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Galton and Simpson

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 15:21

Writers Ray and Alan were responsible for shows like Hancock and Steptoe and Son ...

 

Born a year apart, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson first met at Milford Sanatorium in 1948 while undergoing treatment for T.B. and decided to collaborate on comedy shows for the amateur radio room used for occupational therapy.

Avid listeners of Take It From Here and The Goon Show, they wrote four scripts entitled Have You Ever Wondered. After leaving the sanatorium, Alan was asked to write a show for his church concert party. He contacted Ray, and by 1951 the pair were writing professionally for the BBC.

During the next decade the pair established themselves as one of Britain's most successful comedy-writing partnerships. Working from an office over a greengrocer in Shepherd's Bush along with a crowd of writers that included Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes, they met Tony Hancock and in 1954 Ray and Alan started writing Hancock's Half Hour.

Running for 101 episodes until its final broadcast in 1959, by 1956 the radio show transferred to television with 63 episodes screened before it ended in 1961. After their Sid James vehicle Citizen James, the pair moved on to write the BBC Comedy Playhouse. From the sixteen episodes emerged Steptoe and Son, starring Wilfred Brambell and Harry H. Corbett as the two rag-and-bone men.

Over the next twelve years Steptoe and Son ran for eight series on television and five on radio. Like Hancock's Half Hour before it, the format was sold world-wide, most successfully in America where Sanford and Son topped the ratings for five years.

After adapting Gabriel Chevalier's novel Clochemerle for television, they wrote the BBC series Casanova, starring Leslie Phillips, Dawson's Weekly and seven plays for The Galton and Simpson Playhouse before Alan decided to take a sabbatical. In 1995 they got back together to update eight of their classic scripts for the first of two series of Paul Merton in Galton and Simpson's .... Three years later BBC Radio 4 celebrated the 50th Anniversary of their partnership by broadcasting four of their comedies, specially adapted by Ray and Alan, in The Galton and Simpson Radio Playhouse.

Amongst their film credits are The Rebel, starring Tony Hancock, an adaptation of Joe Orton's play Loot, and two Steptoe and Son features. For the stage they collaborated on the revue Way Out in Piccadilly and adapted Rene d'Obaldia's The Wind in the Sassafras Trees, starring Frankie Howerd, which successfully transferred from London to Broadway.

The recipients of numerous awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Writers Guild, Ray and Alan were recognised with OBEs in the Millennium New Year's Honours.

In 2002 the BFI ran a special season culminating in the launch of a new book to commemorate forty years of Steptoe and Son, written in conjunction with Robert Ross.

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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