Bud Flanagan

Last updated

Bud Flanagan

Flanagan in a BBC publicity photograph from 1943
Chaim Reuben Weintrop

(1896-10-14)14 October 1896
Whitechapel, London, England
Died20 October 1968(1968-10-20) (aged 72)
Kingston, London, England
Resting place Golders Green Crematorium, London, England
Other namesRobert Winthrop
Occupation(s)Music hall entertainer, comedian, television and film actor
Known for Music hall comedy double act
Ann Quinn
(m. 1925)

Bud Flanagan, OBE (born Chaim Reuben Weintrop, 14 October 1896 – 20 October 1968) was a British music hall and vaudeville entertainer and comedian, and later a television and film actor. He was best known as being one half of the comedy and music act Flanagan and Allen with his partner Chesney Allen. Flanagan was famous as a wartime entertainer and his achievements were recognised when he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1959.


Family background

Flanagan was born in Whitechapel, in the East End of London. His parents, Wolf Weintrop (1856–1932) and Yetta (Kitty) Weintrop (1856–1935) were Polish Jews who were married in the city of Radom, Poland, and fled to Łódź on their wedding day to avoid a pogrom. Wolf and Yetta Weintrop intended to escape to the "New World" from Eastern Europe – they paid for a ticket to New York, but a dishonest ticket agent gave them a ticket to London.

In London, Wolf learned to be a shoe and bootmaker, earning extra money singing as a part-time cantor (Hazzan) and by singing in pubs on Saturday nights. Wolf and Yetta Weintrop had ten children, all born in London. At the time of the 1881 UK Census, Wolf "Wienkopf" and family lived in Brick Lane, and by the 1891 UK Census, the family had moved on to 12 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields.

Early life

Blue plaque on 12, Hanbury Street where Flanagan was born in 1896 Flanagan-plaque.jpg
Blue plaque on 12, Hanbury Street where Flanagan was born in 1896

At the time of the 1901 census, the Weintrop family were still at Hanbury Street, with Reuben aged four living with six of his siblings and his parents over a fried fish shop. They later owned a barber shop and tobacconist in Whitechapel. Weintrop attended school in Petticoat Lane, and by the age of 10 was working as call boy at the Cambridge Music Hall. In 1908, he made his début in a talent contest at the London Music Hall in Shoreditch, performing conjuring tricks as Fargo, the Boy Wizard.

Weintrop was born with a sense of adventure and was keen to see the world. In 1910, aged 14, he decided to leave home and walked all the way to Southampton where he claimed to be an electrician aged 17 to get a job aboard ship. He sailed with the SS Majestic to New York, and jumped ship when it arrived in the US. Reuben got various jobs selling newspapers, delivering telegrams for Western Union, and harvested wheat in Fargo, North Dakota. He joined a vaudeville show that toured across the US, whilst in October 1914, he sailed with a show to perform in New Zealand and Australia. He travelled to perform on stage in South Africa, where he met his brother Alec (Alexander), who was living there at the time.

Once back in San Francisco, Reuben decided to return to the United Kingdom to enlist to fight for Britain in the First World War. He returned to Britain in 1915 and enlisted as "Robert" Weintrop; he joined the Royal Field Artillery, and was sent with his unit to fight in France. In the Army, he worked as a driver and entertained the troops with his singing and impersonations. Here he met the anti-Semitic Sergeant-Major Flanagan, on whom Reuben later had his revenge when he adopted the name "Flanagan" as his stage name. In 1919 he formed a comedy double act, Flanagan and Roy, and they had a "black and white" act. [1] Newspaper reports indicate that Flanagan had gone solo by 1924 and was gaining an increasing audience. [2]

Showbusiness career

Bud Flanagan is best remembered as part of a double act with Chesney Allen, billed as Flanagan and Allen. They had first met on active service in Flanders, but did not work together until 1926, touring with a Florrie Forde show called "Here's to You". [3] They established a reputation and were booked by Val Parnell at the Holborn Empire. As music hall comedians they would often feature a mixture of comedy and music in their act and this led to a successful recording career as a duo and roles in film and television. Flanagan and Allen were both also members of The Crazy Gang, appearing in the first show at the London Palladium in 1931, and continued to work with the group, concurrently with their double-act career. [4]

Flanagan and Allen's songs featured the same, usually gentle humour for which the duo were known in their live performances, and during World War II reflected the experiences of ordinary people during wartime. Songs like "We're Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line" mocked the German defences (the Siegfried Line), while others like "Miss You" sang of missing one's sweetheart during enforced absences. Other songs such as their most famous "Underneath the Arches" (which Flanagan co-wrote with Reg Connelly) had universal themes such as friendship, which, again, helped people relate to the subject matter. The music was usually melodic, following a binary verse, verse chorus structure, with a small dance band or orchestra providing the backing. The vocals were distinctive because, while Flanagan was at least a competent singer and sang the melody lines, Allen used an almost spoken delivery to provide the harmonies.

Memorial to Bud Flanagan, Golders Green Crematorium Memorial to Bud Flanagan, Golders Green Crematorium.JPG
Memorial to Bud Flanagan, Golders Green Crematorium

Allen semi-retired in 1945 and Flanagan increasingly became a solo performer, although the two of them still appeared together on occasion, including for the 1957 TV series Together Again. In 1959, Flanagan was awarded the OBE, [5] [6] and received the award from the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace. By the 1960s, and with his career on the wane, Flanagan used his wealth to invest in betting shops. [7] Flanagan was a member of the entertainment charitable fraternity, the Grand Order of Water Rats.

Flanagan's last recording was Jimmy Perry and Derek Taverner's theme for the British sitcom Dad's Army , [8] "Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Hitler?", recorded by Pye shortly before his death in 1968, and for which he was paid 100 guineas (£105). The song was an affectionate pastiche of the sort of songs Flanagan had sung during the war.

In tribute, Flanagan's fellow comedian Charlie Chester said, "No artist born was more loved by his brothers. No man gave more in human happiness". [9]

Personal life

He met his wife Anne (known as "Curly"), daughter of Irish comedian Johnny Quinn ("The Singing Clown"), who was a dancer in "Mrs. Stacey's Young Ladies".[ citation needed ] They married in 1925 and their son Buddy was born the following year. He went on to become an actor and a night club entertainer. Buddy died of leukaemia in Los Angeles in 1956. [10]

Flanagan died on 20 October 1968. After his death, the estate of Bud Flanagan started a charity to promote cancer research. A primary aim of the Bud Flanagan Leukaemia Fund is to support the Leukaemia/Myeloma Unit at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton, Surrey. [11] [12]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Max Bygraves</span> British entertainer (1922–2012)

Walter William "Max" Bygraves was an English comedian, singer, actor and variety performer. He appeared on his own television shows, sometimes performing comedy sketches between songs. He made twenty Royal Variety Performance appearances and presented numerous programmes, including Family Fortunes between 1983 and 1985. His catchphrase "I wanna tell you a story" became an integral part of his act, although it had originated with comedian Mike Yarwood impersonating Bygraves.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roy Hudd</span> English comedian, actor, presenter, radio host and writer

Roy Hudd, OBE was an English comedian, actor, presenter, radio host, author and authority on the history of music hall entertainment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Crazy Gang (comedy group)</span>

The Crazy Gang were a group of British entertainers, formed in the early 1930s. In the mature form the group's six men were Bud Flanagan, Chesney Allen, Jimmy Nervo, Teddy Knox, Charlie Naughton and Jimmy Gold. The group achieved considerable domestic popularity and were a favourite of the royal family, especially King George VI.

Flanagan and Allen were a British singing and comedy double act most active during the 1930s and 1940s. Its members were Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen (1894–1982). They were first paired in a Florrie Forde revue, and were booked by Val Parnell to appear at the Holborn Empire in 1929.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chesney Allen</span> English entertainer of the Second World War period

William Ernest Chesney Allen was a popular English entertainer of the Second World War period. He is best remembered for his comedy and music double act with Bud Flanagan as duo Flanagan and Allen.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Underneath the Arches (song)</span>

"Underneath the Arches" is a 1932 popular song with words and music by Bud Flanagan, and additional lyrics by Reg Connelly. It was one of the most famous songs of the duo Flanagan and Allen.

<i>Gasbags</i> 1941 British film

Gasbags is a 1941 British comedy film directed by Walter Forde and Marcel Varnel and starring The Crazy Gang as well as Moore Marriott. The film was a morale-booster in the early part of the Second World War.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bernie Winters</span> British comedian and musician

Bernie Winters, was an English comedian, actor, musician & TV presenter, and the comic foil of the double act Mike and Bernie Winters with his older brother, Mike. Winters later performed solo, often with the aid of his St Bernard dog, Schnorbitz.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dickie Henderson</span> English music hall comedian and singer

Richard Matthew Michael Henderson, OBE was an English entertainer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hanbury Street</span> Street in London

Hanbury Street is a street running from Spitalfields to Whitechapel, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, in the East End of London. It runs east from Commercial Street to the junction of Old Montague Street and Vallance Road at the east end. The eastern section is restricted to pedal cycles and pedestrians only.

The Argyle Theatre was a theatre in Birkenhead, on the Wirral Peninsula, England. It was opened in December 1868, initially as the Argyle Music Hall.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nervo and Knox</span>

Jimmy Nervo and Teddy Knox were English comedians who formed a double act and were part of the original Crazy Gang comedy group.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">'Monsewer' Eddie Gray</span> English stage comedian (1898–1969)

Edward Earl Gray, who performed as 'Monsewer' Eddie Gray, was an English stage comedian. He appeared in music halls as a solo act and also as a member of the Crazy Gang.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Davy Kaye</span> English comedy actor and entertainer

Davy Kaye MBE was a British comedy actor and entertainer.

<i>Life Is a Circus</i> 1960 Britsih film by Val Guest

Life is a Circus is a 1960 British comedy film directed by Val Guest and starring Bud Flanagan, Teddy Knox, Jimmy Nervo, Jimmy Gold and Charlie Naughton of the Crazy Gang. The screenplay concerns a down-on-its-luck circus that uses an Aladdin's Magic Lamp to try to save their business.

<i>The Frozen Limits</i> 1939 film

The Frozen Limits is a 1939 British comedy western film directed by Marcel Varnel and starring Jimmy Nervo, Bud Flanagan, Teddy Knox, Chesney Allen and Charlie Naughton a group of entertainers commonly known as The Crazy Gang. It was written by Val Guest.

<i>O-Kay for Sound</i> 1937 British film

O-Kay for Sound is a 1937 British comedy film directed by Marcel Varnel and starring the Crazy Gang troupe of comedians. After falling on hard times the members of the Crazy Gang are busking on the streets of London. However, they are hired as extras on a film set. After arriving at the studios they are mistaken for a group of potential investors and given free run of the studios, causing chaos.

Theatre Royal is a 1943 British comedy film directed by John Baxter and starring Bud Flanagan, Chesney Allen and Lydia Sherwood. The plot concerns an attempt by the staff of a theatre to prevent its closure.

<i>Dreaming</i> (1944 British film) 1944 British comedy film

Dreaming is a 1944 British comedy film directed by John Baxter and starring Bud Flanagan, Chesney Allen and Hazel Court. Its plot concerns a soldier who is knocked unconscious during a train journey and has a series of bizarre dreams.

Here Comes the Sun is a 1946 British comedy film directed by John Baxter and starring Bud Flanagan, Chesney Allen and Elsa Tee. The film follows a sports reporter on the run from the police as he tries to clear his name.


  1. "The Scotsman". The Scotsman: 7. 11 March 1919.
  2. "Falkirk Herald". Falkirk Herald: 4. 6 September 1924.
  3. King, Brian (2020). Rediscovered Dundee. Troubador Publishing. ISBN   978-1838591922.
  4. Coniam, Matthew (2019). Movies are a Conspiracy: Selected Essays on Cinema. Lulu. ISBN   978-0244466909.
  5. My Crazy Life. Frederick Muller Ltd., London. 1961.
  6. "Supplement to the London Gazette". 5 June 1959. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  7. "East London History". eastlondonhistory.com. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  8. "The Dad's Army Appreciation Society". Dadsarmy.co.uk. 14 May 2000. Retrieved 22 April 2010.
  9. "'Bud Flanagan Leukaemia Fund'". Bflf.org.uk. Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  10. "Bud Flanagan's son dies". Evening Standard . 1 March 1956. Retrieved 23 March 2024 via Newspapers.com. Lock-green.svg
  11. Ray Donn. "The Bud Flanagan Leukaemia Fund". Bflf.org.uk. Retrieved 22 April 2010.
  12. "The Royal Marsden Hospital". Royalmarsden.nhs.uk. Archived from the original on 15 August 2007. Retrieved 22 April 2010.