‘Friends All Over The World!’

The Arts

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‘…None in this country but all over the world!’

That was Tony Hancock talking about the new lease of life ham radio hasn’t given him, but he could have been talking about the internet.

It’s the anniversary of Tony Hancock’s death today, so here’s something I wrote on a past occasion;

Some time back I wanted to write a book called ‘Everything I Know I Learned From Tony Hancock’, because the shows written by Galton & Simpson seemed to be filled with truthful (i.e. far from optimistic) lessons about life.

You’d think Hancock’s life has been picked over until there’s nothing left – not quite true as it turns out.

‘The Day Off’ is a legendary lost film of British cinema, written for Hancock by Galton and Simpson, a funny, poignant comedy in which Hancock would have played a London bus driver on his day off. With just 24 hours of freedom, can he find happiness, purpose – even love? When he meets a bright young woman, Charlotte, it seems that he may have found all three. But he reckons without his greatest enemy: himself.

With Hancock at the peak of his talent, the film was set to be a hit. But incredibly he rejected the script, wanting a more international story. Hancock famously went to Hollywood and made a disastrous Disney film, and it was all downhill from there until his suicide at 44.

A disappointed Galton and Simpson put the script in a filing cabinet, and the NFT staged a reading of ‘The Day Off’ with a full cast, followed by an onstage interview with Galton & Simpson.

Here are a few script excerpts.

Hancock visits his bank and asks to withdraw money.

TELLER: How much do you want to take out?
HANCOCK: Three quid.
TELLER: (Sarcastic) Are you being blackmailed?

He visits a cafe.

HANCOCK: What’s the soup du jour?
WAITRESS: Dunno.
HANCOCK: Well, could you go and look?
WAITRESS: Pea.
HANCOCK: Don’t want it. What’s Boeuf Breton?
WAITRESS: Beef.
HANCOCK: I know that part. I want to know what the Breton is.
WAITRESS: Dunno.
HANCOCK: Well, go and find out.
WAITRESS: I went and found out about the pea and you didn’t order it.
HANCOCK: I’m not going to order it until I know what it is.
WAITRESS: It’s the way it’s cooked.
HANCOK: I know that!

…And meets his bus-driver pal.

HANCOCK: How’s the missus?
DRIVER: Don’t know, I’ve never asked.
(To barmaid) Two large gin and tonics and two Pimms please.
HANCOCK: Blimey, who are you with, Princess Margaret?

Hancock gets his girl – who says she’s a model – and his true profession is found out just before a touching goodnight kiss. The romance sadly turns sour. As he leaves, he pauses, and you think he’s about to say he loves her, but his pride won’t let him.

HANCOCK: Charlotte, there-s something – I’d like to say…
CHARLOTTE: Y-yes?
HANCOCK: Dior doesn’t like fat birds so stay off the spuds.

Wonderful stuff. The film script was supposedly optioned but nothing happened. Can’t someone publish it?

 

5 comments on “‘Friends All Over The World!’”

  1. Jo W says:

    Priceless,just priceless!

  2. Vivienne says:

    Hancock’s rejection of the script is just so in character though. can’t you just hear him, in an imagined Hancock’ Half Hour explaining to Sid James that that sort of thing was far beneath him, that he was destined for great things, Hollywood,Stardom, Fame and Recognition at last!

  3. chris hughes says:

    It seems to me that Hancock never knew how brilliant the shows were – particularly the ensemble of Hancock, Kerr, James, Williams and Jacques. The writing and delivery were superb and packed with tiny nuggets of brilliance that reflected not just life in the 50’s but a universality of experience that is still so real today. And I loved the shows where Galton and Simpson themselves played bystanders, hecklers and general oddbods. Genius radio shows which for me are still funnier than the tv ones.

  4. agatha hamilton says:

    Loved him, and love this, which I’d never read before. My, but he made some bad decisions.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    Hancock was always so funny, but I always felt deep pain. I must have thought too much.

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