Dick Emery

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Dick Emery
Dick Emery and Susie Silvey.jpg
Richard Gilbert Emery

(1915-02-19)19 February 1915
Died2 January 1983(1983-01-02) (aged 67)
Resting place Mortlake Crematorium
Years active1946–1983
  • Joan Sainsbury
  • Irene Ansell
  • Iris Tully
  • Victoria Chambers
  • Josephine Blake

Richard Gilbert Emery (19 February 1915 2 January 1983) was an English comedian and actor. [1] Beginning on radio in the 1950s, a self-titled television series ran from 1963 to 1981. [2] [3]

Comedian person who seeks to entertain an audience, primarily by making them laugh

A comedian or comic is a person who seeks to entertain an audience by making them laugh. This might take many forms including jokes, satirical observations, amusing situations, acting foolish or employing prop comedy. A comedian who addresses an audience directly is called a stand-up comedian. Other practises include the sitcom, sketch comedy and improv genres.

Actor Person who acts in a dramatic or comic production and works in film, television, theatre, or radio

An actor is a person who portrays a character in a performance. The actor performs "in the flesh" in the traditional medium of the theatre or in modern media such as film, radio, and television. The analogous Greek term is ὑποκριτής (hupokritḗs), literally "one who answers". The actor's interpretation of their role—the art of acting—pertains to the role played, whether based on a real person or fictional character. Interpretation occurs even when the actor is "playing themselves", as in some forms of experimental performance art.


Life and career

Richard Gilbert Emery was born in University College Hospital, Bloomsbury, London. [4] His parents were the comedy double act Callan and Emery. They took him on tour when he was only 3 weeks old and gave him the occasional turn on the stage throughout his childhood, which was always on the move and disrupted, creating problems for the future, but at least setting the scene for eventually going into show business himself. His parents split up when he was 8 and he chose to stay with his mother, who gave up show business. [5] He tried a variety of jobs before the stage: mechanic, office boy, farm hand and driving instructor.

University College Hospital Hospital in London

University College Hospital (UCLH) is a teaching hospital located in London, England. It is part of the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and is closely associated with University College London (UCL). The hospital is located on Euston Road in the Bloomsbury area of the London Borough of Camden, adjacent to the main campus of UCL. The nearest London Underground stations are Euston Square and Warren Street, with Goodge Street nearby.

During the Second World War he was called up to the RAF and rose to the rank of corporal. However, because of family problems, he returned to London joining the chorus line of The Merry Widow at the Majestic Theatre, London. He was recruited by Ralph Reader into the RAF Gang Show to entertain air and ground crew at bases in Great Britain.

Royal Air Force Aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces

The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's aerial warfare force. Formed towards the end of the First World War on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world. Following victory over the Central Powers in 1918 the RAF emerged as, at the time, the largest air force in the world. Since its formation, the RAF has taken a significant role in British military history. In particular, it played a large part in the Second World War where it fought its most famous campaign, the Battle of Britain.

Ralph Reader actor

William Henry Ralph Reader, known as Ralph Reader, was a British actor, theatrical producer and songwriter, known for staging the original Gang Show, a variety entertainment presented by members of the Scouting movement, and for leading community singing at FA Cup Finals.

Stars in Battledress(SiB) was an organisation of entertainers who were members of the British Armed Forces during World War II.

At this time he created Vera Thin (the Forces' Sweetheart), loosely based on Vera Lynn, later saying, "I was better in drag than combat gear". [6] After D-Day, his unit toured forward airbases.

Vera Lynn British singer and actress

Dame Vera Margaret Lynn is an English singer of traditional popular music, songwriter and actress, whose musical recordings and performances were enormously popular during the Second World War.

On leaving the RAF, he returned to the theatre as a comedian. He worked at the Windmill Theatre, though his name does not appear on the plaque commemorating the acts that played there. He toured his fledgling act around the United Kingdom.

Windmill Theatre Theatre and cinema in Londons Soho

The Windmill Theatre — now The Windmill International — in Great Windmill Street, London was for many years both a variety and revue theatre. The Windmill remains best known for its nude tableaux vivants, which began in 1932 and lasted until its reversion to a cinema in 1964. Many prominent British comedians of the post-war years started their careers working at this theatre.

He also auditioned for various parts and in 1952 he starred in a role in a 15-minute Radio Luxembourg series on Saturdays at 7.00pm called Chance of a Lifetime. This was a quiz sponsored by Marshall Ward in which merchandise to the value of £30 was awarded to contestants. Other radio work around this time included several appearances on Workers' Playtime on the BBC, a morale-boosting show that had started during the war to entertain factory workers in their canteens. Emery also made a guest appearance on the popular BBC radio programme The Goon Show , replacing regular cast member Harry Secombe when he was absent for one episode in 1957.

Workers' Playtime was a British radio variety programme transmitted by the BBC between 1941 and 1964. Originally intended as a morale-booster for industrial workers in Britain during World War II, the programme was broadcast at lunchtime, three times a week, live from a factory canteen "somewhere in Britain", initially on the BBC Home Service and, from 1957, on the Light Programme. For all its 23 years each show concluded with the words from the show's producer, Bill Gates: "Good luck, all workers!"

<i>The Goon Show</i> BBC Radio show broadcast between 1950 and 1960

The Goon Show was a British radio comedy programme, originally produced and broadcast by the BBC Home Service from 1951 to 1960, with occasional repeats on the BBC Light Programme. The first series, broadcast from 28 May to 20 September 1951, was titled Crazy People; subsequent series had the title The Goon Show, a title inspired, according to Spike Milligan, by a Popeye character.

Harry Secombe Welsh entertainer

Sir Harry Donald Secombe was a Welsh comedian, actor and singer. Secombe was a member of the British radio comedy programme The Goon Show (1951–60), playing many characters, but most notably, Neddie Seagoon. An accomplished tenor, he also appeared in musicals and films – notably as Mr Bumble in Oliver! (1968) – and, in his later years, was a presenter of television shows incorporating hymns and other devotional songs.

During 1953 he briefly formed a double act with Charlie Drake. [7] His television debut came in 1950 on The Centre Show on the BBC. Throughout the 1950s he appeared on programmes including Round the Bend (BBC, 1955–56) and Educating Archie (ITV, 1958–59) and appeared with his friend Tony Hancock in several episodes of The Tony Hancock Show (ITV, 1956) and Hancock's Half Hour (BBC, 1957).

He enhanced his reputation on two series with former Goon Michael Bentine: After Hours (ITV, 1958–59) and It's a Square World (BBC, 1960–64). His role as Private Chubby Catchpole in the final series of The Army Game (ITV 1960) led to an exclusive BBC contract, and the long-running The Dick Emery Show (BBC, 1963–81) began.

The show involved Emery dressing up as various characters, "a flamboyant cast of comic grotesques". These included the buck-toothed Church of England vicar, sex-starved, menopausal, man-eating spinster Hetty, and Clarence, an outrageously camp man who coined the catchphrase "Hello Honky Tonks". Other roles were gormless denim-clad bovver boy Gaylord (in a double act with his long suffering father, played by several actors [8] including Roy Kinnear) where, each week, he would mess up and utter the catchphrase "Dad, I fink I got it wrong again", the crusty pensioner James Maynard Kitchener Lampwick, College (a genteel tramp whose real name was Lancelot Orpington Penrose) and Mandy, a busty peroxide blonde whose catchphrase, "Ooh, you are awful ... but I like you!" (given in response to a seemingly innocent remark made by her interviewer, played by Gordon Clyde, but perceived by her as ribald double entendre), preceded a hefty shove on the shoulder of the interviewer, and a prompt about-turn walk-off with a trip. Michael Grade said of it, "It was clever, pure vaudeville, in a television form."

In a sporadic film career he made his debut in the Goons' The Case of the Mukkinese Battle Horn (directed by Joseph Sterling, 1954). He also played bungling bank robber Booky Binns in The Big Job (directed by Gerald Thomas, 1965) and was known for vocal talents as an array of characters including "The Nowhere Man" Jeremy Hillary Boob, the Mayor of Pepperland and Max, one of the Blue Meanies in the Beatles' Yellow Submarine (directed by George Dunning, 1968)

Emery appeared in films including as Shingler in The Fast Lady (1962), as Peter Sellers's neighbour in The Wrong Arm Of The Law , as Harry in Baby Love (1968), as Mr Bateman in Loot (1970) and Ooh… You Are Awful (1972), in which he played many of the characters he had portrayed in his TV series. The plot of this comedy centred on Emery hunting down a bank account number. The digits of the number are tattooed on the bottoms of four young women. Emery has to see the girls naked, which requires disguises. One of the women is played by Liza Goddard.

Emery also recorded several novelty records during his career, most notably "If You Love Her" which reached number 32 in 1969, and "You Are Awful" which just missed the top 40 in 1973. [9] Other singles included "A Cockney Christmas" (1962), "You're The Only One" (1974) and "Rocking Horse Cowboy" (1979). In 1979, Emery moved to ITV for three one-hour specials before returning to the BBC in 1980 and resuming The Dick Emery Show.

By 1982, Emery was tiring of the format for his BBC series and wanted to do something different. Using a new format and character, Jewish private detective Bernie Weinstock, Emery had a new outlet – two series of comedy thrillers under the banner Emery Presents (BBC, 1982–83), Legacy of Murder [10] and Jack of Diamonds. [11]

Personal life

Emery had a very difficult childhood initially, but following the departure of his father Laurie Howe, things settled down. He was devoted to his mother for most of his life and helped support her once he was able to work. This devotion could and did cause problems in his marriages.

He was very keen on "long legs and blondes" and was often in the newspapers with beautiful women. He was in six long-term relationships, marrying five times, and also had numerous affairs throughout his life.

At the beginning of the Second World War he married Joan (sometimes known as Zelda) Sainsbury and had one son, Gilbert Richard. After the failure of that marriage, he wed Irene (Pip) Ansell but the marriage barely lasted six months. While working in summer season in 1950, at the Winter Gardens in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, he met Iris Margaret Tully who was also in the show. At the end of the season, they returned to London and set up home together in Iris's flat in Shaftesbury Avenue. Iris changed her name to Emery by deed poll until 1955, a year after she had given birth to his second son, Nicholas William. She and Emery married in 1955.

The marriage was a rocky one because Emery had several affairs while away on tour. He met the woman who became his fourth wife, Victoria Chambers, in the mid-1950s. He was torn between the two women, but in late 1958 he left Iris and moved to Thames Ditton in Surrey to set up home.

In 1960, however, he returned to Iris and his son and moved them to Thames Ditton, but he could never settle, and in 1962 he left Iris for Victoria. Iris divorced him in 1964. By this time, he had set up home in Esher. Vickie bore him a son Michael and a daughter Eliza. His last wife was Josephine Blake [12] to whom he was still married at the time of his death, although he had left her to live with Fay Hillier, a showgirl, 30 years his junior.

Outside show business, he enjoyed flying, and held a pilot's licence from 1961 onwards. He also liked fast cars (it was a family joke that he changed cars when the ashtrays were full) and motorcycles. He was a keen maker of scale models, and was president of the Airfix Modellers' Club. He also wrote a review feature for Meccano Magazine during 1971.

While the public took him to heart, voting him BBC TV Personality of the Year in 1972, Emery suffered from severe stage fright and low self-esteem. He underwent psychoanalysis and hypnosis, and took sedatives to try to cure the problems. [13]

He had four children: Gilbert, Nicholas, Michael and Eliza, [13] and was the half-brother of actress Ann Emery.


In December 1982, Emery was rushed to a London hospital with severe chest pains. He died at the hospital from cardio-respiratory failure on 2 January 1983 at the age of 67. [14]

Selected filmography



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  2. "Archie Andrews, the dummy loved by millions, is back on stage". Telegraph.co.uk. 19 July 2011.
  3. "Dick Emery: the neglected superstar of TV comedy". Telegraph.co.uk. 25 January 2014.
  4. GRO Register of Births: MAR 1915 1b 88 PANCRAS – Richard G Emery, mmn = Callan
  5. Dick Emery: the Comedy of Errors? BBC Radio 2 29 September 2009
  6. Graham Rinaldi. "Emery, Dick (1917–83)". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  7. "Charlie Drake". Telegraph. 26 December 2006. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  8. "Dick Emery The Seaside, Blackpool". YouTube. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  9. "Official Charts Company – Dick Emery". Official Charts Company. 7 May 2012. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  10. Legacy of Murder, IMDb page
  11. Jack of Diamonds, IMDb page
  12. Dick Emery: the Comedy of Errors?, BBC Radio 2, 29 September 2009
  13. 1 2 "Dick Emery Biography". IMDb. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  14. GRO Register of Deaths: MAR 1983 14 0006 LAMBETH – Richard Gilbert Emery, DoB = 19 February 1915
  15. hotspur95. "The Dick Emery Show (TV Series 1963–1981)". IMDb.
  16. ShadeGrenade (6 June 1979). "Dick Emery's Comedy Hour (TV Movie 1979)". IMDb.