This was another classic series written by Galton and Simpson. ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ started life on the radio in 1954 and then moved on to our television screens. It originally included other British Comedy stars such as Kenneth Williams, Sid James and Hattie Jacques but by the time it was introduced to television, only Sid was left and he too eventually departed.
This episode is from 1959 and finds Hancock at the peak of his popularity. The opening scene shows him checking his pools coupon and Sid James reading but pausing to laugh mockingly each time a home win is declared. “Southampton 2, Queen’s Park Rangers 1…..Home”
“Eh ? “ says Sid
“I said Home” replies Hancock
This trend is interrupted by a draw and then with Hancock becoming more and more hysterical as draw now follows draw, Sid is no longer taking any notice. He reaches seven draws and with the pressure getting to him, he takes a stiff drink and then asks Sid to check the final match on the coupon.
Sid is now dumbfounded as he carefully scrutinises the last forecast for him and then announces that the match is Chelsea against East Cheam and kicks off later at 7.30pm. With the frustration of waiting hours for the result, they decide that they must attend the game. When they arrive at the Ground, they find that the gates have been shut but they manage to blag their way in. Chelsea open the scoring and eventually they celebrate East Cheam’s equaliser much to the disgust of the home fans situated all around them. They are infuriated even more when the visitors take the lead and Sid has to remind Hancock that he does in fact need a draw, so he then reverts to cheering for Chelsea. Their fans become more incensed because apart from now being behind, Sid and Hancock are now shouting for their team !!!
The half time score is 3-1 and they decide to visit the East Cheam dressing room. Sid poses as a Director and he introduces Hancock as a tactical professor. To try and balance things up for the 2nd half, he instructs the short outside right to go in goal, the keeper to start at centre forward and so on. Inevitably, the goals soon flow but far too many of them to have any chance of that elusive draw and a fortune for Hancock. It finishes 15-3 and the programme concludes with Sid announcing, “First dividend, three hundred and twenty nine thousand pounds, nineteen shillings and sixpence, second dividend, six shillings and fourpence.”
At the opening night of ‘The Mating Season’ at the Sunderland Empire in 1976, Sid James died on stage after a heart attack. The audience assumed that it was part of the Show and carried on laughing. He was 62. There were rumours that his ghost haunts the dressing room he had used on the night of his death. Apparently Les Dawson refused to appear at the theatre again after a strange experience there.
Things were never the same again for Tony Hancock after he broke away from Galton and Simpson. There were those wonderful, ‘Go To Work On An Egg’ adverts with Patricia Hayes but professionally and personally for that matter, his life and career were in decline. He went to Australia in 1968 to appear in a TV series which was never completed. He took an overdose of amphetamines and one of his suicide notes read, ‘Things just went wrong too many times.’ His ashes were brought back to England by Willie Rushton in a hold-all apparently. A sad end to a comic genius…he was only 44.