A Collection of Correspondence from Benny Hill to Louise English, a Joke Book belonging to Hill, and a Small Collection of his Theatrical Effects A Collection of Correspondence from Benny Hill to Louise English, a Joke Book belonging to Hill, and a Small Collection of his Theatrical Effects
"NOW will you practice . . .?"
HILL, Benny

A Collection of Correspondence from Benny Hill to Louise English, a Joke Book belonging to Hill, and a Small Collection of his Theatrical Effects

V.p.: N.p., V.d.

14 handwritten postcards and 3 ALS (2 in their envelopes), and a colour photograph taken at Hill's graveside. With a small collection of Hill's theatrical effects (described below). A well preserved collection.


Before becoming a fixture of British television for nearly forty years, Benny Hill [1924-1992] was a distinguished character actor both on radio and on screen (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), The Italian Job (1969)). His character-based, rep-company sketch shows began on the BBC, but his move to independent TV in 1969 was the beginning of a twenty-year reign at the top of TV Light Entertainment. As well as being huge hits at home, the shows Hill wrote and starred in for Thames were sold all over the world: Charlie Chaplin was a fan, and America adored him. Intensely shy and prone to stage fright, Hill declined hugely lucrative offers to work in the US (including Las Vegas). He continued to live frugally, and as anonymously as possible, even after his success had made him extremely rich. In 1989 his show was cancelled amid charges of sexism and misogyny. He died three years later -- on the same day a contract for a new ITV show arrived in the post.

The actor and dancer Louise English first met Benny Hill in 1978, while working as a member of the dance troupe Pan's People. She was seventeen, and it was her first job. Her second began in November that year when she joined the cast of The Benny Hill Show. At first employed just as a dancer, over the next six years English became part of Hill's regular acting company alongside Henry McGee, Bob Todd and Rita Webb. English left the show in 1985 and became a West End musical star, as well as working regularly in TV and film. She and Hill remained close friends until his death.

Hill, who spoke five languages and was an inveterate traveller, wrote regularly to English wherever he found himself in the world. His letters and postcards are fond and chatty. The correspondence begins in 1979 with some remembrances of the comedian Jimmy Tarbuck, (English and Pan's People were on tour with Tarbuck at the time). In an ALS dated 28 October 1981 Hill talks of Rita Webb's memorial service ('There were quite a few moist eyes, I can tell you. You can imagine what I was like....') as well as a lucrative offer he'd had ('Last night, a lady agent from USA phoned & offered me a 5 week movie in N. York at £100,000 per week. I didn't accept. NOW will you practice?!!!'). On a 1982 postcard from his beloved Paris, he writes 'Making even more French commercials. Don't you wish you were young & lonely like what I am?', and on another, also from Paris a year later and illustrated with a photo of Josephine Baker: 'I remember seeing her in her own show. (J.B.) Very good she was too. Everywhere you go now you hear Edith Piaf. It's 20 years ago this week that she died.' From Barcelona in 1984, English receives a textbook Benny Hill joke in postcard form: 'Just treating my favourite comedian to a few days' holiday here before going to Madrid. Someone must have told them I was coming. The Barcelona airport was full of screaming girls, all throwing flowers. It's true. You ask Julio Iglesias. He was on the same flight.' The last letter of the correspondence is dated 18 December 1989 and written on the notepaper of the Meridien Hotel in New York -- again, an arrow to the heading with the words 'NOW will you practice?!!!'.

A copy of Emcee's Goldmine by Robert O'Brien (Orben Publications, 1963) accompanies the correspondence. A collection of jokes for use by comedians and public speakers, this copy belonged to Benny Hill, who has marked in the margins the jokes which appealed to him. The front wrapper carries the words 'CHECKED' and 'THE BIONIC BOY' in Hill's hand, and on p.33 he has written 'in England called GOVERNMENT.' under the joke: 'It's kinda hard to describe the Mafia. In Sicily it's called the Black Hand. In Brooklyn it's called Murder Incorporated. In Russia it's called the government.'

As well as the correspondence and joke book, the collection of material contains a number of Hill's theatrical effects:

i) Mr-T style hair pieces, boxed with the label of Thames Television;

ii) Chest hair pieces, for The Benny Hill Show, boxed and with the label of hair piece specialists Sarah Phillips & Co., show title written above;

iii) Orange clown wig, with accompanying framed 16 1/2" x 13" b&w photographic portrait of Hill in full clown make-up, including the wig;

iv) 2 fright wigs, with Hill's name labels sewn in to the linings:

v) Hill's rehearsal shirt and a pair of prop spectacles, both unmarked.

Tax amount
Price / kg: