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When The Wind Changed : The Life and Death of Tony Hancock [Illustrated] [Hardcover]

Cliff Goodwin
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jun 1999
This work tells the story of Tony Hancock, one of Britain's top comedians. Despite his success he was racked by doubt and insecurity, haunted by irrational obsessions, a chronic alcoholic and temperamental to the point of collapse. This book details his complex and troubled life. Aggressive, possessive, untidy, vague, unreliable, drunken, seedy, overweight, a survivor of endless breakdowns, Tony Hancock was a complex character. His ruthless and often shabby ingratitude alienated many of his closest friends and left his two wives battered and broken. He also felt his own identity was being swallowed up in the fictional persona of Antony Aloysius St John Hancock, the pompous buffoon of 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam. Tony Hancock committed suicide in Sydney in June 1968. He was jsut 44 years old.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Century; illustrated edition edition (Jun 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712676155
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712676151
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.5 x 5.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 571,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

The story of Tony Hancock is well-known; East Cheam's most famous resident, star of classic episodes such as "The Blood Donor" and "The Radio Ham", the first British comedian to earn 1,000 pounds a week, whereupon he blew both his money and his dignity on drink before taking his own life in a flat in Australia in 1968 aged 44. It is the stuff of legend. Modern British comedians such as Paul Merton idolise him, characters such as Alan Partridge or Victor Meldrew still feast on his legacy. Cliff Goodwin's new biography adds flesh to the much pored-over bones to bulk out a life that seemed to define "doomed". In post-war Britain, Hancock tapped into a reserve of frustration and forlornness, and rather than act he learned to react. However, as is the way with such talent, success only begot dissatisfaction. A hard-headed belief that he could only emulate his hero Sid Field by working alone led him to sack the architects of his success, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, as well as the talented team of actors who contributed so crucially to the success of 'Hancock's Half Hour', particularly Sid James (a subject of Goodwin's last biography). His treatment of Galton and Simpson was masochistic; the scripts they wrote for him defined his comic being, and their mastery of colloquial nuance in the late 1950s was comparable to more "serious" writers for theatre such as Beckett and Pinter. He had little success with either films or America, and as the drinking increased so did the violence and anger, until he had pushed away or walked over any lover or friend who sought to help him. Goodwin has researched and read around his subject comprehensively, and he succeeds in shaping Hancock's life in a way the comic actor was never able himself. If his approach eschews too much interpretation, perhaps he is right not to analyse the man too deeply; it is a recognisably cautionary tale well-told, of a peculiar man who held the cup of plenty, but preferred a tankard of vodka. --David Vincent

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
The jacket of this books proclaims it to be 'The first authoratative and detailed account' of Tony Hancock's life, something that probably came as a bit of a surprise to David Nathan and Freddie Hancock who co-wrote "Hancock-A biography." Perhaps this bold claim led me to expect from this book but I can't honestly say that I was very much enlightened about Hancock's life after reading it.
The outline of Hancock's life is well known and this book recounts it fluently enough but adds little to what is already known. True, Cliff Goodwin goes into more detail about Hancock's decline in alcoholism but this gives the impression of coming from a desire to muck rake rather than to produce any deep analysis (especially as some of the anecdotes, such as Hancock frequenting known homosexual bars come from such dubious sources as corrupt detectives). There is much that can, and still needs to be said about Hancock's life, but this biography does not do this.
In the end, it is the failure of Cliff Godwin to produce any sort of analysis that makes this biography unnecessary when compared to the previously mentioned book by David Nathan & Freddie Hancock
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tony Hancock 10 Jan 2004
Format:Hardcover
This book was presented in a very readable style - easy and relaxed. I bought the book because I have a keen interest in geneaology and already knew that Tony Hancock was a relative of mine. However I found that many of the details about Tony's early family life and relations were incorrect and clearly not thoroughly researched. As to his professional life; well I can't vouch for the accuracy of that, but knowing that the first part was not all correct, made me wonder about the rest of it. I had attempted to get in contact with the author,and had been assured that in subsequent additions the errors would be corrected, so far that hasn't happened. To anyone using the book as a source for research - beware.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Whoever disses this book looks at early life factual inaccuracies. It is factually in accurate because not much is known about the early years, and this book uses what is in the public domain.

I am a huge Hancock fan, (he died four months before I was born) and next to the aforementioned Freddie Hancock book, this is the definitive biography. The important factors are here, which alludes to his career and subsequent decline into mental illness, alcoholism, suicidal tendencies and consequent destruction of a man who's greatness was known to all, but himself. From 1954 Tony Hancock hit the self destruct button, almost around the time his Radio show began to take off. Chip shops would close during transmission, streets were cleared, people stopped and assembled around their wireless set for Hancock's Half Hour.

My personal feeling is Hancock was aware of his success, but had a hard time living up to it, or rather his interpretation of what people expected him to be. If he reached a pinnacle, he wanted to go higher, he wanted to deliver perfection, he was afraid he couldn't be what the nation idolized in him. His self destruction came through his obvious melancholia, where he sought perfection and to be so in his work at this time, but alas perfection cannot be found and this destroyed him. His confidence was shot, as he lived in fear of becoming a comedy duo such as Laurel and Hardy with Sid James, his assumption that his main writers Galton & SImpson betrayed him, which led to their dismissal, and the fact that the perfection he sought professionally destroyed his personal life. The depression led to anger, the anger led to more alcohol, internalizing and subsequently domestic violence.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funniest comedian with the saddest life 6 Jun 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Reviews seem polarised on this solid effort from Cliff Goodwin. However, I don't think the author can be accused of "muck raking" as some reviewers claim. If the author hadn't have included the darker side of Tony's life then he would have been criticised for glossing over those aspects, and after all, a good biography should be a warts-and-all account of someones life, rather than an a la carte affair.

Like any biography on such a fascinating man as Tony Hancock, "When The Wind Changed" will not provide any answers to the questions we all have and would dearly love answered. Tony took those with him. At best we can trace the dots and reach our own conclusions. It is a shame that Tony never kept, as one of his colleagues Kenneth Williams did, a diary. Now that would have been a read.

Thanks for the laughter Tony.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars yellow press journalism 1 April 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is piece of poorly researched journalism. There is almost nothing new in the book and appears to be very little first hand material. Mr Goodwin appears to have simply collated a mass of press cuttings and fan club magazine articles and glued them together. Written in an easy, chatty style, and well edited. But in all key respects its a waste of money.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars a disgrace 17 April 2012
By zzzman
Format:Paperback
to say this book is full of factuel errors is an understatement.the author should never be allowed to write another book again.some examples pat dixon produced the 5th radio series of hancocks half hour he only produced the first episode the other 19 were produced by tom ronald.hancock appeared as a guest on this is your life in 1966.this is your life wasnt on tv in 1966.england beat australia in a test at lords in 1968 they didnt it was at the oval. i could go on but you get the idea.what happened to fact checkers?buy john fishers book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good stuff
If you are interested in Hancock and what affected his life, moods and work this is as good a place to gather information as any I have found. Read more
Published on 30 Sep 2006 by D. W. Miller
5.0 out of 5 stars "the lad himself" in immense detail.
a ground-breaking biography of the comedian tony hancock and also the best book ever published about him. Read more
Published on 27 Aug 2005 by Mr. A. E. Ward Davies
4.0 out of 5 stars A good place to start
This book attracts a lot of criticism for it's simplistic style and (some) factual inaccuracies. That said it's an excellent introduction to a complex and ultimately elusive... Read more
Published on 29 Nov 2004 by azureglo
5.0 out of 5 stars A sympathetic but realistic picture of a very confused man
A terrific book. If you are at all interested in why someone who had so much talent could not live with himself this is the book for you. Read more
Published on 24 Feb 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Another sad book about a funny man
I'm not going to criticise the author for 'muck raking'. the fact that hancock's last few years were fairly sordid is not news - both the books by his second wife and David Nathan... Read more
Published on 23 Jan 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine portrait of a well loved comic
Many people have critiscised this book for being sensational, prurient and muck-raking. I say to them that if the facts as presented in this book are correct (and we have no... Read more
Published on 30 Sep 1999
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but flawed.
This is the first indepth, full length bio of Hancock, since the original in 1969 by Freddie Hancock. Read more
Published on 9 Sep 1999
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