arthur haynes

Arthur Haynes was one of Britain’s most popular entertainers in the late 1950’s up until his untimely death in 1966. His television programme ‘The Arthur Haynes Show’ made by ATV London, commanded top ratings for Independent Television.

Forgotten for many years, it’s now possible to watch  these shows again, the last of the seven volumes of this archive has now been released. And I urge you if you’ve never heard Arthur Haynes, or have memories of his shows watch them again on DVD.

In 1961 this article about Arthur appeared in the ATV Show book:

There are two types of acts which find television the most demanding medium. They are the ventriloquist and the comedian. Take the ventriloquist: On the variety hall, a ventriloquist may be able to get away with a certain amount of lip movement. But  not on television. With the camera full on an artiste's face, the slightest tremor of the lip would be immediately interpreted by the audience as the sign of a bad performance. To a certain degree the magician suffers from a similar problem while in close-up. Most people appreciate the difficulties confronting these acts. Few spare a thought for the comedian. In the old days of music hall a comedian would probably tour the country using the same material year in and year out. But not today, Television has an enormous appetite for material and once a comedian has used a gag or a sketch it is finished. It says much, therefore, for Arthur Haynes., one of television’s most popular and consistently funny comedians, that he has been able to maintain his high standard of quality throughout somewhere around 200 half-hour television shows. Part or Arthur's success is undoubtedly due to the fact that he is a brilliant character comedian. His enormous talent is channelled through some half a dozen characters—the type of people you meet in everyday life. The majority, like the tramp and his 'tweed suit' character, are the types who can laugh at their misfortunes and usually triumph in their clashes with the pompous. It is impossible to portray these true-to-life characters without having first-hand knowledge of human nature. And Arthur has plenty of that. Arthur is a Londoner and proud of it. Although he can't be called a Cockney—he was born within the sight of Hammersmith Bridge rather than within the sound of Bow Bells—Arthur is imbued with the natural humour so typical of the Cockney. This natural wit has always been an asset. It helped him get his first job—as an office boy. But the job did not last long and after that he became everybody's mate in the professional rather than the friendly sense. He worked as plumber's mate, carpenter's mate and painter's 'mate before getting his first steady job with London Transport. Later, he became a bus conductor and, in his spare time, entertained at local clubs. Working on a bus gave him the opportunity to try out his gags on the passengers. It also gave him an insight into the characters of all sorts of people. And this was to stand him in good stead later when he began to bring to life on the stage some of the people with whom he came into contact. When the war came Arthur was called for an Army medical but was turned down for active service, He became a member of the 'Stars in Battledress' show and, despite being told that his act was 'terrible' by the unit's commanding officer, managed to remain with the group. 

Ken Morris and Joan savage 

Ken Morris who, with his wife Joan Savage, provides the musical spots in Arthur's television shows, met Arthur during those Army days. Ken recalls:  'My stint meeting with Arthur was soon after D-Day, when he was a member of a company putting on a show for the troops on an improvised stage in the middle of a muddy French field. I was in the show which was to take over from his and we were late getting there. You can imagine Arthur's comments.' When Arthur, in the role of his now famous 'tramp' character says—as he often does during sketches—that he was 'up to my eyes in muck and bullets' it is not so far from the truth. Ken Morris eventually teamed with Arthur as members of Charlie Chester's gang in the famous radio shows at the end of hostilities. With the war ended Arthur set out to make his mark on show business. But nobody wanted to know. At long last he managed to get a booking in a Blackpool summer show and found himself on a bill produced by his old commanding officer, George Black—the very man who had told him that his act was 'terrible'. After his first show Arthur rushed into Black's office and said: 'What do you think of my act now?

'I still think it's terrible,' replied Black. Undaunted, like the famous character Oscar Penny-feather he was to create' later. Arthur continued to strive for success.

The turning point of his career came around 1957. It was then that Arthur  met Johnny Speight, the man who has written all the scripts for "The Arthur Haynes Show". Arthur was given a script for a television show called "Strike A New Note".

But let him tell the story:

'The producer gave me the script and asked me if I thought I could do it. I was one of four newcomers they wanted to try. I took the script home and read it. When I had finished I said to my wife, Queenie, "This is going to be my big break." 

I realised immediately that Johnny Speight's style of writing suited me to a tee. It was as if Spreight had written the programme specially for me. Well, to cut a long story short. I did the show and I must have been a success because they asked me to do a series

In March, 1959, after sometime in the "Strike A New Note" and "Get Happy shows", I was given my own series, with Johnny Speight as script writer. He has written for me ever since: 
  The Arthur Haynes Show series has gone from strength to strength. Arthur attributes this, not only to Johnny Speight. but also to that brilliant young actor Nicholas Parsons, who has been the foil for Arthur's humour in every series until Tony Fayne took over with similar success, for the series which ran earlier this year. 
 Nicholas Parsons

'Somehow; says Arthur, 'Nick and I struck up an understanding from the start. The harmony just comes naturally. Parsons has a high regard for Arthur. 'He is just as irrepressible off  the screen as he is on; says. Nick. 'I can never turn the tables on him. He is always playing practical jokes. Like the time we went into a pub during rehearsal one day. When the bar-maid saw me she said, "What about the half crown you owe me from last week." I had completely forgotten about it. But I paid up. Later, we went to lunch and the same thing happened; the waiter asked me for half a crown, he said I owed him. I was puzzled, but paid again. In the evening when we went for supper after the show I was asked for half a crown again. I was astonished. but as I could not remember whether or not I owed the man the money I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt once more I paid. Then Arthur laughed and handed me five shillings. "The first time it was true: he said, "but the rest were gags"    The financial security  that comes hand in hand with success in show business has not altered Arthur Haynes one bit. He lives in a not-too-large house in Ealing, West London and his tastes are comparatively simple. Perhaps the only hallmark of financial success is his Mercedes Benz car.  Even with this Arthur has not overlooked someone who has helped him to stardom. The car bears the registration number OP1 —in honour of Oscar Pennyfeather. Even allowing for the help he has had from Oscar there is no doubt that Arthur's own natural talents have pushed him to the top rung on the show business ladder of success. In addition to his television success was elected as Independent Television's Personality of the Year in March—his ability has been recognised in other quarters. Last November Arthur was selected to appear in the Royal Variety Performance, at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London before Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Fame is something Arthur takes very much in his stride. Of "The Arthur Haynes Show" series, he says: 

'Nearly all of my public arc working class people and my humour is of a type they can appreciate and understand. If I attempted to assume a new personality, or sophistication, it would be detected immediately. Anyway I couldn't do it. It wouldn't suit me.' Just being himself has proved rewarding for Arthur Haynes. And there are millions of people who enjoy watching him just being himself.

arthur Haynes as Oscar Pennyfeaher

For more information please visit my Arthur Haynes page.

TTFN and Happy Listening