Ian Hendry + Tommy Cooper: Cooper To Play John Steed Of The Avengers? Royston Mayoh, Victor Spinetti And An Overheard Conversation At ‘The Agglers’…
Video above: Tommy Cooper and Ian Hendry – Cooper (1975)
Every so now and then I have the good fortune to chat with someone who worked with Ian back in his heyday.
On this occasion I was carrying out so research on Ians’ This Is Your Life (1978) and was put in contact with Royston Mayoh, who was one of the Executive Producers for the show. He was kind enough to send me an account of the time he worked with Ian Hendry and Tommy Cooper on the Cooper Show in 1975 – which we’ve reproduced it in full below.
Picture: Tommy Cooper and Ian Hendry – Cooper (1975)
Despite being cast frequently in ‘serious’ roles or as the villain in his TV and Film – Ian’s loved comedy and comedians. Whilst studying at the Central School of Speech + Drama in London he met and became close friends with Coco The Clown – and became his stooge learning many of the tricks of the trade. He was a clown at heart. That experience and memory of the circus and working with Coco would stay with him for the rest of his life. Ian and Tommy remained friends and Tommy would appear as a special guest on Ian’s This Is Your Life in 1978
As well as discussing Ian’s work, we also enjoy ‘shining the spotlight’ on those who worked with him or knew him and revealing more about the film and television history of the era. So before we get to Royston’s account, we’ll begin this article with at some of the highlights of his 50+ years in television.
Royston Mayoh – A Short Biography
Although Royston has spent a large part of his life as a Director/ Producer, acting has given him a new career in later life. Royston is one of the key members in the ITV show ‘Off Their Rockers‘
Royston has written a fascinating account of his 50+ years in television. It’s fascinating reading:
The following is an extract from the article:
“What follows is a long and fairly detailed biography of my 50+ years in the Television Industry, Unless you have time to read it, here is a potted version. Starting a career as a Film/TV cameraman, moving swiftly through scriptwriting and on to the positon of Producer/Director of major ITV and BBC programmes through the 60’s right up to 2005 both in the UK and India. illness stopped that career but gave birth to two NEW ones, that of a Lecturer and that of an Actor. My Lecturing skills were rated outstanding by Ofcom and my Acting skills are being required more and more the older I get.
Thats the short Version, Here is the LONG version, to be read with a cop of tea in hand!
In the world of 60’s 70’s 80’s 90’s &20’s TV production, Royston Mayoh was better known as a Director/Producer specialising in entertainment marking up many successes over a 50 year career as a writer and innovator of original formats for BBC, ITV, Ch4, BskyB and FIVE.
As a Freelance Director / Producer he earned a reputation for being associated with top rated shows both in the UK and Internationally.
Throughout his career, Royston has specialised in innovative and ground breaking high-rated successes in Comedy / Dance / Game shows / Lifestyle and Music. This has resulted in BAFTA nominations and many International Awards.
His work in Multi Camera TV Direction and production of music shows earned him the prestigious New York International Gold award for his directorial skills resulting in the pop music hit ITV series RAZZMATAZZ. Included among the many music LIVE Outside Broadcast specials are BB KING, PEGGY LEE, ROD STEWART, SADE, THE THREE TENORS & DONNA SUMMER.
In India Royston achieved strong programme and film making affiliations with Fahad Samar of Bombay Talkie productions, Anil Malhotra of Eagle Films (Bombay and Delhi Studios) and Siddhartha Basu, Anita Kaul Basu & Karun Prabakaran of Synergy Communications (Mumbai ‘Millionaire’). With Royston’s guidance these companies made top-rated and highly acclaimed programmes exclusively for the Indian market.
Royston also has a notable track record in TV Comedy, producing and directing now ‘classic’ comedy TV series including the legendary and quite disparate shows starring, amongst many others, KENNY EVERETT, LES DAWSON, LITTLE & LARGE and TOMMY COOPER.
In terms of ‘Award’ shows Royston has directed the British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA Film Awards), the Evening Standard British Film Awards, 3 years of the Channel [V] Music Awards in Delhi, the International Indian Film Awards in London and South Africa and produced, wrote and Directed The Good Food Awards for the BBC.
Royston was Executive Producer and ‘creative’ for a TV Spectacular from the Ostend Casino, which launched the, now leading, Belgian Flemish language Commercial TV Station VTM. Royston Produced and Directed the FIRST colour programme from Australia, the FIRST satellite broadcast from Tokyo and directed THIS IS YOUR LIFE from the USA (Jule Styne). This was in addition to the 106 UK THIS IS YOUR LIFE episodes the MOHAMMED ALI one hour special and the LIVE Moulin Rouge special featuring the original MISS BLUEBELL (Margaret Kelly) .
As an actor Royston has also appeared in many commercials, corporate productions and, more recently, in 4 episodes of EMMERDALE as the Restaurant Owner Raymond Robinson, a rustic gardener in a new Farmfoods commercial. And yet to be transmitted (scheduled for Christmas 2013) as STOUGHTON the Butler in a 3 part series of the Drama DEATH COMES TO PEMBERELY, and three quite differing portayals of an Grandad/Old Man. In the short Art House Film CACHE the character is a wise old worryingly mad clairvoyant, In THE HARD DAYS WORK the character is a warm and empathetic Granddad and in THE ARTEX FAMILY a stumbling, clumsy, but lovable old Grandad that simply ‘gets in the way’
However, following the success of the first ‘pilot’ series of OFF THEIR ROCKERS Royston is thrilled to be invited back for its third series and is presently completing the filming along with 10 other disgracefully irresponsible ‘old farts’.
Royston Mayoh is a Member of B.A.F.T.A – D.G.G.B. & B.E.C.T.U.
Royston Mayoh: Working With Ian Hendry + Tommy Copper (+ an anecdote from Victor Spinetti)
Firstly, a big thank you to Royston Mayoh for allowing us to reproduce his account in full for the website:
“I only ever worked with your uncle once, and that was on the TOMMY COOPER SHOW.
As I recall it your Uncle’s agent contacted Tommy’s agent to let him know that Ian had been waxing lyrical about what bliss it would be to work with Tom.
As these things tend to do, it all got mixed up somewhere within the casting department and my Head of Department called me up with ‘ …what’s all this about Ian Hendry? You haven’t got that sort of money,especially as the show sells so well overseas….’ I explained that I didn’t know what he was talking about which was true, so Philip Jones got the head of casting on the phone there and then to check the veracity of the rumour/story/wish/fact or whatever it was……….
[At this point you should know that IAN HENDRY was an enormous star, who (in much kinder times) had taken a ‘break’ away! So he had been out of the public eye for while]
…………..[Edit: Name removed by request] was incandescent with rage and complained bitterly that MIFF FERRY ( Toms agent) was attempting to ‘cast’ the show outside of the normal lines of communication and that she had found out by accident and was NOT happy about it because this had totally denied her the right to negotiate a fee, so now we would be duty bound to pay top dollar! At which point I jumped in and asked from whom she had heard about it ? It turned out to be the Barman at THE ANGLERS Teddington who had announced that IAN HENDRY was back doing DANGER MAN alongside TOMMY COOPER who was playing STEED from THE AVENGERS. The barman had heard this from the horses mouth Tommy himself, who often frequented this pub that he affectionately called ‘ THE AGGLERS‘
Picture: Tommy Cooper and Ian Hendry – Cooper (1975)
There were other rumours too that the contract THAMES had with Ian specified that IF it was discovered that IAN HENDRY had ‘come off the wagon’ and was ‘drunk’ then all bets were OFF.
NOW I can tell you that, as the producer of the Show, these notes and observations are complete RUBBISH.
NO such contract was ever drawn up or , to my knowledge, even discussed by anyone connected to the TOMMY COOPER HOUR. I would have known, because unlike today’s regime, the ‘producer’ had to know every aspect as there was NIT ONE aspect of the production that the ‘ Producer’ wasn’t RESPONSIBLE for.
The contractual details including RIDERS and FEE and also any background notes which may have ‘lead’ to the booking, including my own casting preferences, we’re all included in a P.asT. ( production as transmitted) form , which was signed by both the Producer AND the Director before any payments could be actioned .
As I was both Producer and Director , I would have signed your Uncles contract twice.
He learnt the part, he brought a new characterisation, and comedy , to the role that even surprised the writer DICK HILLS, he and Tom got on like a house on fire, and the whole experience was one of sheer joy.
I do also remember, my friend, VICTOR SPINETTI banging on about what a superb actor IAN HENDRY was , and made much about his ‘eye contact’ which Victor had described as rather like someone leaning in and inviting your soul to come out to play !
That, as they say, is that !
Thank you for providing the opportunity of reminding myself about the time I worked with your uncle IAN HENDRY.
Yours most sincerely
The comment by Victor Spinetti intrigued me and I wanted to find out more about this actor’s life.
Picture: Victor Spinetti with John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Picture: Victor Spinetti
The following is an extract from Victor Spinetti’s obituary published by The Guardian:
“Victor Spinetti was an outrageously talented Welsh actor and raconteur who made his name with Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop and found fame and fortune as a friend and colleague of the Beatles, appearing in three of their five films, and with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Franco Zeffirelli’s The Taming of the Shrew (1967).
It was while he was giving his brilliantly articulated and hilarious “turn” as the gobbledegook-shouting drill sergeant in Oh, What a Lovely War! in the West End in 1963 – he won a Tony for the performance when the show went to Broadway – that the Beatles visited him backstage and invited him to appear in A Hard Day’s Night (1964).
“George Harrison later said that his mother would refuse to go and see the group’s films unless Spinetti was in them…”
These, and other tales of the stars, would be recounted by Spinetti himself in his one-man shows, and in the wonderful autobiography he wrote, Up Front (2006), with the help of another Littlewood associate, Peter Rankin.”
A wonderfully colourful character, Spinetti was in his element when the 60’s arrived:
“He was more than ready for the swinging 60s, living a champagne lifestyle and dressing colourfully, even when he could not pay all the bills. And if that happened, he told me, he “spanked old gentlemen for money” so he could buy Christmas presents. “My dear old mother told me that, if she’d known at the time, she would have come along and given me a hand!”
After his New York success and the first two Beatles films – Richard Lester’s Help! followed A Hard Day’s Night in 1965 – he played opposite Jack Klugman in Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple at the Queen’s in 1966 and then accepted an invitation from the critic Kenneth Tynan to co-write and direct John Lennon’s zany, poetic In His Own Write at the National (then based at the Old Vic) in 1968.
His career after this phenomenal start was erratic. He clocked up more than 30 films, including the third Beatles collaboration, Magical Mystery Tour (1967) for television, and Andrew Sinclair’s Under Milk Wood (1972) with the Burtons again, as well as Peter O’Toole, Siân Phillips and Vivien Merchant.
Spinetti was always in work but there was not much focus to it. He started directing musicals in the 1970s, taking charge of Hair in Amsterdam and Rome, and Jesus Christ Superstar in Paris. In 1980 he directed The Biograph Girl, a mediocre musical about the silent movie era at the Phoenix theatre, London, and shortly afterwards launched his one-man show of tart and funny reminiscences, A Very Private Diary, at the Edinburgh festival, but only on the fringe.
Later film work included a nice cameo in Peter Medak’s The Krays (1990). On television he played in an early sitcom opposite Sid James, Two in Clover, but became even better known as a Mexican snack thief in adverts for McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes. In the 1980s he was the voice of Texas Pete in the children’s series SuperTed, and 10 years ago played the “man of a thousand faces” in the popular children’s show Harry and the Wrinklies.
His last on-screen appearance was in a recent DVD of an independent film, Seth Swirsky’s Beatles Stories, issued to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first recording session at Abbey Road. And on stage he last garnered acclaim as Einstein in Albert’s Boy at the Finborough theatre in Earl’s Court in 2005. There he was, taking an audience by surprise right to the end.
Thanks again to Royston Mayoh for his personal account. Keep rocking!
Until next time
Editor, Official Website of Ian Hendry
A detailed account of the life and work of Ian Hendry in the new biography: