Benny Hill

Template:Infobox Biography

Born Alfred Hawthorn Hill (January 21, 1924/1925 - April 20, 1992), Benny Hill was a prolific comic British actor. In fact, he was one of the most universally recognized British comedians. He worked compulsively and had only a few friends, although colleagues who knew him closely insist that he was never lonely, but was content with his own company. He never married, although he did propose to two women, one the daughter of a British writer, and was rejected by both. He never owned his own home, nor even a car, instead preferring to rent a small flat in Teddington, a convenient walking distance to the Teddington Studios where he filmed the one-off one-hour episodes of his television programme, The Benny Hill Show.



As a boy, Hill liked appearing in school productions and credited his favourite childhood actor Charlie Chaplin as the inspiration for his becoming a star. After leaving school, he worked variously as a milkman, bridge operator, driver and drummer, before he finally got a foot in the door of the entertainment industry by becoming an assistant stage manager.

During World War II, Hill worked in working men's clubs, revues and end-of-the-pier shows all over Britain. For the stage he changed his first name to "Benny", in homage to his favourite comedian Jack Benny. Between the end of the war and the dawn of television, he worked as a radio performer. An early believer in television, his first appearance over the airwaves was in 1949 in a show called Hi There. He continued to work on and off until his career took off with The Benny Hill Show in 1955 on BBC Television.

The Benny Hill Show featured him in innumerable short sketches (along with Henry McGee, Carol Cleveland, and others) portraying a leering, lecherous, never-quite-succeeding, yet charming protagonist. He was very versatile and appeared in many different costumes. Slapstick and double entendre were his hallmark. He used sped up film aka "Undercranking" and sight gags to create what he called "live animation" and he masterfully employed techniques like mime and parody. He was also a skilled composer and singer of patter songs. His shows were seen in over 100 countries. The theme song, Yakety Sax, was written by Boots Randolph.

In 1969, his show moved to ITV, where it remained until cancellation, with an erratic schedule of one hour specials. The show was first broadcast in the United States in January 1979 and screened there with a series of re-edited half hour programmes culled from the ITV specials. The US versions of his show have far less risqué material than the shows which were aired in the UK. The show was awarded the "Special Prize of the City of Montreux" at the "Rose d'Or" festival in 1984.

The Benny Hill Show (1969-1989) is in syndication and is available on videotape in the US (ironically, there is far less material currently available in the UK). The syndicated version consists of 111 half-hour episodes, re-edited from the original hour-long specials made by Thames Television and screened on Britain's ITV network three or four times a year. Half-hour edits also appeared on ITV, although the contents may be different from the syndicated versions. In 1989 Thames dropped Hill because his material was no longer considered politically correct. He later recorded some shows for US television. The Benny Hill show is currently airing in one hour portions, twice nightly on BBC America (Dish Network channel 135)

His audio recordings include Gather In The Mushrooms (1961), Transistor Radio (1961), Harvest Of Love (1963), Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West) (1971), among many others.

His film credits include parts in nine films including Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), in which he played the relatively straight role of the Toymaker, and The Italian Job (1969).

He also appeared in the video of the song "Anything She Does" by the band Genesis.

Here is an example of his doggerel:

Roses are reddish
Violets are bluish
If it weren't for Christmas
We'd all be Jewish.

He was left-handed. He was a relative of the Australian actress and singer Holly Valance.


Hill's health began declining in the early 1990s. Weighing 108 kg (238 lb) at 1.79 m (5 feet, 10½ inches) tall, he suffered heart problems related to his obesity. On February 11 1992, doctors told him that he needed to lose 13 kg (28 lb), and recommended a heart bypass. He declined, and was diagnosed a week later with renal failure. Hill passed away "on or about April 20", alone in his flat, at the age of 68 (or 67 - some sources give Hill's year of birth as 1925). The cause of death was listed as coronary thrombosis. Following a foul smell, neighbours found his body on April 24 sitting in an armchair. (His death closely coincided with that of another British comedy icon, Frankie Howerd, who died on April 19.)

Hill's will had left his estimated £10 million (GBP) estate to his late parents,. Next in line were his brother and sister, Leonard and Diana, neither of whom he had enjoyed the closest of relationships with and both of whom were also deceased. This left his seven nieces and nephews, amongst whom the money—approximately £7.5 million—was divided. A note was found among his belongings assigning huge sums of money to his close friends Sue Upton, Louise English, Henry McGee, Bob Todd and Dennis Kirkland, but because it was neither signed nor witnessed, the note had no legal standing.

See also

External links

fi:Benny Hill zh:班尼·希爾


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