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Biography Of Peter Cook Paperback – 4 Jun 1998

4.5 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; New edition edition (4 Jun. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340649690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340649695
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.8 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 249,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

'Lively and penetrating' ( Independent on Sunday )

'At last, this book explains the mystery of Peter Cook - how someone so funny, so loveable, so handsome, could make such a total hash of his life. Harry Thompson's pedigree in television comedy makes him an authoritative commentator on Cook's performances' (Lynne Barber, Daily Telegraph )

'Unputdownable, level-headed and intelligent' (Nicholas Lezard, Guardian )

'This definitive biography...as heartbreaking as it is entertaining' (Jessica Berens, Times Literary Supplement ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Harry Thompson invented many TV comedy hits such as Have I Got News For You and Da Ali G Show. He was the author of several acclaimed bestsellers, including PETER COOK: A BIOGRAPHY and PENGUINS STOPPED PLAY, as well as a historical novel, THIS THING OF DARKNESS which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He worked as a producer at Talkback TV and in his spare time he ran the infamous cricket team, the Captain Scott XI. Harry Thompson died in 2005.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great take about this unique and enduring comic. Held my attention well throughout
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thompson is a great fan of Peter Cook and that's the problem with the book- soft focus on the central character . On the other hand, the picture painted of the commercial rivalries in the world of satire and the comedy of irreverence is illuminating. The image of David Frost giving order through the open door of a lavatory while defecating will haunt me for a little while to come!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very readable and full of interesting insights into the complex personality of a comedy great. What a pity so little of his BBC work is available.
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Format: Hardcover
A top-notch biography of a great comedian, one whose gift for comedic improvisation was too specialised. Like Peter Sellers, Cook comes across as a melancholy, introverted man who constantly felt the need to wear a mask, to act the part of 'Peter Cook'. His life story comes across as a greek tragedy - his rise is meteoric, and his decline and fall are inevitable, and entirely self-inflicted. The imagine of Peter Cook's talent languishing at home, telephoning late-night radio phone-in shows, is extremely depressing. That said, there's an unexpected upturn near the end (his classic appearance on 'Clive Anderson Talks Back'), and the book thankfully doesn't gloss over the brilliant, brutal 'Derek and Clive' LPs.
It would make an excellent film, too.
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Format: Paperback
I cannot recommend this book highly enough - not only it is wonderfully informative, but unlike some biographers these days (Roger Lewis's The Life & Death Of Peter Sellers springs to mind) the author Harry Thompson obviously has a great admiration and fondness for his subject. The book runs the gamut from Cook's career debut on Beyond The Fringe through to his stormy partnership with Dudley Moore and distant ownership of Private Eye magazine before touching on his tragic, final last years as a chat show fixture. However, even though he was a man who had many faults - and these are largely discussed in the book - the way Thompson writes about him, he comes across as a man who also had numerous qualities and gifts, not least that of a comedy genius and pioneer.
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Format: Paperback
A pure genius in all aspects a man much criticised by the media for in their opinion not fulfilling his potential, something I find bizzare. What this man did for British comedy should not be forgotten, just because he did not produce huge volumes of work throughout his career does not mean he did not reach his potential. The fact is he hit his heights early on in his career and that does not mean his later contributions were poor but the fact is he was and still is a legend of British comedy. This magnificent biography puts forward all these arguments as well as the personal loves and traumas of Peter's life, a must for all.
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Format: Paperback
Peter Cook was a man of contradictions: an amazing talent who eventually failed in the harsh world of show business; a kind, friendly, good-humoured man who destroyed his marriages and repelled his best friends through drunkenness and cruelty. Now that is a challenge for a biographer - and Harry Thompson has risen superbly to the occasion. This 480-page blockbuster, crammed with detailed reminiscences, gives an unparalleled insight into the personality of this most English of comedians.
What a long way it is from Peter Cook's grandfather, a railway official in Kuala Lumpur who shot himself under the stress of a big promotion, and his father - a "sea-green incorruptible" colonial administrator - to the party he threw at the Cobden Working Men's Club in 1993, where the Rolling Stones rubbed shoulders with the Monty Python crew, two England cricket captains, Julian Clary and a mass of other celebrities. So tight was the scrum that Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller never managed to greet their host at all.
Like a stock market boom/bust cycle, the ups and downs of Cook's career were hugely amplified by the dictates of fashion. He was lucky enough to catch the early 1960s satire wave, and quickly became so sought-after that President Kennedy and his wife actually had to go and meet him, after he declined an invitation to the White House. Other than becoming global dictator, there was hardly anywhere to go after that but down - and Cook's perfectionism and lack of ambition conspired to make the descent almost as fast as the rise.
Cook's attitude to alcohol may have been at the root of his downfall. He simply wasn't prepared to give it up, and - like many people to whom money is no object - found himself drinking more and more.
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Format: Paperback
...This was of particular interest to me because I wrote a book calledSOMETHING WONDERFUL RIGHT AWAY about Second City, the Americancounterpart to BEYOND THE FRINGE...and I couldn't help but compare and contrast the British "satire boom" with the one in America and think about what was happening in both cultures that a similar response arose simultaneously on two sides of the ocean. I was particularly interested because, though I grew up in Chicago, Cook was an important influence on me, and because I interviewed him and Dudley Moore when they were playing their two-man show on Broadway. According to this book, when I met them their relationship was about to go into a steep decline because of Cook's drinking. I must say that he hid it from me very well, and the interview was a good one (though Moore apparently had been playing too hard the night before and kept nodding off). Anyway, Thompson's biography made me laugh outloud a lot and it pained me as much. Shortly after Cook died, I was introduced to Stanley Donen, who directed BEDAZZLED. I remarked on Cook's death and Donen instantly remarked, "Angriest man I've ever met." Thompson's book doesn't so much convey the anger Donen saw as the profound and soul-destroying cynicism that (to paraphrase a line from Cook) moved him to inertia. Excellent job.
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