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Tony Hancock: The Definitive Biography

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Tony Hancock was regarded as the best radio and television comic of his era and the founder of the British sitcom. A man whose star burned brightly in the eyes and ears of millions before his untimely death. This is the first fully authorized account of his life.


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Tony Hancock was regarded as the best radio and television comic of his era and the founder of the British sitcom. A man whose star burned brightly in the eyes and ears of millions before his untimely death. This is the first fully authorized account of his life.

30 review for Tony Hancock: The Definitive Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    F.R.

    Those of you not from the UK may need a bit of background. Tony Hancock was in the 1950s, arguably, the most famous man in these isles. A comedian whose look and persona perfectly suited the age of austerity, and who simultaneously acted in radio and TV versions of a sitcom which attracted millions of fans. Predating Pinter, Hancock – and his writers Galton and Simpson – created comedy in a naturalistic setting and proved that even the boredom of nothingness could be funny. Quintessentially Brit Those of you not from the UK may need a bit of background. Tony Hancock was in the 1950s, arguably, the most famous man in these isles. A comedian whose look and persona perfectly suited the age of austerity, and who simultaneously acted in radio and TV versions of a sitcom which attracted millions of fans. Predating Pinter, Hancock – and his writers Galton and Simpson – created comedy in a naturalistic setting and proved that even the boredom of nothingness could be funny. Quintessentially British, he nevertheless sought international fame and gradually cut himself off from those who’d helped him get to the top. His career and personal life both spiralled out of control and he ended up, an alcoholic mess, killing himself in Australia. A few years back I read Cliff Godwin’s ‘When the Wind Changed: The Life and Death of Tony Hancock’, which I think is a much stronger biography than John Fisher’s. It manages to penetrate further into the depths of the man, although that does make it a darker read (Fisher’s book is almost an optimistic view of a depressed comic). That’s not to say Fisher’s tome is without merit, it does give an excellent overview of the man’s career. If you know Hancock’s voice (and can combine it with Sid James’s) then reading those quotes and having the intonations roll through your mind of course brings joy. However, the same can be got from Cliff Godwin’s book and it is the sharper examination.

  2. 4 out of 5

    John

    Tony Hancock was the first superstar comic in the UK. People would stop everything to listen in to 'Hancock's half hour' in the mid fifties and later on when the show crossed over to television it became a national obsession. Everyone knows the bouncy Tuba theme and the stars stuttering introduction "H. H. H. Hancock's half hour" everyone remembers the lad himself going to give blood and complaining that "A Pint! Why that is very nearly an arm full". Most people know the stars sad decline and ev Tony Hancock was the first superstar comic in the UK. People would stop everything to listen in to 'Hancock's half hour' in the mid fifties and later on when the show crossed over to television it became a national obsession. Everyone knows the bouncy Tuba theme and the stars stuttering introduction "H. H. H. Hancock's half hour" everyone remembers the lad himself going to give blood and complaining that "A Pint! Why that is very nearly an arm full". Most people know the stars sad decline and eventual suicide in Australia. But never before has the real story of Hancock from start to premature end been told in such detail as in John Fisher's book. Fisher had both access to and the blessing of Roger Hancock Tony's only surviving brother and one time manager. This access means that we get a more detailed look at the early live of Hancock within his family and during his formative before he joined the RAF during the war, not long after his other brother Colin had been killed flying a bomber. Hancock's time in the RAF during the war was mixed he eventually ended up in a variety tour around Air Force bases put on by Ralph Reader of 'Gang Show' fame, who later wrote the song 'I'm a hero to me mum' just for Tony. After the way Hancock found his way on to the traditional variety circuit before getting a shot on the BBC. His first radio appearances were in variety shows like 'Workers Playtime' and the similar 'Forces Playtime' this led to a stint playing professor to Archie Andrews on 'Educating Archie' a role which Hancock made his own. It was during this time that he met Galton and Simpson, the men who would help create 'Hancock's Half Hour' and the book charts his meteoric rise. Hancock was never satisfied with performance and always craved international fame. The style of sit come that Hancock along with his writers created was revolutionary in its time and still sounds and looks fresh today. Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David might have thought they invented the show about nothing, but Hancock and Sid James were making side splittingly funny shows about nothing forty years before Jerry and George came on the scene. The latter part of the book is the real tragedy of Hancock, his slow decline into alcoholism and his other self distractive tendencies. This do seem to be looking up for Tony with a new series to be filmed for Australia's ATV but for reasons not fully understood by anyone Tony took his own life. Tony Hancock casts a long shadow of influence over comedy and culture in the UK and this book is a fitting tribute to the man.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    I have recently listened to all the existing radio shows and plan to watch the TV shows of Hancock's Half-Hour. As a diversion I thought I'd read this biography to get a fuller understanding of the man. I already knew the basics about him but this book helped to fill in a lot of the missing detail. The book is quite long at 600+ pages but on the whole it seemed to be about the right length. I found the beginning dragged a bit but I think this is more due to my general dislike of biographies - I'm I have recently listened to all the existing radio shows and plan to watch the TV shows of Hancock's Half-Hour. As a diversion I thought I'd read this biography to get a fuller understanding of the man. I already knew the basics about him but this book helped to fill in a lot of the missing detail. The book is quite long at 600+ pages but on the whole it seemed to be about the right length. I found the beginning dragged a bit but I think this is more due to my general dislike of biographies - I'm usually not interested in knowing about the subject's childhood, their parents and "all that David Copperfield crap." What I liked most about the book was that the author actually likes the subject and his work and attempts to see things from Hancock's perspective while maintaining a critical approach. In short, his approach is fair; he likes Hancock but does not hide his faults. Because of the subject matter the book ends up concentrating on the negative side of Hancock: his alcoholism, depression, extra-marital affairs and finally his suicide. However a nice touch is the epilogue, titled Funny and Sad, which concentrates on the more positive aspects of his character. Its full title is Tony Hancock: The Definitive Biography which is so true.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ipswichblade

    Possibly 4 stars but its about 150 pages too long. What you can't fault is the research that has gone into the book and the way you can feel Hancock's despair as his career starts to fade Possibly 4 stars but its about 150 pages too long. What you can't fault is the research that has gone into the book and the way you can feel Hancock's despair as his career starts to fade

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ant Koplowitz

    Was looking forward to reading this one, but come the end, I was a bit disappointed. Lots of research and John Fisher certainly knows his subject, but there wasn't really enough about the person and the shaping forces. I wanted a bit more about his personal and family context, whereas at times, this felt like a masters degree dissertation dissecting Hancock's comedy output. Plus, it was too long - could easily have lost 100+ pages. Was looking forward to reading this one, but come the end, I was a bit disappointed. Lots of research and John Fisher certainly knows his subject, but there wasn't really enough about the person and the shaping forces. I wanted a bit more about his personal and family context, whereas at times, this felt like a masters degree dissertation dissecting Hancock's comedy output. Plus, it was too long - could easily have lost 100+ pages.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kalwinder Dhindsa

    I downloaded this book ten years ago but never got around to reading it. l finally did so in the space of the last 4 days. What a life. One of the all time greats. If only he could have been aware of that at the time.

  7. 5 out of 5

    John Paul

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ali Strange

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lily P. Twist

  10. 5 out of 5

    David Jones

  11. 4 out of 5

    Roger McEwan

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karen Hartley

  13. 4 out of 5

    Barry Leighton

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sean Mcillaney

  15. 5 out of 5

    David Taylor

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Bailey

  18. 5 out of 5

    James Hall

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jon Bounds

  20. 5 out of 5

    Keith Hudson

  21. 5 out of 5

    wendy hill

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ranmal Mendis

  23. 4 out of 5

    GM

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sue

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alan's Archives

  26. 4 out of 5

    Viv Wilson

  27. 5 out of 5

    violet knaggs

  28. 4 out of 5

    Peter Hill

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pierre Corbeau

  30. 4 out of 5

    John

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