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Tony Hancock: The Definitive Biography Hardcover – 1 Oct 2008


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st Edition edition (1 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007266774
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007266777
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.7 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 271,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘Lives up to its title, dispelling myths and replacing all previous accounts.’
Independent on Sunday

‘an exceptional book’
Oxford TImes

‘Packed to bursting point with painstaking attention to detail …a rich gift from Fisher to anyone who was ever a fan.
Stage

‘an indispensible book…a brilliant and much-needed account of Hancock’s extensive theatre work and its originality, a celebration of the audacity of the television work, and a kind of voyage round the comedian’s mind and the nature of his comic enterprise.
The Guardian

Praise for Tommy Cooper: Always Leave them Laughing:

‘A monumental and masterly biography of the great Cooper.' Daily Mail

' "The definitive biography of a comedy legend" – for once a book lives up to its blurb.' Michael Parkinson

From the Inside Flap

Without Hancock there would have been no Steptoe, no Alf Garrett, no Alan Partridge, no David Brent.

One of Britain's most innovative comedians and arguably its most popular, he united the nation in laughter with `Hancock's Half Hour,' the show that established the situation comedy.

But behind Hancock's success lurked a tendency to self destruction that would compromise his later years. Prone to professional insecurity and a quest for perfection, he gradually detached himself from the writers, agents and actors who had played an essential role in his success. Now forty years later after Hancock's death, John Fisher explores his turbulent life and tragic death of a still revered performer.

In this first full appraisal of both his life and work, Fisher sheds new light on Hancock's fall from grace, examining with sensitivity what went wrong and questioning whether his suicide was inevitable. At the same time, his unprecedented access to the Hancock family and its archives - together with interviews with friends and colleagues, several of whom have spoken for publication for the first time - add to the celebration of this comedy hero.

`What kind of Fool?' will redefine the Hancock legacy, reaffirming Hancock's body of work on stage, radio and television, as unsurpassed by a single British comedian.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By William Brandon on 14 Nov. 2008
Format: Hardcover
This isn't the first account of Tony Hancock's life. Variously his agent/wife Freddie, Hattie Jacques and Kenneth Williams among others have covered his story to one degree or another. The previous "full" account - When the Wind Changed - concentrated more on the scurrilous allegations of Tony's life -but, as John Fisher effectively says in hs preface here, you need to take some of that with a pinch of salt.

I guess we're not likely to have a more definitive biography than this one looking at the wealth of contributions to it. Fisher clearly knows his British comedy, as he pompously keeps telling us, but you are left with a very clear idea of where Hancock's humour came from, the contribution he made and the footprint he left. I'm tempted to say he left a huge shadow but it is clear that it was exactly those sort of puns which represented his dislike - if not loathing - of his self image.

The truth is that he was the best British comic actor of our time but he was fatally unable to simply recopgnise that and luxuriate in the genuine love his audience and colleagues had for him (Sid James comes out of this particularly sympathetically). Fisher brings out very well Hancock's huge intellectual pretensions and the negative impact his ever growing quest for perfection had on his comedy and those around him.

Hancock's alcoholism, mental illness and lapses into violence and abuse are well and responsibly handled by Fisher. Ultimately it leaves you with a real sense of sadness for what Hancock did to himself and what we lost. But there is a huge amount of good to remember and this long (very long)and exhaustive view of the lad and his times is rewarding at all times.

I finished the book and watched a couple of old TV shows straightaway, Brilliance.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By T. Gardener on 17 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
I was introduced to Hancock by my father growing up as a lad. I was mesmerised by not only the comedy but the old fashionedness, that added to the comedy not detracted from it. Having now grown up, and some I realised i had read very little about the lad himsef, apart from the very publicised affairs, and his death.

John Fisher writes from a factual standpoint, rarely going into fan mode, or defending him. Definitive is a good description of this book. From growing up in the music hall era, to Educating Archie, then onto the part of his life that made him, Hancocks Half Hour. It is almost imcomprehensible that he wanted to change the formula and then move on, the mixed success of his films, and then the breakdown of marriage, success and self belief.
Althouth this is not a novel, and I was very aware what the outcome was, I found the book very very sad. How great a body of work could Hancock have produced. How many more episodes could the fantastic Galton and Simpson have written of hancocks half hour 20, 30, 50. I felt denied that his death had robbed us of a greater legacy, and so sad that someone who was respected by his peers, and a comedy genius, loved by his audiences, and still loved now, by an audience many of whom were born after his death, fought demons includin the belief that perhaps he was just not funny any more.
Throughout the book the who's who of comedy, Drake, Sykes, Williams, James, Forsyth, Secombe all appear, having worked alongside him. Read this if you are a fan of Hancock, readi it and become a fan of Hancock. An excellently written, well researched biography.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. W. Platt on 9 Mar. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I grew up during the radio heyday of Tony Hancock - his "Hancock's Half Hour" persona was legendary when I was at grammar school, every episode being discussed at length at both break times and between lessons; every laugh being relived in the process. This biography of the flawed genius that was Hancock has given me so many insights into the man, his times and his character. He may not have been what I thought he was, but then few of us are, and my debt of gratitude to Hancock, as well as the author, is undiminished. I particularly liked the early chapters on radio comedy of the 1950s. A brilliant book, thoroughly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. Cassidy on 1 Nov. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is as good as biography gets. Everything is covered in enough detail, the order is fairly chronological, the author is highly sympathetic to his subject, and the good and bad is reported equally.

Hancock's was a troubled soul, but he was also a man of great decency, humility and kindness and Fisher produces a balanced portrait of his whole life, not just his sad demise.

My only (minor) gripe is that the chapter on his stage career, seems overly long, whilst that on his BBC TV series could have gone further, given that it was the highlight of his career.

Anyway its all good and the chapter on the John Freeman "Face To Face" interview is almost as fascinating as watching that programme itself.

If you love The Lad Himself - this is a must.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D. Wildblood on 17 Oct. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I did enjoy this book, but found the writing style a bit difficult. For example, the writer refers to a person, and writes quite a bit of text, goes off at a tangent and then comes back to the main person without 'reminding' you who they are writing about, and with so many characters coming and going throughout the Lad's career, I found myself having to go back several times to figure out just who the writer was referring to.

The writer also assumes that you are familiar with all of the Lad's works, whereas I only got to see some of the 'classic' episodes, and didn't hear him on the radio - some of the comments and references were lost on me, but that is my shortcoming rather than the author's.

A tricky subject tackled very thoroughly.
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