PERFORMERS: MAX MILLER

millerBy Mark McKay and Peter Tatchell (reprinted from LAUGH #16, 1997)

“The pure gold of the Music Hall” was the imposing title bestowed upon the notorious risque comedian, born Henry Sargent in Brighton in 1895. In reality, he belonged more to the era of Variety, rather than its Victorian antecedent. But how far he lived up to his now legendary status is difficult to ascertain today.

Stories of filthy gags, raising BBC executives’ blood pres­sure and earning Miller instant disqualification from the airwaves are legion. One supposedly concerns his encounter with a beautiful naked lady on a treacherous mountain pass, only wide enough for one person at a time: “I didn’t know whether to block her passage or toss myself off!” In another, Max is misreading an optometrist’s wall chart: “Every time I see ‘ F’ , you see ‘K’ ”. Fact or fiction — who can tell? Unfor­tunately, no authentication is to be found in any official BBC paperwork.

Other misdemeanours are better documented. As an estab­lished Top of the Bill, Max understandably felt that he was in charge. At the 1950 Royal Variety Performance he outstayed his allocated eight minute slot, steadfastly refusing to leave the Palladium stage despite persistent signalling from the prompt corner. Theatrical impresario Val Parnell was furious at this deliberate breach of protocol, and threatened “You’ll never work in one of my theatres again.”

The threat remained good for a couple of years, but time and big money-earning potential heals all wounds. Max was soon treading the boards of the Palladium once more, back ‘by public demand’.
On stage, Miller would step right up to the footlights to deliver his ribald material, away from the prying ears of an unseen menace (presumably the theatre management) lurking in the wings. He cleverly relinquished responsibility for any smuttiness suggested by his patter. Two joke books were pre­sented — one white (clean), the other blue (on the naughty side) — and the audience asked to choose one. Invariably the Blue Book was selected. At every reaction Maxie would smile knowingly, pretending that his innocent remarks had been misconstrued: “You’re the sort of people who give me a bad name!”

In Max’s act he would proudly boast “there’ll never be another, lady!” Perhaps not, but since his death in 1963, oth­ers seem to have inherited some particular Max Miller characteristics. His cherubic moon-face and twinkle in the eye were handed down to Benny Hill, who also shared the same delight in bawdy seaside-postcard innuendo. His outrageous on-stage dress sense (would you believe garish floral jacket and plus-fours seemingly made from a sofa covering, kipper tie, striped socks and two-toned shoes?) has been passed on to Dame Edna Everage and Julian Clary (although Max never professed himself other than heterosexual, his attire must have raised some eyebrows!).

During the thirties and forties, Max made a number of films, generally appearing as a fast-talking travelling salesman-type. Four of these, including his most significant starring feature, Educated Evans and its sequel, Thank Evans are regrettably no longer extant. And in the fifties he made sev­eral appearances on television (of which some footage survives).

Max also stepped into the EMI studios to commit various little ditties to wax. But his movies and songs give little indication of what all the fuss was about.

The best surviving illustration of Miller in top form must be the half-dozen recordings made in front of a full house at some of London’s largest variety theatres. Released originally as 78rpm disc sets, Max is heard at the peak of his career. Almost bowled over by waves of laughter, his breathtaking power over an audience is apparent enough.

 

MOVIES

The Good Companions (1933)

Friday The Thirteenth (1933)

Channel Crossing (1933)

Princess Charming (1934)

Things Are Looking Up (1935)

Get Off My Foot (1935)  NO COPY SURVIVES

Educated Evans (1936) NO COPY SURVIVES

Don’t Get Me Wrong (1937)

Take It From Me (aka Transatlantic Trouble)(1937) NO COPY SURVIVES

Thank Evans (1938) NO COPY SURVIVES

Everything Happens To Me (1938)

The Good Old Days (1939)

Hoots Mon! (1939)

Asking For Trouble (1943)

 

TELEVISION appearances

Around The Town (BBCTV October 1 1955. 60 min)

You’d Never Believe It (ITV/Associated-Rediffusion monthly January 5 to April 26 1956. 5 x 60 min)

See You, Soho (ITV/Associated-Rediffusion January 16, February 13 and March 13 1958)

TRIBUTES

Applause! Applause!
Thames April 10 1969

Here’s A Funny Thing
CH4 November 20 1982

40 Minutes – I Like The Girls Who Do
BBC2 February 16 1989 (40 min)

Heroes Of Comedy – Max Miller
CH4 October 27 1995 (60 min)

 

RADIO appearances

*** BBC Archives holds the 2 hour May 6 1951 Festival Of Variety broadcast, featuring Max Miller

Other broadcasts on which Max is known to have appeared, include:

Grand Variety Gala From The London Palladium (May 5 1940, 2 hours)

Variety Fanfare (August 29 1949)

Variety Bandbox (December 25 1949)

Music Hall (January 13 1951)

Music Hall (July 12 1952)

TRIBUTES

Max Miller
BBC R4 August 29 1970 (30 min)

Celebration
BBC R4 July 3 1974 (45 min)

The Cheeky Chappie
BBC R2 May 28 and June 4 1978 (2 x 30 min)

The Cheeky Chappie
BBC R4 February 11 1989 (75 min)

There’ll Never Be Another
BBC R2 November 20 1994 (2 hours)

 

 

DISCOGRAPHY

Confessions Of A Cheeky Chappie (2 parts)
Broadcast 78rpm 3266 (c. October 1932)

Max The Auctioneer (2 parts)
Rex 78rpm 8665 (March 1935)

Confessions Of A Cheeky Chappie (2 parts)
Rex 78rpm 8604 (May 1935)

The Woman Improver/Mary From The Dairy
HMV 78rpm BD 385 (November 4 1936)

Ophelia/Down In The Valley
HMV 78rpm BD 396 (December 18 1936)

Backscratcher/Impshe
HMV 78rpm BD 408 (January 22 1937)

Why Should The Dustman Get It All?/You Can’t Blame Me For That
HMV 78rpm BD 417 (February 19 1937)

How The So-And-So Can I Be Happy?/The Girl Next Door
HMV 78rpm BD 419 (March 18 1937)

Weeping Willow/You Can’t Go Away Like That
HMV 78rpm BD 432 (April 28 1937)

The Love Bug Will Bite You/Julietta
HMV 78rpm BD 427 (April 28 1937)

The Old Oak Tree/Put It Down
HMV 78rpm BD 450 (July 2 1937)

The Windmill/La-De-Da
HMV 78rpm BD 439 (July 16 1937)

I Never Thought That She’d Do That To Me/Let’s All Have A Charabanc Ride
HMV 78rpm BD 458 (October 13 1937)

Just Another Sally/The Christmas Dinner
HMV 78rpm BD 475 (November 12 1937)

Ain’t Love Grand?/Annie, The Farmer’s Daughter
HMV 78rpm BD 482 (December 1 1937)

She Said She Wouldn’t/I’m The Only Bit Of Comfort That She’s Got
HMV 78rpm BD 505 (January 19 1938)

Winnie The Whistler/Doh-Re-Me
HMV 78rpm BD 533 (March 10 1938)

Every Sunday Afternoon/Um-Ta-Ra-Ra
HMV 78rpm BD 541 (April 6 1938)

Does She Still Remember?/I Bought A Horse
HMV 78rpm BD 563 (May 5 1938)

The Girls Who Work Where I Work/Happy School Days
HMV 78rpm BD 583 (August 15 1938)

Max Miller In The Theatre (Holborn Empire – First House)
HMV 3x78rpm BD 615/BD 616/BD 617 (October 7 1938)
(incl. She Shall Have Music Wherever She Goes/Lulu/The Hiking Song)

Max Miller In The Theatre Again (Holborn Empire – Second House)
HMV 3x78rpm BD 646/BD647/BD 648 (October 7 1938)
(incl. When We Go On Our Honeymoon/I Thought We Came Here To Pick Some Flowers/All Because I Rolled My Eyes)

Everything Happens To Me/At The Bathing Parade
HMV 78rpm BD 697 (April 5 1939)

No, No, No/Maria Fell For Me
HMV 78rpm BD 710 (April 5 1939)

Max Miller In The Theatre (Finsbury Park Empire) 
HMV 3x78rpm BD 770/BD 771/BD 772 (November 1939)
(incl. Passing The Time Away/Down Where The Rambling Roses Grow/I Don’t Like The Girls/Mary Ann)

Max Miller With The Forces
HMV 3x78rpm BD 883/BD 884/BD 885 (November 1940)
(incl. A New Kind Of Old-Fashioned Girl/Stringing Along With You/Sitting In The Old Arm Chair/The Hiking Song)

Max Miller Entertains The War Workers
HMV 2x78rpm BD 890/BD 891 (November 1941)
(incl. The Grand Old Man/Every Sunday Afternoon)

That’s The Way To Fall In Love + When You’re Feeling Lonely/She’ll Never Be The Same Again
HMV 78rpm BD 987 (November 14 1941)

Max Miller In The Theatre (Finsbury Park Empire)
HMV 2x78rpm BD 10221BD 1023 (October 12 1942)
(incl. Sitting In The Park With Sarah/Cheeky Chappie/I Never Slept A Wink All Night)

Come Hither With Your Zither/I Never See Maggie Alone
(Aust) HMV 78rpm EA 3895 (c. early 1950)

Let’s Have A Ride On Your Bicycle/My Old Mum
Philips 78rpm PB 199 (c. October 1953)

Mary From The Dairy/Voulez-Vous Promenade?
Philips 78rpm PB 236 (c. January 1954)

Oh Yes! She Knows Her Onions/Pleasant Dreams (both with The Beverley Sisters)
Philips 78rpm PB 274 (c. April 1954)

Friends And Neighbours/Two Little People
Philips 78rpm PB 296 (c. July 1954)

Don’t Forget Your First Sweetheart/Someone Else I’d Like To Be
Philips 78rpm PB 362 (c. November 1954)

London Belongs To Me/Something Money Can’t Buy
Philips 78rpm PB 427 (c. February 1955)

The Budgie Song/Ain’t It Ni-ice!
Philips 78rpm PB 518 (c. October 1955)

Max At The Met
Pye/Nixa 10” LP (November 30 1958)
(incl. Passing The Time Away/Be Sincere/The Girls I Like/Fan Dancer/Mary Ann)

Max At The Met
Pye/Golden Guinea LP GGL 0195, Pye/Marble Arch LP MAL 740
With A Little Bit Of Luck
Influence
Max At The Met
Mother Brown Story
There’s Always Someone Worse Off Than You

Max At The Met
Pye EP NEP 24154
(incl. Passing The Time Away/Be Sincere)

Max At The Met (Part 2)
Pye EP NEP 24162
(incl. Be Sincere/The Girls I Like/The Fan Dancer/Mary Ann)

The Girls I Like/The Mother Brown Story
Pye/Nixa 78rpm N 15050 (c. April 1956)

Be Sincere/With A Little Bit Of Luck
Pye/Nixa 78rpm/single (7)N 15141 (c. April 1958)

Influence/There’s Always Someone Worse Off Than You
Pye single 7N 15349

That’s Nice, Maxie!
Pye LP NPL 18064, Marble Arch LP MAL 597
incl. Josephine
Twin Sisters
On The Banks Of The Nile
Hiking

The Cheeky Chappie!
Pye LP NPL 18079, Marble Arch LP MAL 1257, Hallmark LP HMA 240 (September 9 1962)
(retitled You Can’t Help Liking Him)
incl. Lulu
She Said She Wouldn’t
Doin’ All The Nice Things

The Market Song/Tit-Bits (both with Lonnie Donegan)
Pye single 7N 15493

50 Years Of Radio Comedy
B.B.C. Records LP REC 138
includes an undated broadcast extract

The following releases all reissue 78rpm material…

Max Miller In The Theatre
Australian H.M.V. 10”LP ODLP 7504
Max Miller In The Theatre (Holborn Empire – First House)
Max Miller In The Theatre (Finsbury Park Empire – 1939)

Max Miller In The Theatre
E.M.I./One-Up LP OU 2075
Max Miller In The Theatre (Holborn Empire – First House)
Max Miller In The Theatre (Holborn Empire – Second House)

The Cheeky Chappie
H.M.V.   EP 7EG 8558
Mary From The Dairy
She Said She Wouldn’t
Every Sunday Afternoon
Ain’t Love Grand!

All Good Stuff, Lady!
E.M.I./Note LP NTS 214, E.M.I./Golden Age LP GX 2503 (retitled The Golden Age Of Max Miller)
Mary From The Dairy
The Woman Improver
Ophelia
Down In The Valley
The Old Oak Tree
Put It Down
I Never Thought That She’d Do That To Me
Let’s All Have A Charabanc Ride
Ain’t Love Grand
Annie The Farmer’s Daughter
She Said She Wouldn’t
I’m The Only Bit Of Comfort That She’s Got
Every Sunday Afternoon
Um-Ta-Ra-Ra
I Bought A Horse
Does She Still Remember
Everything Happens To Me
At The Bathing Parade
She’ll Never Be The Same Again
No, No, No

The Cheekie Chappie
Philips/Wing LP WL 1190
Let’s Have A Ride On Your Bicycle
Don’t Forget Your First Sweetheart
You Broke Your Promise
Someone Else I’d Like To Be
Something Money Can’t Buy
Little Swiss Miss
Friends And Neighbours
Oh Yes! She Knows Her Onions (with The Beverley Sisters)
London Belongs To Me
Voulez-Vous Promenade
My Old Mum
Mary From The Dairy

The Golden Hour Of Max Miller
Pye/Golden Hour GH 584
extracts from Pye LPs:
Max At The Met
The Cheeky Chappie!

You Can’t Help Liking Him – Golden Hour Presents Max Miller
Pye/Golden Hour LP GH 675
extracts from Pye LPs:
That’s Nice Maxie!
The Cheeky Chappie!

The Cheeky Chappie
Pavilion/Flapper CD PAST CD 9714
Ophelia
Down In The Valley
Max Miller In The Theatre (Holborn Empire – First House)
Max Miller In The Theatre (Holborn Empire – Second House)
Max Miller In The Theatre (Finsbury Park Empire – 1939)
You Can’t Go Away Like That

The Pure Gold Of The Music Hall
Pavilion/Flapper CD PAST CD 9736
Julietta
The Love Bug Will Bite You
Max With The Forces
Confessions Of A Cheeky Chappie (1935)
The Woman Improver
Weeping Willow
You Can’t Blame Me For That
Backscratcher
Impshe
Max The Auctioneer
The Girl Next Door
How The So-And-So Can 1 Be Happy?
Doh-Re-Me
Everything Happens To Me
At The Bathing Parade
No, No, No

The Cheeky Chappie
E.M.I. 2CDs CDECC 10
Max Miller In The Theatre (Holborn Empire – First House)
Max Miller In The Theatre (Finsbury Park Empire – 1942)
Max Miller With The Forces/Max Miller Entertains The War Workers
Max Miller In The Theatre (Holborn Empire – Sec­ond House)
Ain’t Love Grand
Every Sunday Afternoon
The Old Oak Tree
Everything Happens To Me
Max Miller In The Theatre (Finsbury Park Empire – 1939)
At The Bathing Parade
I Never Thought That She’d Do That To Me
Mary From The Dairy

Max At The Met/That’s Nice Maxie … Plus
C-Five CD C5LCD 598
Max At The Met (LP)
That’s Nice Maxie (LP)
Tit Bits (with Lonnie Donegan)
The Market Song (with Lonnie Donegan)

The Cheeky Chappie! … Plus
C-Five CD C5LCD 613
The Cheeky Chappie (LP)
With A Little Bit Of Luck
Influ­ence
Mother Brown Story
There’s Always Someone Worse Off Than You

Max Miller
C-Five CD C5LCD 631
Max Miller In The Theatre (Holborn Empire – Second House)
The Girls Who Work Where I Work
Every Sunday Afternoon
Max Miller With The Forces
Doh-Re-Me
No, No, No
Max Miller In The Theatre (Finsbury Park Empire – 1939)

The Cheeky Chappie Entertains
Magpie 3CDs 4
(contains the above three C-Five discs)

The Cheeky Chappie
Conifer/Happy Days CD CMSCD 209
Max Miller In The Theatre (Finsbury Park Empire – 1939)
The Favourite Lodger*
Max Miller With The Forces
That’s The Way To Fall In Love + When You’re Feeling Lonely
Max Miller Entertains The War Workers
She’ll Never Be The Same Again
Max Miller In The Theatre (Finsbury Park Empire – 1942)
(* previously unissued track)

There’ll Never Be Another
Hallmark CD 303392
Max Miller In The Theatre (Holborn Empire – First House)
Max Miller With The Forces
Max Miller In The Theatre (Finsbury Park Empire – 1942)
That’s The Way To Fall In Love + When You’re Feeling Lonely
Max Miller In The Theatre (Holborn Empire – Second House)

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The Max Miller Blue Book
compiled by Barry Took
(Robson Books, London, 1975)

Max Miller – The Cheeky Chappie
by John East
(W.H. Allen. London. 1977, Robson ppk re­print)

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