Kenneth Williams tee shirt, yet another phrase he was famous for!
His professional career began in 1948 with roles in repertory theatre, but few serious parts suited his camp delivery. His failure to become a serious dramatic actor disappointed him, but potential as a comic performer gave him his break. He was spotted playing the Dauphin in George Bernard Shaw's St Joan in 1954 by the radio producer Dennis Main Wilson, who was casting Hancock's Half Hour, a radio series starring Tony Hancock. Williams went on to lend his distinctive vocal and comedic talents to the series until almost the end of its run, five years later. His nasal, whiny, camp-cockney inflections (epitomised in his "Stop messing about..." catchphrase) became hugely popular with the listening public and would endure in popular lore for many years. Despite the success and recognition the radio show brought him, Williams's own view was that theatre, film and television were 'superior' forms of entertainment to radio shows.
When Hancock decided to move the show away from what he considered to be 'gimmicks' and silly voices, Williams found himself having less to do on the programme. Tiring of his increasingly reduced appearances, Williams joined Kenneth Horne in Beyond Our Ken (1958–1964), and its sequel, Round the Horne (1965–1968). In the latter, his roles included Rambling Syd Rumpo, the eccentric folk singer; Dr Chou En Ginsberg, MA (failed), Oriental criminal mastermind; J. Peasemold Gruntfuttock, professional telephone heavy breather and dirty old man; and Sandy of the camp couple, Julian and Sandy (Julian was played by Hugh Paddick), and the double-act was notable for their double entendres and homosexual slang known as Polari.
Williams and Hancock had started out as good friends and would regularly discuss philosophical matters in one another's company, their discussions sometimes lasting an entire night. However, after Hancock cut many of Williams's appearances on the show, they fell out and Williams distanced himself from Hancock from then on. His reaction to the news of Hancock's suicide in Sydney, Australia, on 24 June 1968, as recorded in his diary, was one of indifference to the death of his former friend and criticism of Hancock's decline in both his career and personal life. This was a stark contrast to his fond thoughts and praise of Hancock in his diaries from previous years.
Williams appeared in West End revues including with Maggie Smith in Share My Lettuce, written by Bamber Gascoigne, and Pieces of Eight with Fenella Fielding, which included material written by Peter Cook, then still a student at Cambridge University, including One Leg Too Few and Interesting Facts, that would both become well known routines in Cook's own stage performances. Williams's last revue was One over the Eight, with Sheila Hancock. Williams later starred opposite Jennie Linden in My Fat Friend in 1972. He also appeared with Ingrid Bergman in a stage production of George Bernard Shaw's Captain Brassbound's Conversion in 1971. Particularly in the theatre, Williams was famous for breaking character, ad-libbing and talking to the audience.
This product was added to our catalog on Tuesday 15 December, 2009.