The History of British Television

Lives and Times - -

Television Stars of the Past H to K

The TV Stars and the men and women behind the scenes.

Peter Hawkins

Peter Hawkins face may not have been well known, but to several generations of television watchers, young and old, his voice was as familiar as that of one of our own family. His long association with British children's television began in 1952 when he voiced both Bill and Ben, the Flowerpot Men. It was he who came up with the almost indecipherable "Flobbadob" (it actually meant "Flowerpot") and it was he who created the voices to many more of our childhood heroes such as Captain Pugwash and Bleep and Booster, the latter of which was a regular feature of the long-running children's magazine series Blue Peter in the 1960s and early 70s. When the BBC purchased Hergé's Adventures of Tintin from Tele-Hachette in France it was Hawkins edge-of-your-seat voice that introduced the show and he who provided the distinctive voice of Captain Haddock. Captain Pugwash's "Plundering porpoises!" and "Jumping jellyfish!" also came courtesy of Hawkins and as if that wasn't enough he cemented his place into British Television greatness by creating the voices of the most menacing creatures ever to invade our galaxy; the Daleks!

With David Graham, Hawkins shared the original voices of the Daleks (1963-67) on television, and also voiced the 1965 film spin-off 'Doctor Who and the Daleks'. Hawkins then became the first voice of the Cybermen the half human, half robot creatures that almost became as popular as the Daleks. He was also heard as Zippy in the first series of Rainbow (1972) and, among dozens of productions, later narrated SuperTed and the Spot the Dog sequel It's Fun to Learn with Spot (1990).

Born in Brixton, London on 3 April 1924, son of a police inspector, Hawkins enjoyed acting in school productions, then in troop shows during the Second World War. During his time in the Royal Navy he survived a piece of shrapnel that had pierced his clothing when the destroyer Limbourne sank after being torpedoed off the coast of northern France. During a period of recuperation he took part in plays and pantomimes and was soon signed up for Combined Operations Entertainments touring the Continent and Vancouver with the topical revue Pacific Showboat. On being demobbbed Hawkins worked at the East Riding Theatre before going to the Central School of Speech and Drama. He made his West End stage début as Joe Gorme in 'Sit Down a Minute', and was first seen on television as Albert Tuggeridge in a BBC adaptation of J.B. Priestley's The Good Companions (1949). Spotted by the presenter and puppeteer Humphrey Lestocq, Hawkins joined the children's variety show Whirligig (1950-56), appearing in front of the camera and providing voices for two puppets, Mr Turnip and the parrot Porterhouse. This led to more than 40 years as a much in-demand voice-over artist. Hawkins' inventiveness made The Flowerpot Men so distinctive. With Julia Williams narrating and Gladys Whitred singing the songs and providing the voice of Little Weed, Hawkins improvised Bill and Ben's scripted lines in a gibberish fashion. He called their language "Oddle-poddle" and, although concerns were voiced about it holding back children's development, The Flowerpot Men became one of the best-loved programmes on television and continued to be repeated for two decades.

Hawkins followed The Flowerpot Men by becoming one of the voices in The Woodentops in the Watch With Mother slot. Although seen in front of the camera less frequently over the years, Hawkins appeared in three series of Dave Allen at Large (1972-75), playing characters such as Friar Tuck and the captain of a Mexican firing squad. Looking back on his career, Peter Hawkins said that he had had two ambitions: to become a famous actor and a successful one. "I've realised the second," he said, "and I'm grateful." He married Rosemary Miller in 1956 and they had one son, Silas Hawkins who carried on his father's tradition by providing the voice-over to the animated children's series Summerton Mill. Peter retired from acting in 1992 due to ill health and died in London on 8 July 2006, aged 82 years, his place in television heaven assured.

Philip Jonest

Philip Jones OBE will be remembered as one of the most influential television producers of a generation. As Head of Light Entertainment at Thames television, which was then ITV's largest company, Jones presided over a galaxy of stars from his office at Teddington Studios. Long-running sitcoms under his supervision included Never Mind the Quality Feel the Width, Father Dear Father, Love Thy Neighbour, Bless This House, Man About the House, George and Mildred, Robin's Nest, Never the Twain, Fresh Fields and Shelley. Benny Hill, Tommy Cooper, Hughie Green and Eamonn Andrews were staples of the Thames schedule throughout the period, joined at various stages by Morecambe and Wise, Mike Yarwood, Eric Sykes, Mike and Bernie Winters, David Nixon, Kenny Everett, Jim Davidson and Des O'Connor. He also gave Michael Barrymore his first big break with his own series in 1983.

Philip Stuart Jones was born on 7 December 1927 and educated at Cheltenham Grammar School, where his father was head of languages. In 1948, after his National Service in the RAF, he decided on a career in showbiz and joined Radio Luxembourg as a programme assistant. In six years at the popular music station he had worked his way up to Programme Controller. While there, he met his wife Florence, a fellow employee. In 1955 he joined Granada Television as a light entertainment producer but was headhunted three years later by Tynne Tees as the station was preparing to go on air for the first time. "Having met George and Alfred Black and Bill-Lyon Shaw and hearing of their plans for the new TV station, I was happy to accept a job as Producer/Director in the Light Entertainment department." With his wife, Florence and his young son, Pip, Jones moved to Newcastle upon Tyne where his first brief was to launch a lunchtime entertainment show. "In those days several of the regional ITV companies produced midday magazine shows catering very much for local audience tastes. In Birmingham, ATV's long-running series was Lunchbox (hosted by future Crossroads star Noele Gordon), while from Glasgow, Scottish Television produced The One O'Clock Gang." As a result Tynne Tees Television's own One O'Clock Show was born. "For all of us it was an exciting and demanding challenge to produce a forty-minute show five days a week, but we learned a great deal from the experience." Jones recalled that by todays exacting standards the production probably seemed fairly crude but felt that the atmosphere created by the immediacy of the show is something that is missed these days.

Jones also produced a number of popular music shows for Tynne Tees including At The Golden Disc and Request Time. In 1959 he was voted 'Producer of the Year' by readers of 'The Viewer', and was beginning to attract the interest of bigger independent television companies. So it came as no surprise when he left TTT in 1961 to join ABC Television in London. Here he produced a wide range of variety and comedy shows including Big Night Out and Blackpool Night Out, which were hosted by Mike and Bernie Winters. There were also a number of TV specials starring Bruce Forsyth, Frankie Howerd, Tommy Cooper, Peggy Lee, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and The Beatles. In fact, it was on the Philip Jones created Thank Your Lucky Stars that The Beatles got their first national television exposure. On 19 January 1963 the group mimed to their second single From Me To You. It was Jones too who realised the early impact that the so called 'Mersey Sound' was to have on Britain's youth, enabling him to put on a show in June of that year featuring Liverpool's finest, accompanied by The Searchers, Lee Curtis, The Big Three, Kenneth Cope and the Breakaways, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, The Vernon Girls and Gerry and the Pacemakers. That show alone pulled in over 6 million viewers. "The ratings achieved by that show proved the Liverpool sound was not limited in its appeal to a local audience -obviously it had a national following." Said Jones.

At ABC he started nurturing the talents who would go on to become big stars and showed further insights into the viewing tastes of the public. When, in 1968 ABC and Rediffusion merged to become Thames Television, Jones was given more management freedom and bigger budgets to fight the ratings war. When he was appointed to Thames, the industry newspaper Television Today asked him to write an article about his plans. He was too busy, he said, but would talk to a ghost writer. "My wife, then a freelance was sent along". As his name would be on the piece, she awaited his reactions anxiously. He sent no message, just a bouquet. One of his earliest successes at Thames was bringing Benny Hill over from the BBC. Jones signed the comedian to a contract in 1969, the start of a successful partnership which was to last 20 years. The Benny Hill Show(s) were successfully marketed around the world, making their star a global celebrity. While song and dance flourished it was the comedy that excelled. There was Never Mind The Quality, Feel The Width which had begun with ABC in 1967, while new shows included For The Love Of Ada, Bless This House, Love Thy Neighbour, Moody And Pegg, Get Some In, Shelley, AJ Wentworth BA, Fresh Fields, Man About The House plus its several spin-offs, and both Father, Dear Father and Dear Mother, Love Albert. Philip Jones' shows were enormously popular and he rejected criticism that they were unimaginative and low-brow as snobbery. Indeed, he used the financial power of established shows to pay for more risky material, such as The Kenny Everett Video Show, which enjoyed cult status even though it failed to top the ratings. He received an OBE in the 1977 New Years Honours, then in 1978 he stunned the BBC when he persuaded Morecambe and Wise to switch to Thames Television. Jones was widely respected by his peers and the stars alike. Everyone who worked with him were known as his 'boys and girls' and many big names were keen to join Thames Television because they trusted Jones personally. In 1988 Jones retired from Thames. He continued to work in television and was executive producer of As Time Goes By, the BBC sitcom starring Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer, which ran for more than ten years. Philip Jones passed away on 7 May 2004 following a long battle with cancer.

Later in his career Peter Bryant became a successful literary agent specialising in children's books. He passed away after a 12 month battle with cancer on May 19th, 2006 aged 82.

John Junkin

Veteran actor, comedian and scriptwriter John Junkin worked with stars such as Morecambe and Wise, Marty Feldman, Ronnie Barker and Spike Milligan and acted in many television dramas, including Penmarric, Out and All Creatures Great and Small. He also starred in EastEnders, playing Ernie, a mysterious stranger who suddenly appeared at the Queen Vic. His own television comedy series Junkin ran for four seasons and his cult radio show, 'Hello Cheeky,' also transferred to television. In 1969 he hosted the panel game Give Me Your Word. An influential figure in the world of comedy during the sixties and seventies, he wrote scripts for shows such as The Army Game, The World of Beachcomber, Queenie’s Castle, plus scripts for many top comedians, including Ted Ray, Jim Davidson, Bob Monkhouse and Mike Yarwood.

John Junkin was born in Ealing, West London on 29 January 1930. Educated locally, he worked as a teacher in the East End of London but said he hated the job. In 1960 he joined Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop at Stratford East and was in the original cast of Littlewood’s production of Sparrers Can’t Sing with Barbara Windsor. Throughout the sixties and seventies he was one of the busiest men on television, both as performer and scriptwriter. He appeared in Till Death Us Do Part (1966-75), Sam and Janet (1967/8), On the House (1970/1) and together, with writing partner Tim Brooke-Taylor, wrote and appeared in the BBC series The Rough and the Smooth. The comedian Marty Feldman won the Golden Rose of Montreux Award with a Junkin script in 1972 and with Barry Cryer and others, Junkin contributed to many of the Morecambe and Wise specials for ITV. He also wrote, with Bill Tidy, The Fosdyke Saga, and The Grumbleweeds for radio. For many years he voiced ‘Mr Shifter’, one of the Brooke Bond PG Tips chimps, which gained an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest running television commercial. He had a prolific career in the cinema playing a variety of straight and comic roles and described himself as easy to cast: “I look like the bloke next door,” he said. “I always seem to be wearing one of those sheepskin coats.” His many film credits included 'Doctor in Love' (1960), 'Heavens Above!' (1963), with Peter Sellers, 'The Knack' (1965), 'A Handful of Dust' (1988) and 'Chicago Joe and the Showgirl' (1990). But his most famous appearance was as one of the Beatles' tour managers in the 1964 hit 'A Hard Day's Night'.

In the latter part of his career, Junkin became disillusioned with showbusiness, particularly television. He spoke out publicly against ‘alternative’ comedy He said: “The new generation running television today has forgotten how to make people laugh.” He fell out with a producer - he never revealed which one - over the writing of a game show for which he had devised the format. Litigation cost him £70,000 and he was also in debt to the taxman to the tune of £120,000. He did, however, return to scriptwriting and contributed to The Crazy World of Joe Pasquale (1998) and The Impressionable Jon Culshaw (2004) and he was much in demand as an after dinner speaker. Junkin had been suffering from lung cancer, emphysema and asthma and died on 7 March 2006, aged 76 years, at the Florence Nightingale House in Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Close friend, former Radio 1 disc jockey Dave Lee Travis, said: “If you were in conversation with John, you were always in a state of hilarity. He had no airs and graces.”

David Kossoff

David Kossoff became a familiar and well-loved figure on television throughout the 1950s and 1960s thanks to playing the hen-pecked husband of Peggy Mount in the hugely successful sitcom The Larkins.

Born on 24 November 1919 to Russian parents in the East End of London, David Kossoff made his first stage appearance in 1942. In 1945 he joined the BBC Repertory Company, where he remained for six years, appearing in hundreds of radio plays. Often taking on roles older than his true age, Kossoff made many memorable film appearances, one of which won him a BAFTA for 'A Kid For Two Farthings' and had great success on stage creating the Jewish tailor in Wolf Mankowitz's 'The Bespoke Overcoat' as well as his own one-man show, 'With One Eyebrow Slightly Up' which he also took to Broadway. In 1956 he appeared in the very first Armchair Theatre production; 'The Outsider'. But it was as put-upon husband Alf Larkin that David Kossoff won the affections of the British television-viewing public before moving on to another successful sitcom, A Little Big Business in the 1960s. His warm and sincere voice meant that he became a huge hit in the 1960s reading bible stories on BBC radio, a success that spawned a Sunday evening TV series and a host of bestselling books. When one critic rounded on him for playing Alf Larkin, Kossoff quickly replied: "Alf earns 10 times as much as Kossoff, mate. He helps Kossoff to choose the parts he wants in straight plays and to say 'No' to the others. I like Alf ... A lot of hard work went into creating him. He's probably the best thing I've ever done." In 1976 tragedy struck when his younger son, Paul, lead guitarist with the rock group Free, died of drug-induced heart failure at the age of 25. Kossoff went on to campaign passionately against the danger of drug taking and performed a critically acclaimed one-man show, 'The Late Great Paul', at the Queen Elizabeth Hall before taking it on a tour of schools and universities. He wrote a prayer book entitled "You've Got A Moment, Lord?" and in the 1980s he published "Stories From A Small Town", based on folk stories of 19th-century Jewish Russia. He also did several TV commercials, pointing out that Bible stories didn't pay very well, but commercials did - and that, anyway, "it just occurred to me that God might have guided my hand to J Walter Thompson."

David Kossoff passed away on 23 March 2005, aged 85 years.

TV Stars of the Past - L to W

Article

Originally written for Television Heaven

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