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on 20 October 2004
This is something very, very special. As a devoted fan of Frankie Howerd, I can't quite put into words how delighted I am to at last have a full-length biography of the great man that, while being extremely thorough and exceptionally well-researched, celebrates the artist instead of abusing the memory of the man. What you get is an incredibly vivid account of the famously rollercoaster career, an unusually sensitive, compassionate and mature account of the notoriously chaotic private life, and an admirable set of insights into the genius of the performer. McCann quotes from interviews with the likes of Eric Sykes (whose early partnership with Howerd is rightly highlighted), Galton and Simpson and various other friends and colleagues, draws on some fascinating archive materials and supplies his own analyses to piece together a big picture that manages to remind you of how important Frankie Howerd remains in the history of stand-up comedy. Add to all of this an invaluable list of stage, radio, tv, film and video performances, quotes from the classic routines and a good selection of photographs, and what you have is a book that gives show-business biographies a good name. A superb piece of work.
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on 4 November 2004
Frankie Howerd had a 50 year career. He more or less re-invented stand up comedy in the 1940s, made TV sketch comedy so much more intimate (by talking directly to the viewers) in the 1960s and inspired a new generation of stand ups in the 1980s. He was a brilliant performer, and it has been so maddening to see him belittled since his death by a succession of 'nudge-nudge-wink-wink' profiles and a handful of pathetically superficial hagiographies. That is why Graham McCann's biography is so welcome. At last - at long last - Frankie Howerd is placed in his proper context - that of stand up comedy - and is shown in all his fascinating complexity. We see his intelligence, his fear, his courage and his artistry. We understand his ambitions and we appreciate his achievements. We get to know the man, and the performer, better than we thought we ever would. The book is marvellous. It truly is. Frankie has finally got the tribute that he so richly deserves.
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VINE VOICEon 19 September 2006
This is a good book, but not a great one. McCann clearly adores his subject, which has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that his enthusiasm for Frankie shines through and so he discusses him with alacrity - the disadvantage is that he glosses over certain darker aspects of Frankie's character. He dismisses those who slated his predatory nature in a brief sentence.

One thing to note is that this is a book very much about Howerd's work - it sadly doesn't focus much on his personal life, and frustratingly only touches on his thoughts about politics and philosphy, as well as his experiences with depression. The other main fault with the book is that the author generalises about the success of Howerd's career - some years are total triumphs, others are dismal flops. A look at Howerd's CV doesn't really bare this out. Sure, people have ups and downs but not in the extremes that McCann describes.

Overall, a decent read but more research, and interviews with those who were close to him, would have made it a much better one.
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on 3 February 2005
I wouldn't count myself as a great fan of Frankie Howerd, but I do whole-heartedly recommend this book. Well-researched, thoughtful, and balanced, I found it to be one of the best constructed biographies I have ever read. I had not appreciated how ground-breaking FH's approach was, and McCann gives a very helpful potted history of the development of comedy from music-hall onwards which helped me understand what made FH so special. The author doesn't shy away from the difficult parts of FH's personality, nor the poor quality of his later work [due my age, this was pretty much all I knew him for], but he puts all of this in context and the end result is rounded and sympathtic.
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on 16 February 2005
The definitive biography of a great comic talent. Well written and wonderfully researched, this book is a highly readable must for any comedy fan.
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on 19 March 2008
I don't think I've ever enjoyed a book so much - I don't normally read biographies, but then Frankie Howerd always came across as someone rather special and this book shows all his comic skill and hard work, all his character traits and faults, and all his genius. And he was a genius, which is demonstrated amply across all the pages. Tortured genius is probably more accurate.
What I would say is that whilst it covers his career up until the 1960s in really good detail, it starts to feel like it's rushing the part of his life up until his death in 1992 - as if the author has enjoyed Frankie building his career, losing his top slot and making a comeback, but then has not felt entirely comfortable with dealing with Frankie grabbing at work as he got older and less marketable.
Still, if you like Frankie Howerd (and all his famous contemporaries, for they are in here in their vast numbers) and want a balanced view of his life - and it is balanced giving the difficult points as much as the good - then this is the book for you. But be warned it might leave you feeling sad for the loss of such a powerful, magical talent.
P. S. Watch out for the bit at the Establishment (p. 195) - this event is available on CD featuring Kenneth Williams laughing out loud.
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on 7 December 2010
Having seen Frankie "live" a few times, and always been a fan, I found this very well researched biography got him down to a "T". It not only tells the extraordinary story of his up and down career (and there WERE several down periods), it also provides an extremely impressive analysis of how he came to be such a distinctive standup comedian. (One tiny note: the cover is not the same as the one displayed on this page.)
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on 14 December 2011
I tend to be wary of buying biographies as they can be hard work and not very interesting to read. This one is well researched and includes quotes from all the important people in Frankie's professional and personal life. The book flows and if your like me you will finish with a better understanding of what a tortured soul Frankie was.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to find out more about the post war comedian who did most to make stand-up what we know it to be today.
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on 10 July 2006
a book that goes to a considerable effort to probe the tormented mind of one of our most popular comedians.

i always knew that frankie howerd was an insecure sort of person, but this biography goes that little bit further.

in the text, you will find out the following; how much howerd was affected by the downhill spiral his career took in the late 50s, his L.S.D therapy that revealed more about his childhood than he could have known. other interesting facts include his constant battle with his nerves before going on stage, the death of his mother, his sensitivity about his lack of hair etc. but there was also the subject of his homosexuality. endlessly, howerd worried about becoming exposed and thus ruining his living as an comedian.

all this and more will keep the reader occupied till the end, but will also make one realize how troubled a man he was, like quite a few comedians and comics.
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on 3 February 2013
i have always found Frankie Howerd funny and wanted to know more about him. This is a very well written biography. An entertaining read
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