'Lost' comedy archives unearthed

Footage of John Cleese, Frankie Howerd

Comedy sketches featuring John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Marty Feldman and Frankie Howerd have been unearthed after being missing for over 40 years.

The long-lost material from the Sixties, dubbed ‘comedy gold dust’, also features early appearances by Tim Brooke-Taylor, Arthur Mullard and Yootha Joyce.

Dick Fiddy, who is helping the British Film Institute track down lost footage, says that a private collector is to thank for recovering a missing edition of At Last The 1948 Show and an lost episode of The Frankie Howerd Show

He said: ‘Recently, a private collector contacted the BFI's Missing Believed Wiped project and handed over two priceless missing items of 1960s TV comedy.

‘It's good news all round with these finds – they feature some of the UK's finest clowns at their peak and are pure comedy gold dust.

‘The Frankie Howerd Show, for example, not only features more rare Frankie stuff but boasts a script from Ray Galton and Alan Simpson and - particularly precious - the great Yootha Joyce hamming it up as a tipsy vamp trying to have her way with the aghast Frankie.’

Until the late 1970s, broadcasters regularly wiped TV shows such as these to re-use expensive video tape and save space in their archives.

Thames Television destroyed all but two episodes of the pre-Python sketch series At Last The 1948 Show, which ran in 1967 and 1968 and starred John Cleese, Marty Feldman, Graham Chapman, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Aimi Macdonald.

The BBC, meanwhile, wiped the entire second series run of The Frankie Howerd Show, aired in 1965.

Mr Fiddy said: ‘The 1948 Showepisode plugs yet another gap in what has become the most successful rebuilding project of the entire “Missing Believed Wiped” initiative.

‘Material has come back from Sweden, Australia, industry personnel and private collectors to rebuild the once-thought-lost programme.

‘This latest retrieval is a near-complete episode which can be restored with the help of an existing clip of one of the two missing sketches and an audio recording of the other.’

Chris Perry of Kaleidoscope, which is helping the project, added: ‘Hats off to Dick Fiddy and his team for tracking down these hilarious episodes.’

Both items will be shown later this year at a Missing Believed Wiped event to be held at BFI Southbank.

If you want to check if you have a missing item, please contact Dick Fiddy at the BFI

Published: 2 Jun 2010

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