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Monday, 26 May 2014

George Formby born 26 May 1904

  

George Formby, OBE (26 May 1904 – 6 March 1961), was a British actor, singer-songwriter and comedian. He sang light, comical songs, usually playing the ukulele or banjolele. He was a major star of stage and screen in the 1930s and '40s, when Formby became the UK's highest-paid entertainer. His songs such as "When I'm Cleaning Windows" were particularly popular during the Second World War (1939–45).
 
Formby was born at 3 Westminster Street, Wigan, Lancashire, as George Hoy Booth, the eldest of seven surviving children (four girls and three boys). His father (James Booth) was George Formby, Sr. (1875-1921) one of the great music hall comedians of his day, fully the equal of his son's later success. His father, not wishing him even to watch his performances, moved the family to Atherton Road in Hindley (near Wigan) and it was from there that Formby was apprenticed as a jockey when he was seven and rode his first professional race at ten when he weighed under four stone (56 pounds, 25.4 kg).
 
On the death of his father in 1921, Formby abandoned his career as a jockey and started his own music hall career using his father's material. He originally called himself George Hoy (George Hoy was also his maternal grandfather's name, who originally came from Newmarket, Suffolk, a famous horseracing town and whose family were involved in racehorse training). In 1924 he married dancer Beryl Ingham, who managed his career (and it is said his personal life to an intolerable degree) until her death in 1960. He allegedly took up the ukulele, for which he was later famous, as a hobby; he first played it on stage for a bet.
 
Formby endeared himself to his audiences with his cheeky Lancashire humour and folksy north of England persona. In film and on stage, he generally adopted the character of an honest, good-hearted but accident-prone innocent who used the phrases: "It's turned out nice again!" as an opening line and "Ooh, mother!" when escaping from trouble.
 
What made him stand out, however, was his unique and often mimicked musical style. He sang comic songs, full of double entendre, to his own accompaniment on the banjolele, for which he developed a catchy musical syncopated style which became his trademark. Some of his best-known songs were written by Noel Gay. Some of his songs were considered too rude for broadcasting. His 1937 song, "With my little stick of Blackpool Rock" was banned by the BBC because of the lyrics.
 
 
 
 
His best-known song, "Leaning on a Lamp-post" was written by Noel Gay. He recorded two more Noel Gay songs, "The Left-Hand Side of Egypt" and "Who Are You A-Shoving Of?" Over two hundred of the songs he performed, many of which were recorded, were written by Fred Cliffe and Harry Gifford, either in collaboration or separately, and Formby was included in the credits of a number of them, including "When I'm Cleaning Windows". 

 
 
Some of his songs were considered too rude for broadcasting. His 1937 song, "With My Little Stick Of Blackpool Rock" was banned by the BBC because of its suggestive lyrics. Formby's songs are rife with sly humour, as in "Mr Wu's A Window Cleaner Now" where Formby is about to sing "ladies' knickers" and suddenly changes it to "ladies' garters"; and in 1940's "On the Wigan Boat Express," in which a lady passenger "was feeling shocks in her signal box." Formby's cheerful, innocent demeanour and nasal, high-pitched Lancashire accent neutralised the shock value of the lyrics.
 
He made his first successful record (he had been making records as early as 1926) in 1932 with the Jack Hylton Band, and his first sound film Boots! Boots! in 1934 (Formby had appeared in a sole silent film in 1915). The film was successful and he signed a contract to make a further 11 with Associated Talking Pictures, earned him a then-astronomical income of £100,000 per year. A subsequent contract with Columbia Pictures earned him a further £500,000.
 
Between 1934 and 1945 Formby was the top box-office attraction in British cinema. He appeared in the 1937 Royal Variety Show, and entertained troops with ENSA in Europe and North Africa during World War II. He received an OBE in 1946. He had received a Stalin Prize in 1944, prompted by the popularity of his films in the USSR. His most popular film, and still regarded as probably his best, is the espionage comedy Let George Do It, in which he is a member of a concert party, takes the wrong ship by mistake during a blackout, and finds himself in Norway (mistaking Bergen for Blackpool) as a secret agent. A dream sequence in which he punches Hitler on the nose and addresses him as a "windbag" is one of the most enduring moments in film comedy.
 
Formby suffered his first heart attack in 1952. His wife Beryl died of leukaemia on 24 December 1960 and he planned to marry Pat Howson, a 36-year-old schoolteacher, in the spring of 1961. However he had a second heart attack before then and died in hospital on 6 March 1961. His funeral was held in St. Charles' Church in Aigburth, Liverpool and an estimated 100,000 mourners lined the route as his coffin was driven to Warrington Cemetery, where he was buried in the Booth family grave.

 
Pat Howson was well provided-for in Formby's will, but when she died soon afterwards, it was believed that the fortune was jinxed.
 
On 15 September 2007 a bronze statue of Formby was unveiled in his home town of Wigan, Lancashire, in the town's Grand Arcade Shopping Centre. (Info Wikipedia)

2 comments:

boppinbob said...

For The Best Of George Formby go here:

http://www61.zippyshare.com/v/82856586/file.html

Bob said...

Now that's a name I haven't heard in a long, long while. And he was great - a funny voice and great songs with lyrics just a little naughty.
Great!
Thanks.