WW2 and British Humor (er, Humour)

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by EDelahanty, May 15, 2012.

  1. EDelahanty

    EDelahanty Member

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    British comedy in the second half of the 20th century was influenced by a group called The Goon Show. It was led by Spike Milligan and also included Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers, who gained international fame in the Pink Panther series, as well as Dr. Strangelove. Milligan later wrote a seven part memoir of his days in WW2 with such titles as "Mussolini: His Part in my Downfall." As Wikipedia tells it:

    Milligan and Harry Secombe became friends while serving in the Royal Artillery during World War II. Famously, Milligan first encountered Secombe after Gunner Milligan's artillery unit accidentally allowed a large howitzer to roll off a cliff - under which Secombe was sitting in a small wireless truck:

    "Suddenly there was a terrible noise as some monstrous object fell from the sky quite close to us. There was considerable confusion, and in the middle of it all the flap of the truck was pushed open and a young, helmeted idiot asked:

    'Anybody see a gun?'

    It was Milligan." Secombe's answer to that question was:

    "What colour was it?"

    Spike met Peter Sellers after the war at the Hackney Empire, where Secombe was performing, and the three became close friends.

    When Secombe died, Milligan said: I'm glad he died first because I didn't want him singing at my funeral. Of course, when Milligan passed away, a recording of Secombe singing was played at the service. Milligan's tombstone contained an epitaph he had composed: "I told you I was ill." However, it was in Irish, as the church refused to allow the English version.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2012
  2. EDelahanty

    EDelahanty Member

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    Long before they won Oscars for acting, David Niven and Peter Ustinov became friends during World War Two when they both served in a British military unit that made films for the war effort. However, because Niven was a lieutenant colonel and Ustinov a mere private, fraternal association was frowned upon. To get around this, Ustinov was appointed batsman (i.e., personal servant) to Niven, who at one point wrote for Ustinov what may have been the most liberal pass in military history:

    “This man may go anywhere and do anything at his discretion in the course of duty.”

    Niven came from military families which had paid a heavy price over the generations. His maternal grandfather had been killed in the disaster at Isandlwana during the Zulu War, and his father was killed in the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915. It was later observed that Niven had a strong resemblance to Sir Thomas Comyn-Platt, a longtime family friend whom his mother married in 1917.

    In 1930, Niven was commissioned as a second lieutenant on graduating from Sandhurst Military Academy. Similar to our practice, he was asked to list his top three choices for a unit. His first two choices were the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the Black Watch. In a jocular manner, he indicated his third choice as “Anything but the Highland Light Infantry.” Naturally, he was assigned to the HLI, and his disinterest in the unit was made known to his fellow officers.

    After several years of peacetime service including a promotion, Niven was arrested for insubordination. He had scheduled an assignation with a young lady but was instead forced that particular evening to attend a lengthy lecture on machine gun placement. When at the conclusion the major general who had lectured asked if there were any questions, Lieutenant (leftenant?) Niven asked:

    “What time is it, sir? I have to catch a train.”

    The story goes that Niven smuggled a bottle of whiskey into the jail and shared it with his guard, who assisted him in escaping through a window. Niven sent a telegram resigning his commission while on a ship headed for America. Some years later at the outset of World War Two, Niven was a rarity among British expatriate actors in Hollywood in that he returned to England to volunteer.

    Although quite young at the beginning of World war Two, Peter Ustinov had already attained success on the British stage, both as an actor and as a playwright. A man of portly build, he later claimed he had volunteered for the armored branch because he wanted to go into battle sitting down. After interviewing him, the War Selection Board rendered the following judgement:

    “On no account is this man to be put in charge of others.”

    In the 1963 comedy The Pink Panther, Peter Sellers (mentioned in the previous post) played the bumbling Inspector Clouseau. This role, which made Sellers famous worldwide, was supposed to have been filled by Ustinov. The Pink Panther of the title actually referred to a fabulous pink diamond sought by a debonair jewel thief known as the Phantom and played by Niven.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2012
  3. AF6872

    AF6872 Member

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    Then we have Benny Hill, Black Adder and Monty Python. It is an acquired taste.:thumb:
     

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