One of the all time great comedians of the thirties and forties, Arthur Askey who along with the likes of George Formby and Will Hay scored more than a few successes on the big screen.
Born in Liverpool in 1900 the diminutive of stature (5 foot 3) but energetic of nature Askey had risen to prominence on the radio show Band Waggon, he first ever regular comedy, variety series and also the first type of this show to feature a resident comic (Askey), he was teamed with semi straight man Richard Stinker Murdoch and one of the regular segments on BAND WAGON saw the two of them actually living on top of Broadcasting House.
Given that the radio show was a huge success, a natural progression was a film version which appeared in 1939. Of interest not just for helping preserve the radio show but also for an early look at TV goings on at the BBC as the pair here are running a pirate TV station, it’s also very funny.
I THANK YOU made in 1941 also featured, besides Askey and Murdoch, Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt (the pair were former Will Hay regulars who stayed with Gainsborough – who Askey was also contracted to – when Hay moved to Ealing Studios). Also appearing was the brilliant Kathleen Harrison. The plot of I Thank You saw a group of actors posing as servants to try and get backing for a stage production they want to put on.
BACK ROOM BOY (1942) is another classic that pretty much steals wholesale the plot from the Ghost Train, Arthur, this time out minus Murdoch, is a meteorologist who is sent to a remote light house off the coast of Orkney and is soon getting mixed up with spies. Marriott and Moffatt again feature as does a mostly scantily clad Googie Withers and a whole troupe of music hall girls.
KING ARTHUR WAS A GENTLEMAN (1942) whilst still very much a comedy tries to introduce a spot of pathos into the mix, Askey is a soldier who thinks he has discovered King Arthurs sword which gives him heroic qualities.
BEES IN PARADISE (1943) reunites most of the cast from King Arthur (Anne Shelton, Jack Train etc) and ramps up the comedy factor with a saucy plot that sees a quartet of airmen crash land on an island in the South Seas ruled by women.