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George Formby

From Academic Kids

George Formby (May 26, 1904 - March 6, 1961) was a British singer and comedian who became a major star of both cinema and music hall.

Formby was born in Wigan, Lancashire, as George Hoy Booth, the eldest of seven children (four girls and three boys). His father, James Booth, was a famous music hall comedian who used the stage name George Formby. He was apprenticed as a jockey when he was seven and rode his first professional race at ten when he weighed less than four stone.

On the death of his father in 1921, Formby abandoned his career as a jockey and started his own music hall career using his father's material. He originally called himself George Hoy (Hoy being his mother's maiden name). In 1924 he married dancer Beryl Ingham, who managed his career until her death in 1960. He allegedly took up the ukelele, for which he was later famous for, as a hobby and first played it on stage for a bet.

George Formby endeared himself to his audiences with his cheeky Lancashire humour and folksy Northern England persona. In film and on stage, he generally adopted the character of an honest, good-hearted but accident-prone innocent.

What made Formby stand out, however, was his unique and often mimicked musical style. He sang comic songs, full of double entendre, to his own accompaniment on the ukulele, for which he developed a catchy syncopated style which became his trademark. Some of his best-known songs were written by Noel Gay.

He made his first record in 1932 with the Jack Hylton Band, and his first movie Boots! Boots! in 1934. The film was successful and he signed a contract to make a further 11 with Associated Talking Pictures, earnt him a then-astronomical income of 100,000 per year. A subsequent contract with Columbia Pictures earnt him a further 500,000.

For six years between 1934 and 1945 Formby was the top box-office attraction in British cinema. He appeared in the 1937 Royal Variety Show, and entertained troops with ENSA in Europe and North Africa during World War II. He received an OBE in 1946. He had recieved a Stalin Prize in 1944, prompted by the popularity of his films in the USSR.

Formby suffered his first heart attack in 1951. His wife died of leukaemia on 24 December 1960 and Formby planned to marry Pat Howson, a 36-year-old schoolteacher, in the spring of 1961. However he had a second heart attack before then and died in hospital on 6 March 1961. He was buried in the family grave in Warrington Cemetry, with an estimated 100,000 mourners lining the streets on the day of the funeral.

Selected Songs

  • Chinese Laundry Blues
  • The Isle of Man
  • The Window Cleaner
  • Leaning on a Lamppost
  • With my Little Ukulele in my Hand
  • With my Little Stick of Blackpool Rock
  • Mother What'll I do Now.

Filmography

  • Boots! Boots!
  • Off The Dole
  • The Song That Made A Star
  • No Limit
  • Keep Your Seats Please
  • Feather Your Nest
  • Keep Fit
  • I See Ice
  • It's In The Air
  • Trouble Brewing
  • Come On George
  • Let George Do It
  • Spare A Copper
  • Turned Out Nice Again
  • South American George
  • Much Too Shy
  • Get Cracking

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