PERFORMERS: DICK EMERY

Born: February 19 1915
Died: January 2 1983

by PETER TATCHELL (copyright 2011)

He was a clever character comedian who didn’t quite make it to the ranks of Britain’s beloved greats probably because his programmes never really developed beyond being comfortable and predictable.

The Dick Emery Show was a fixture on B.B.C. schedules for twenty years (only ending with Dick’s untimely death in 1983) and, with the possible exception of Ronnie Barker, he created some of the most famous comic characters on television.

A stage veteran since his childhood, Dick spent three years with Ralph Reader’s Gang Show during World War II before branching out as a solo comedian when demobbed. Like his wartime contemporaries Howerd, Hancock, Sellers and Secombe, he appeared numerous times on such B.B.C. radio shows as Variety Bandbox, Variety Fanfare and many others

By late 1952 he was filling in for an ailing Spike Milligan on The Goon Show (in tandem with Graham Stark). As the decade progressed his talent at providing character voices also saw him sought after for radio series like Pertwee’s Progress, Service with a Smile and Educating Archie (where he was a regular on the show’s final four seasons).

British television was also coming into its own and Dick appeared with such stars as Pertwee, Hancock and Bentine in their various small screen presentations as well as in the TV incarnation of Educating Archie. In 1960, he joined the cast of the popular ITV series The Army Game, helping fill the void left when Alfie Bass and Bill Fraser departed to star in the spin off Bootsie and Snudge. At the same time, Emery was back with Michael Bentine for the launch of his groundbreaking It’s a Square World and the decade would prove to be a busy time for the performer.

By 1963, BBC Television decided to launch Dick in his own series and (along with more Square World programmes) he also starred in Emery at Large on the Light Programme. Emery was finally able to unleash a gallery of colourful characters that would delight viewers and listeners for the rest of his career.

There was the dentally-challenged old codger Lampwick, a somewhat less-holier-than-thou Vicar, a bovver boy who seemed to have head-butted one too many brick walls and a gaily smiling chap named Clarence who had stridently unburdened himself of his closet.

On the distaff side was a man-hungry frump named Hettie and a bleached blonde called Mandy, who was single-minded in her pursuit of double entendres. Subtle they were not, but laughgathers they definitely were.

Dick had finally found his niche and seldom strayed from the popular formula of a montage of vox pops leading to a selection of unrelated sketches inhabited by his various alter egos.

By the 1970s his characters not only branched out to the big screen in a movie called Ooh, You Are Awful, but also straddled the globe to the small screens and stages of Australia (where the success of his BBC series had spawned an antipodean equivalent). And there was a book of script extracts Dick Emery in Character with Dick giving some background to his creations.

In the late 1970s Thames Television decided to add Dick to their growing roster of comedy greats (which by then included Benny Hill, Morecambe And Wise and Tommy Cooper) and produced several one-hour specials.

Meanwhile back at the Beeb, The Dick Emery Show chalked up its eighteenth season before it was decided to finally abandon the sketch format and create an ongoing storyline which would see Dick appear in a variety of different guises. Titled Emery Presents, the first batch was subtitled Legacy of Murder, with a follow-up story Jack of Diamonds filmed soon after.

But before the second season could air, at the end of 1982 Dick was hospitalized with a serious liver problem. Tragically, the ailment proved inoperable and he died just two days into the new year.

Radio

SHOWTIME
September 2 1948 (45 min)

VARIETY BANDBOX
July 24 1949 (60 min)
October 9 1949 (60 min)
February 19 1950 (60 min)
May 28 1950 (60 min)
December 3 1950  (60 min)
March 18 1951 (60 min)
a recording of Feb 19 1950 survives

VARIETY FANFARE
March 17 1950 (45 min)
February 5 1951 (45 min)
April 9 1951 (45 min)
November 28 1951 (45 min)

VARIETY AHOY
February 17 1952
January 1 1953

CHRISTMAS PARADE
BBC Home Service Saturday 7-45pm December 22 1951 (75 min)
with Bernard Braden & Barbara Kelly, Dick Emery, Leslie Henson, Elsie & Doris Waters 

THE GOON SHOW
Series 3:
show 7 (December 26 1952)
show 9 (January 6 1953)
show 11 (January 20 1953)
show 13 (February 3 1953)
show 15 (February 17 1953)
show 17 (March 3 1953)
Series 8:
show 1 (September 30 1957)

HAPPY HOLIDAY
BBC Light Programme Thursday 8-00pm July 15 to October 21 1954 (45 min)
with Dennis Price (until Sep 30), Peter Sellers, Bill Owen (until Sep 30), Arthur English (from Oct 7), Thorley Walters (from Oct 7), Dick Emery 

PERTWEE’S PROGRESS
BBC Light Programme Wednesday 7-30pm April 6 to June 29 1955
with Jon Pertwee, Dick Emery, Kirk Stevens, Fenella Fielding, Barry Took 

SERVICE WITH A SMILE
BBC Light Programme Monday 9-30pm July 1 to September 16 1957
with Ken Platt, Dick Emery, Betty Alberge, Herbert Smith 

EDUCATING ARCHIE

Series 7
BBC Light Programme Wednesday 7-30pm September 19 1956 to March 13 1957

Series 8
BBC Light Programme Wednesday 7-30pm September 25 1957 to March 19 1958

Series 9
BBC Light Programme Sunday 1-45pm September 28 1958 to March 22 1959

Series 10
BBC Light Programme Wednesday 7-30pm October 7 1959 to February 17 1960

with Peter Brough (and “Archie Andrews”), Ronald Chesney (series 7 and 8), Ken Platt (series 7), Alexander Gauge (series 7), Pearl Carr (series 8), Warren Mitchell (series 8 to 10), Bernard Bresslaw (series 9), Bruce Forsyth (series 10, until Dec 23 1959), Sid James (series 10, from Dec 30 1959)

(scriptwriters included: Ronald Wolfe (series 7 – 10), Ronald Chesney (series 9 & 10), Marty Feldman (series 9 & 10))

TS editions 45 to 47, 53 to 58, 66 and 67 and programmes of Oct 3 1956, Jan 30, Sep 18, Oct 9 and Dec 25 1957, and Mar 1 1959 are known to survive

IT’S A FAIR COP
Light Programme Monday 8-00pm May 22 to July 10 1961
with Eric Sykes, Hattie Jacques, Deryck Guyler, Dick Emery
a handful of off-air recordings survive

THE CHARLIE CHESTER SHOW
Light Programme Monday 9-00pm May 29 to August 21 1961
with Charlie Chester, Dick Emery, Maggie Fitzgibbon 

STAR PARADE
Light Programme Thursday 8-00pm June 20: DICK EMERY TIME, HOORAY!
Dick Emery, Patrick Cargill, Norma Ronald 

EMERY AT LARGE

Series 1
BBC Light Programme Thursday 8-00pm March 26 to June 18 1964
(with scripts by John Cleese etc)
episode 9 survives 

Series 2
BBC Light Programme Sunday 1-30pm June 27 to September 19 1965
episodes 5, 7, 9, 10 and 13 survive

Series 3
BBC Light Programme Sunday 5-00pm July 30 to September 24 1967
with Dick Emery, Deryck Guyler, Norma Ronald

Series 4 (titled WHAT ABOUT DICK EMERY!!)
BBC Radio 2 Sunday 2-00pm June 16 to August 4 1968

tributes

DICK EMERY – THE COMEDY OF ERRORS
BBC Radio 2 September 29 2009 (60 min)

DAD MADE ME LAUGH
BBC Radio Scotland September 21 2006

Television

ROUND THE BEND (3 Jon Pertwee specials)
BBC monthly to March 17 1956 (60 min)

TWO’S COMPANY (Libby Morris series)
series 2: Granada September 19 to December 26 1956

THE TONY HANCOCK SHOW

Series 1: Associated-Rediffusion April 27 to June 1 1956
Series 2: Associated-Rediffusion November 16 1956 to January 25 1957 (fortnightly)

MAN AND MUSIC (Spike Milligan special)
BBC June 24 1957

AFTER HOURS (Michael Bentine series)
Series 1: ABC October 5 1958 to January 18 1959
Series 2: ABC September 12 to December 19 1959

EDUCATING ARCHIE (Peter Brough series)
Series 1: Associated-Rediffusion September 26 1958 to February 20 1959
Series 2: Associated-Redifussion September 18 to December 25 1959
(DE as the gardener and Mr. Monty)

THE ARMY GAME
Series 5: Granada September 27 1960 to June 20 1961

IT’S A SQUARE WORLD (Michael Bentine series)
Special: BBC September 16 1960
Series 1: BBC April 26 to May 31 1961
Series 2: BBC October 5 to November 9 1961
Series 3: BBC April 19 to May 31 1962
Series 4: BBC October 4 to November 8 1962
Special: BBC April 19 1963
Series 5: BBC May 3 to June 21 1963
Series 6: BBC November 14 to December 31 1963
Series 7: BBC September 27 to December 20 1964
(also short segments in Christmas Night with the Stars in 1962 and 1963)

THE SEVEN FACES OF JIM (Jimmy Edwards series): The Face of Genius
BBC November 23 1961

THE DICK EMERY SHOW
Series 1: BBC fortnightly July 13 to August 24 1963 (45 min)
Series 2: BBC 10 editions between October 6 1963 and April 12 1964 (45 min)
special: BBC1 December 4 1964 (45 min)
Series 3: BBC2 October 2 to November 13 1965
Series 4: BBC2 August 10 to November 2 1966
Series 5: BBC2 April 3 to June 5 1967
Series 6: BBC2 December 4 1967 to January 15 1968 (in colour)
Series 7: BBC1 January 7 to March 7 1967 (b/w)
Series 8: BBC1 April 3 to June 11 1970 (all in colour from this point)
Series 9: BBC1 March 5 to May 7 1971
Series 10: BBC1 January 1 to March 25 1972
Series 11: BBC1 March 10 to May 26 1973
Series 12: BBC1 October 5 to December 14 1974
Special: BBC1 December 24 1974 (35 min)
Series 13: BBC1 August 30 to November 15 1975
special: BBC1 December 24 1975
Series 14: BBC1 September 7 to October 26 1976
Series 15: BBC1 September 3 to October 22 1977
special: BBC1 December 24 1977 (45 min)
Series 16: BBC1 February 17 to March 24 1979
Series 17: BBC1 January 5 to February 9 1980 (35 min)
special: BBC1 December 27 1980 (50 min)
Series 18: BBC1 January 3 to February 7 1981 (35 min)
(also short segments in Christmas Night with the Stars in 1963, 1964, 1970 and 1971)

COMEDY PLAYHOUSE: The Reunion
BBC January 12 1962

ROOM AT THE BOTTOM
ABC June 7 to 28 1964 (but recorded in 1958)

COMEDY PLAYHOUSE: The Making of Peregrine
BBC1 May 19 1969

THE GANG SHOW GALA
BBC1 December 24 1970 (40 min)

DICK EMERY’S GRAND PRIX
BBC1 July 2 1970 (50 min)

DICK EMERY IN AUSTRALIA
Seven Network February 8 to April 5 1977 (not Mar 29)

THE DICK EMERY COMEDY HOUR
Thames June 6 1979 (60 min)

THE DICK EMERY SPECIAL
Thames December 26 1979 (60 min)

THE DICK EMERY HOUR
Thames December 3 1980 (60 min)

EMERY PRESENTS
series 1: Legacy of Murder BBC1 February 16 to March 23 1982 (35 min)
series 2: Jack of Diamonds BBC1 June 3 to July 15 1983

tributes

A LIFE ON THE BOX
BBC1 August 20 1997

HEROES OF COMEDY
CH4 April 13 2002 (60 min)

THE MANY FACES OF: Dick Emery
BBC2 January 27 2014 (60 min)

 

Films

The Super Secret Service (1953 short)
The Case Of The Mukkinese Battlehorn (1955 short)
Light Up The Sky (1960)
A Taste Of Money (1960)
Mrs. Gibbons’ Boys (1962)
Crooks Anonymous (1962)
The Wrong Arm Of The Law (1962)
The Plain Man’s Guide To Advertising (voice only, 1962 short)
The Fast Lady (1962)
Just For Fun (1963)
The Big Job (1965)
The Wrong Box (1966)
River Rivals (1967 serial)
Yellow Submarine (voice only, 1967)
Baby Love (1968)
Loot (1970)
Ooh You Are Awful (1972)

 

DVDs

The Best of Dick Emery
BBC DVD

Dick Emery – The Thames Specials
Network DVD
contains all three Thames specials (1979-80)

Recordings

A Cockney Christmas / (All I Want For Christmas Is) My Two Front Teeth
Philips 45rpm 326 559BF

If You Love Her / Day After Day
Pye 45rpm 7N 17644

Dick Emery Sings
Pye LP NPL 18277, Marble Arch LP MALS 1229
If You Love Her
Wait for Me
My Own True Love
Love Will Find a Way
The Bells of St. Mary’s
Anyone Can Move a Mountain
The Girl Next Door
If Ever I Would Leave You
Grateful
This is My Song
Day After Day

With Ageing / The Wonderful World Of Love
Pye 45rpm 7N 17888

You Are Awful / Dance, Dance
Pye 45rpm 7N 45202

You’re Just As Lovely Today / Our Young Idea
Pye 45rpm 7N 45288

You’re The Only One / I’m Going To Make Them Laugh
Pye 45rpm 7N 45417

Dick Emery Sings
Pye LP 18411
Party Time
The Reddest Sports Car
Bitter the Sweet
Didn’t I?
Willy
You’re Just as Lovely Today
I’m Home
Beautiful Bermondsey
The Vicar of Belching-by-the-Sea
If I Only Had One More Song to Sing
Pamela
I’ve Got to Make Them Laugh

THE GOON SHOW vol 18: The Goon Show and More Guests
BBC 2CD ISBN 0563 55342
includes episode 8/1 Spon (guest starring Dick Emery)

Books

DICK EMERY IN CHARACTER
by Dick Emery (Robson, 1973)

OOH, YOU ARE AWFUL … BUT I LIKE YOU!
by Fay Hillier (Macmillan/Sidgwick & Jackson, 2001)

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