The many faces, male and female, of comedian Dick Emery.
Who were the principal characters?
Maybe because he was married five times, Dick Emery was particularly skilled at playing women. The most famous was Mandy the buxom blonde who would totter along the street in high heels, her chest seemingly defying the forces of gravity.
Quizzed for a vox pop, she would look blankly at the interviewer at first but then read some smutty hidden meaning into his questions. The interview would conclude with Mandy telling her interrogator ‘Ooh, you are awful…but I like you’ and then giving him a playful shove which would send him flying.
At the opposite end of the age and beauty range to Mandy was Hettie, the sexually frustrated spinster who was desperate for a man – any man.
Other characters included the toothy vicar, the artful wheezing OAP Lampwick, College the gentlemanly tramp, the leather-clad Ton-Up Boy on his motor bike, the effeminate Clarence and the dense skinhead Bovver Boy who, after another bungled job, would tell his equally thick-looking dad (played by Roy Kinnear): ‘Dad, I think I got it wrong again.’
Incidentally Emery played a journalist character called Lampwick in ‘Educating Archie’ back in 1957. He obviously liked the name.
Who were the star turns?
Emery was supported by excellent comic actors such as Roy Kinnear, Deryck Guyler, Joan Sims, Pat Coombs and Josephine Tewson
Who wrote it?
David Cumming created the vox pops and the rest of the shows were penned by a veritable Who’s Who of Writers with contributions by everyone from ‘Carry On‘ guru Talbot Rothwell to Harold Pinter.
How did it come about?
Dick Emery had been a rising star for some years, working alongside ventriloquist Peter Brough and his schoolboy dummy Archie Andrews in ‘Educating Archie’ and then with Michael Bentine in ‘After Hours’ and ‘It’s A Square World’.
‘It’s A Square World’ gave full rein to Emery’s versatility and he cemented his reputation as Pte. ‘Chubby’ Catchpole in ‘The Army Game‘. He was then cast in a Galton and Simpson ‘Comedy Playhouse’ entitled ‘The Reunion’ and the following year was finally given his own show.
Who watched it?
Throughout the Seventies ‘The Dick Emery Show’ – with 18 million viewers – was a mainstay of BBC1’s strong Saturday evening line-up, following on from ‘The Generation Game’ and ‘Dixon of Dock Green‘.
‘Ooh, you are awful…but I like you.’
Emery’s characters switched to the big screen for a 1972 film unsurprisingly titled ‘Ooh, You Are Awful’. He played a con man who discovered that the key to a fortune was tattooed on a girl’s bottom. What it lacked in subtlety it made up for in buttocks.
After his long-running BBC series ended, Emery went to ITV for three specials before returning to Television Centre in 1982 for ‘Emery Presents’. His main character was hapless private eye Bernie Weinstock but inevitably he also cropped up in numerous other guises including old favourites like the Bovver Boy and the toothy vicar. Sadly his next vehicle was to be a hearse for he died on 2 January 1983, aged 65.
Any distant cousins?
Where Dick Emery led, Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse have followed. Indeed Enfield has cited Emery’s range of comic characters as one of his chief inspirations.