Monday 18 June 2012

The Good Old Days - Harry Champion

Harry Champion was a music hall performer and comedian whose height of popularity came in the early years of the 20th Century.

Born William Crump in Shoreditch (April 1865), his stage persona mainly appealed to the working classes in and around his native East end of London. 

Making his stage debut at the age of 15 at the Royal Victoria Music Hall in Bethnal Green, he initially appeared under the name of Will Conray, but 5 years later in 1887, as his fame spread to other areas of the UK capital, he started using the stage name of Harry Champion.

Harry Champion in 1938 
As he became more famous, his repertoire grew, making him one of the most popular music hall acts of his time. His songs were invariably sung at breakneck speed, with many concerning the joys of food.

His most famous recordings included "Boiled Beef and Carrots", "I'm Henery the Eighth I Am", "Any Old Iron" and "A Little Bit of Cucumber".

Harry performing "Any Old Iron"

After a successful 40+ year career on the stage, he retired from performing soon after his wife died in 1928. He did return from time to time however to make occasional guest appearances in halls around the London area. 

In the 1930's he actually came fully out of retirement to appear on radio and in the process gained a new, younger audience.

"I'm Henery the Eighth I Am"

By the early 1940's however, his health took its toll and he once again retired when exhaustion forced him into a nursing home. He died a month later in 1942 and is buried in St Marylebone cemetery in London's East Finchley.

Monday 4 June 2012

Whatever Happened to "Doctor in the House" Star Barry Evans?

Fresh faced actor Barry Evans was a regular on our TV screens in the 1970's. 

The star of "Doctor at Large" and "Mind Your Language" who became a British sitcom favourite, was born in 1943 in the Surrey town of Guildford. 

Abandoned as a baby, Evans was educated at orphanage boarding schools and later attended the infamous Italia Conti Academy before gaining a scholarship to study at the central School of Speech and Drama.

His first leading role was in the 1967 film "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush" with Judy Geeson and three years later he gained the part of Michael Upton in the UK smash hit comedy "Doctor In The House" moving on to the sequel hit "Doctor at Large".

Doctor in the House - episode 1
In 1975 he starred in the hit big screen sex comedy "The Adventures of a Taxi Driver", but soon returned to ITV for the leading role in a new sitcom "Mind Your Language". 
Here he played the part of a teacher of English to foreign students. Again the show was a big TV success, gaining a worldwide audience.

Mind Your Language - episode 1

However, as the 80's came, Evans found it more and more difficult to find work. His so called youthful image worked against him and he found difficulty in finding parts to match his age.

By the late 1990's, as his acting work diminished, he was known to be working as a mini-cab driver in the English East Midlands. 

Sadly, in 1997 he was  found dead in his bungalow at Claybrooke Magna, Leicestershire aged only 53. 

He was found to have suffered a blow to the head and an autopsy showed he had high levels of alcohol in his system. Although an 18 year old man was initially arrested for the murder, he was subsequently released without charge.

The Coroner eventually gave an open verdict and to this day it is still unclear how Evans met his end.

The "Are You Being Served" Cast
 On The Buses Cast

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