February 2003".
Graham Hoadly.
2Ibid. All information relating to the family of Alfred Hawthorn Hill (Benny Hill) was given to Graham Hoadly by his cousin Sue Grady - who had it from the original research of Teresa Hill. Graham has endeavoured to qualify the material using GRO Parish Register and Census sources.