This is an online encyclopedia of personalities of Old Time Radio. It is designed for educational and entertainment purposes.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tony Hancock (1924-68)

Anthony John Hancock was born May 12, 1924, in Birmingham, England. He grew up in Bournemouth, where his father, John Hancock, ran the Railway Hotel and provided entertainment to guests as a comedian. After John died in 1934 Tony's mother and step-father took their sons to move to Durlston, Swanage, where they also lived in a hotel. Tony attended Durlston Park Preparatory School, a boarding school. He attended high school at Bradfield College in Reading, Berkshire, but quit at the age of 15.

During World War II, Tony served with the RAF Regiment as a member of the ground crew on the homefront. He tried out for the Entertainments National Service Association but failed at the audition. He ended up as resident comedian at the Windmill Theatre in London and performed on such radio series as Workers' Playtime and Variety Bandbox.

In 1954, he was given his own program, Hancock's Half-Hour. That was on until 1960 and was later a television series. Tony appeared in movies.

The Tony Hancock on Hancock's Half-Hour was a totally different person than the real Tony Hancock. Tony made that character likable. The radio character's name was Anthony Aloysius St. John Hancock. He didn't drink very much. He was cocky. He was very proud. The real Tony Hancock was lonely and shy. He used alcohol to "lubricate" both work and personal relationships. And he could get outright mean and nasty.

He had a tremendous ego and was very difficult to work with, said colleagues Spike Mulligan and others. He was often drunk and abusive. When things got really bad in the U.K., he headed south to Australia where he had started a television series, Hancock Down Under. Only six episodes were filmed before he committed suicide of a sleeping pill overdose (with a vodka chaser) on June 25, 1968, in Sydney, New South Wales. He was 44. His body was cremated and his ashes were returned to the U.K. by the multi-talented Willie Rushton (1937-96). He flew first class for the first time in his life. His ashes are interred with his mother's grave, who died a year later, at St. Dunstan Church in Cranford near London.

He was married twice. His first wife was the model Cicely J.E. Romanis (d. 1969). They divorced in 1965. He married his pubicist Freddie Ross (1930- ), but they divorced, too. Upon his divorce from Freddie, Tony struck up a relationship with Joan Le Mesurier, who was the wife of John Le Mesurier (1912-83) of the radio series Dad's Army. Tony and Joan's affair began after the first six months of her marriage to John. One year after Tony's suicide, his first wife died from a fall.

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