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Arthur Askey (June 6, 1900 â?? November 16, 1982) was a prominent English comedian.
Arthur Bowden Askey was born in Liverpool and attended the Liverpool Institute school. He was very small at 5' 2" (1.6m) and wore distinctive horn rimmed glasses, with a breezy, smiling personality. He served in the forces in World War I and performed in army entertainments. His career began in the music halls, but he rose to stardom in 1938 through his role in the first radio sitcom, Band Waggon on the BBC, prior to which radio comedy had consisted of broadcast standup routines. It had begun as a variety show, but had been unsuccessful until Askey and his partner, Richard Murdoch, took on a larger role in the writing. Askey's humour owed much to the playfulness of the characters he portrayed, his improvising and his use of catchphrases, as parodied by the Arthur Atkinson character in The Fast Show.
His catchphrases included "Hello playmates!", "I thank you" (pronounced "Ay-Thang-Yew"), and "Before your very eyes".
In the early 1930s, Askey appeared on an early form of BBC television â?? the spinning disc invented by John Logie Baird that scanned vertically and had only 30 lines. Askey had to be heavily made up for his face to be in any way recognisable at such crude resolution. When television became electronic, with 405 horizontal lines, Askey was a regular performer in variety shows.
During World War II, Askey starred in several Gainsborough Pictures comedy films, notably The Ghost Train (1941), as well as Charley's (Big-Hearted) Aunt, I Thank You, Back Room Boy, King Arthur Was A Gentleman, Miss London Ltd., and Bees in Paradise. When television arrived, he made the transition well â?? his first TV series was Before Your Very Eyes! (1952), named after his aforementioned catchphrase. In 1957 writers Sid Colin and Talbot Rothwell revived the Bandwaggon format for Living It Up, a series that reunited Askey and Murdoch after an absence of 18 years. He also made many stage appearances as a pantomime dame.
His recording career included "The Bee Song" and his theme tune, "Big-Hearted Arthur", (which was also his nickname). During the 1950s and 1960s he appeared in many sitcoms including Love and Kisses, Arthur's Treasured Volumes and The Arthur Askey Show.
He continued to appear frequently on television in the 1970s, notably as a panellist on the ITV talent show New Faces, where his usually sympathetic comments would offset the harsher judgements of fellow judges Tony Hatch and Mickie Most. He also appeared on the comedy panel game Joker's Wild.
His last film was the British softcore porn film Rosie Dixon - Night Nurse (1978), starring Debbie Ash. Soon afterwards, he was forced to give up performing, and had both legs amputated due to circulatory problems before his death. His daughter, Anthea, was also an actress and often starred with him.
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