Benny Hill

Benny Hill

Date of birth: 21-01-1924
Date of death: 20-04-1992

Like many performers, Hill's first steps into showbusiness came in the forces - in his case appearing in the revue Stars In Battledress.

After he was demobbed from the army in 1947, Hill followed the traditional ciruit of working men's clubs and variety theatres - first using his own name, before settling on 'Benny' in homage to the US comic Jack Benny. At one time he was part of a double act with future On The Buses star Reg Varney.

He moved into radio in the Fifties, most notably in Educating Archie, and then into TV.

His progress was swift, in 1954 - just seven years out of the army - he was named TV personality of the year thanks to his BBC show.

His success would continue to his death, almost forty years later, as he became one of Britain's most bankable exports - even though his saucy postcard humour was loved and reviled in equal measure.

In 1969 he moved to ITV as he was poached by Thames, the company that brought him global success - the big breakthrough coming in 1979 when his shows were repackaged for the American market.

But Thames pulled the plug in 1989, by which time his cheeky persona was becoming more like a dirty old man. The shock move was considered by some as commercial folly - Hill was still a huge earner for Thames - but the recycling of decades worth of sketches kept the money coming in.

Off-screen, Hill lived a bizarre life. He found it difficult to relate to women - proposing marriage to virtual strangers - and money.

Even at his death, when he was worth around £10million, he lived in a tiny suburban house. Unbanked cheques lay in his drawers, and he would live on tins of unlabelled food sold of cheap by the local supermarket.

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Major Benny Hill biopic in the works

Comedian's story to be told over three hours

Benny Hill is to be the subject of a major new biopic.

Over two 90 minute episodes Lonely Boy: The Benny Hill Story will cover the comedian’s life from a child in the 1930s, rising through the dying days of variety to international TV fame, and through to his decline when his saucy comedy fell out of fashion in the 1980s.

The project is being written by Caleb Ranson, whose credits include Midsomer Murders and David Jason drama Diamond Geezer, with Hill’s biographer Hilary Bonner as a consultant.

Ranson told US website  Deadline: ‘When I was a kid growing up in the 70s and 80s I loved Benny Hill, his skits and wordplay and especially his songs. Then as I got older, like the rest of the country, I fell out of love with him. Why was that? What happened? 

‘Around the world he’s still revered but here in the UK, he’s all but forgotten. A punchline to a bad joke. I want to reclaim him from the comedy dustbin of history, to explore the Benny nobody knows, the ahead of his time comedy genius of the 50s and 60s and why in his twilight years he fell so hard and so quickly out of favour.’

Hill died in his Teddington home in April 1992 at the age of 68. He was a shy man, who never had any luck with women, often making clumsy advances after falling in love too easily. He also led a simple life despite his wealth, living in a rented apartment where a stash of uncashed cheques were found after his death. His only luxury were frequent trips to France where he could enjoy his anonimity,

Lonely Boy – named after one of his songs – is being made by British company Free@Last, which also makes Ashley Jensen’s Sky One series Agatha Raisin. 

It will be screened via the on-demand service  Acorn in the US, but there is no news yet of any British broadcaster.

Casting has not yet been announced.

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Published: 31 May 2018

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Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2004

Finding Mick Jagger


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