Alan Young makes a ‘Personal Appearance’

Granada’s new sketch comedy and music show

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From the TVTimes for week commencing 16 June 1957

IN those wilderness days without television just after the war – that would be about the year 10 B.C. (Before Commercial TV) – I used to listen each week to The Alan Young Show, crackling happily over the short waves direct from New York or relayed by the American Forces Network in Germany.

A lot of other people in Britain did the same, including, as one afterwards realised on hearing their acts, some of our own comics!

Curiously, I can still recall odd fragments of dialogue from the show. One remembered sketch concerned a storm at sea. Ship’s captain’s orders concerning the mizzen mast could not be carried out.

Why not?

“It’s mizzen!” came a shout. Next a command: “Get the helm over will you,” and a swift reply: “Watch your language!” The second voice in that sketch, by the way, belonged to Bernard Braden who was then taking part in Alan Young’s programmes.

I recollect too, a fabulous character called Hubert Updyke who was “the richest man in the world.” So rich that he threw away his Cadillacs whenever the ashtrays were full!

The actor who played that part is now the voice of Mr. Magoo in the famous cartoon films.

With such memories, it was pleasant to find myself sharing a dish of kebab with British-born Alan Young, now, at the age of 36, one of America’s most popular comedians, in a Soho restaurant the other day.

On Monday he starts a 13-week series for Granada TV under the title Personal Appearance, which will be seen on all channels. He has written all his own sketches and will also introduce a glamorous guest singing star each week-among them Eve Boswell, Shirley Bassey, Petula Clark and Guylaine Guy from France.

Alan Young was born in North Shields. His family emigrated to Canada when he was five. At 13, he was already in show business, reciting monologues like “Albert and the Lion” while impersonating Stanley Holloway.

His father wanted Alan to be articled as a bookkeeper, and was opposed to his becoming an entertainer.

Alan Young

“He never told me that he had himself ran away from his home in Scotland to join a children’s show run by a man named Jefferson, who was the father of Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame,” Alan told me. “I only discovered that from an aunt in Surrey I met on my first brief visit home to England three years ago.”

Alan took a secretarial job at a Vancouver radio station. It was a step in the right direction. By the time he was 18, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation offered him his own show and father dropped his objections.

Soon a top favourite, he was invited to New York to replace Eddie Cantor for a three-week season.

An invitation to Hollywood soon followed. Then, in 1949, The Alan Young Show opened there on TV. It ran for three years and won three Academy awards – the television equivalent of the cinema world’s “Oscars.”

Young left the Columbia Broadcasting System in 1952 to freelance and has since appeared in such successful films as Androcles and the Lion with Jean Simmons and Victor Mature, Margie with Jeanne Crain, Mr. Belvedere Goes to College and Gentlemen Marry Brunettes with Jane Russell.

Youthful-looking and happily married with four children – his wife and two of the kids Cammy (7) and Wendy (4½) have come to Britain with him – Alan Young has a home with a swimming-pool in California’s San Fernando Valley.

He is modest and likeable; quiet-mannered for a comic. But that is in keeping with his style of humour, mostly the characterisation of a shy, slightly baffled type who is always being put upon by others, and to whom the most surprising things happen. But he can be put upon so much – and then suddenly… wham!

On his arrival in London, Alan lost no time in contacting Bernard Braden and Barbara Kelly “I went to their wedding. Barbara was a shy little thing then” – conductor Robert Farnon, who used to play for The Alan Young Show in Canada, and film actor Guy Middleton – “a wonderful guy.” Middleton was one of the cast of Gentlemen Marry Brunettes.

What does Bernard Braden say of Alan Young? “He is not only a fine comedian and actor but also an outstanding writer of comedy. He was the first comedian in Canada to have any real effect upon the public despite his youthfulness. He is at his best as the little man who suddenly turns angry.”

How did Alan’s ITV assignment come about?

Eddie Pola, now Granada’s Director of Light Entertainment, was producer, both in New York and Hollywood, of Alan Young’s first radio show for several years and also produced some of his TV shows. He says: “Alan puts on a disciplined and not a helter-skelter show.”

Despite his pleasant looks, the really romantic roles are not for Alan Young. He explains: “In films I always seem to be the asthmatical lover. In Gentlemen Marry Brunettes I never got to kissing the heroine because I was supposed to have asthma. I always sneezed at the wrong moment.”

Alan’s hobbies include judo (he is a brown belt), “switching some of the jokes of that greatest of gag writers – William Shakespeare,” and reading Sir Winston Churchill, “who strings words together like a woman bakes a cake – with lovely ingredients.”

He is a soccer enthusiast and acts as “trainer, manager and lemon carrier” for the Los Angeles Scots.

While in Britain for his ITV series, he plans to visit the house where he was born in North Shields, to look up relatives on Tyneside and in Scotland and to play golf at Gleneagles.

I know you will like Alan Young.

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