Peter Cook: A Biography

Peter Cook: A Biography

Harry Thompson

Language: English

Pages: 527

ISBN: 0340649682

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A biography of comedian and satirist Peter Cook, examining the seriousness behind the jokes, how he made a generation see the world differently and charting the emotional life of a genius who by the end had withdrawn from the world almost entirely.

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role in A Dandy in Aspic, Anthony Mann’s film of Derek Marlowe’s ingenious spy thriller; an appearance alongside Dudley in Richard Lester’s version of the Spike Milligan–John Antrobus play The Bedsitting Room; and a reprise of his moustache-twirling antics of The Wrong Box, again alongside Dudley, in the Franco-Italian comedy Monte Carlo or Bust. All of these were essentially compromises; what Peter really wanted was to star as the lead in his own light comedy vehicle. Sadly, his commercial clout

transmission if any of the TV channels see fit to pay for the work. What remains, though, is ample proof of the commonly held perception during the 1960s and 1970s that successful BBC shows invariably lost something in the big money transfer to ITV. Shaun O’Riordan, the producer, was not of the comedy Premier League like Joe McGrath or Dick Clement, and clashed with Peter and Dudley, especially when he preferred to reshoot sketches that had not run entirely smoothly the first time. Much of the

slight air of slackness. The rock groups and the long hair that Peter and Dudley now sported did not help either: their cast of elderly upper-class twits and sad working-class bores took on a more subversive air when acted by well-spoken, clean-cut, short-haired boys performing within the then still dignified and old-fashioned surroundings of the BBC. Their comedy now seemed to be coming from outside the Establishment rather than inside, culturally as well as geographically. All of which is not

York performance record in November, both Peter and Dudley were weary and bored and keen to come home; but Alexander Cohen badgered them persistently to stay on and undertake a national tour of the USA. ‘Dudley truly didn’t want to go on,’ remembers Cohen,23 but somehow the reluctant pair found themselves persuaded. Fortunately for Cohen, they feared that they would lose the proceeds of all their hard work to the Labour Government’s 90 per cent tax rate on high earners. Peter and Dudley were

up throughout the evening, it was wonderful. They were outraged by it.’ The reviewer from the Brighton and Hove Herald thought that the idea of a sketch about the war was ‘vaguely indecent’, the notion of attacking capital punishment was ‘atrocious’, and any mockery of Britain’s preparations for nuclear attack was utterly preposterous. ‘Why be funny about civil defence?’ he asked in genuine indignation. The show’s reception in Brighton seemed to have sounded its death-knell. Albery was content

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