'I punched a writer in the face'

Ray Galton's fury at Hancock slur

Veteran comedy writer Ray Galton has revealed that he punched a writer in the face for suggesting that he took pleasure in Tony Hancock’s decline.

The 80-year old was hurt by the way he and his Hancock’s Half Hour co-writer Alan Simpson were portrayed in BBC Four’s 2008 Curse of Comedy season.

In the Hancock And Joan episode – which covered the comic’s alcoholism and affair with best friend John Le Mesurier’s wife – the writers were seen smirking at Hancock’s live show at the Royal Festival Hall in 1966, when he was well past the peak of his powers.

However, Simpson insists they never attended the performance, saying: ‘We didn’t have the chutzpah to go.

‘We thought: see this man die a death?’ he added. ‘We couldn’t do that. But in the dramatisation, the actors came in with smug looks on their faces and sat down. They were meant to be us. You could see they were thinking: Go on, let’s see him die a death now.’

Galton added: ‘When I met the author, I lost my temper and hit him.’

David Walliams – who was interviewing the writers for The Times with Matt Lucas – asked: ‘Where did you hit him?’

‘In the face,’ Galton replied.

Walliams added: ‘Depicting you wanting Tony to fail. I think it’s a big slur on you.”

Lucas added: ‘I don’t care that people need to make drama. I don’t think it’s acceptable.’

Hancock And Joan was written by Richard Cottan, who was nominated for a Bafta for his script. His credits also include the Kenneth Branagh crime series Wallander.

The Times interview was to publicised the publication of The Lost Hancock Scripts from ten early TV and radio programmes. Click here to order.

Here is a clip from that 1966 Royal Festival Hall performance:

Published: 11 Nov 2010

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