Rare Promotional Still – Tommy Cooper + Ian Hendry – Thames Television (1975)
Picture above: Tommy Cooper and Ian Hendry – Cooper (1975). Thames Television – Original Promotional Still
Every so now and then, a lovely piece of memorabilia turns up from a ‘vault’ somewhere that gives us another glimpse into the ‘golden age’ of television. Discovered recently is a now defunct newspaper’s archive, this black and white still captures a moment from the Cooper Show in 1975 – in which Tommy Cooper and Ian Hendry starred in a sketch together.
Ian had many friends from the world of comedy and in his biography on Ian, Gabriel Hershman recalls how Ian often preferred the company of comedians than actors. There were exceptions of course, Ronnie Fraser was a very close friend and an actor – but his personality and lifestyle often bore the hallmarks of light comedy!
Ian had been friends with Tommy Cooper for sometime and that led to the two working together as Royston Mayoh recalls below. The two remained firm friends and Tommy would appear with him again, this time as a special guest on Ian’s This Is Your Life in 1978
Picture above: Description on back of photograph – Tommy Cooper + Ian Hendry (1975)
According to the ratings from 1975 – listed on the Fifties Web website – The Tommy Cooper Hour came in at number 16, just ahead of The Two Ronnies!
TV Ratings – 1975
1. Royal Variety Performance (ITV)
2. Benny Hill (ITV)
3. European Football (BBC)
4. Miss World 1975 (BBC)
5. Love Thy Neighbor (ITV)
6. This is Your Life (ITV)
7. Dr No (ITV)
8. Dad’s Army (BBC)
9. Generation Game (BBC)
10. The Sweeney (ITV) 11. Cilla’s Comedy Six (ITV)
12. Coronation Street (ITV)
13. Edward the Seventh (ITV)
14. Man About the House (ITV)
15. Bless This House (ITV)
16. Tommy Cooper Hour (ITV)
17. The Two Ronnies (BBC)
18. My Old Man (ITV)
19. News at Ten (ITV)
20. Upstairs Downstairs (ITV)
It’s interesting to note that ‘homes in millions’ was used back then – rather than the more modern ‘viewers in millions’ – with the data being compiled from the Audits of Great Britain (AGB) from 1972-1981. The Crossroads Network website provides some very detailed listings and viewing figures of the top shows from the 70’s – fascinating reading.
With only three main TV channels available, viewing figures for programmes in the 70’s were far in excess of those achieved by domestic television today. By autumn 1978 the Tommy Cooper show was reaching an estimated 13.2 million households. When Ian was featured on This Is Your Life in March 1978, Thames Television was regularly achieving viewing figures of between 15 to 19 million households for the show – quite some reach.
Ian Hendry + Tommy Cooper + Royston Mayoh (Executive Producer)
Recently, whilst I was carrying out so research on Ians’ This Is Your Life (1978) I was put in touch 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.
Indeed that deep of love of comedy was reflected in a comment by Dame Judi Dench – who was two years below Ian at Central School of Speech + Drama. Whilst Gabriel Hershman was carrying out research for his biography on Ian, she told him that:
“I think he was the first student I had ever seen whom I believed had been born an actor. He was wonderful at light comedy and we all looked up to him and admired him enormously.”
Video above: Tommy Cooper and Ian Hendry – Policeman Sketch (Cooper 1975)
Royston Mayoh: Recalls 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
Victor Spinetti – In Short
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.
Until next time
Editor, Official Website of Ian Hendry
A detailed account of the life and work of Ian Hendry in the new biography: