Hugh Lloyd

Hugh Lloyd
Hugh Lewis Lloyd, MBE (22 April 1923 – 14 July 2008)

Hugh Lewis Lloyd was born on 22 April 1923 in Chester, the only child of Robert Lewis Lloyd and Maggie Lloyd, nee Jones. Robert was a commercial traveller for a local tobacco manufacturer who later went on to manage a tobacco factory; Maggie taught piano.

Hugh went to Chester City's Queen's school kindergarten, and then progressed to King's school, Chester. He left school in 1939, and tried (unsuccessfully) to join the RAF (he suffered from hay fever). Early aspirations to become a spy led to an interview with MI5 - alas Hugh was rejected for being too young! Instead his first job was a reporter for the Chester Chronicle, where he would often report on Chester City football matches and local theatre. During this time, he also founded the Chester Repertorygoers club and the Hugh Lloyd Repertory Revue Company, and when he started acting in amateur dramatics himself, he became adept at writing good reviews of his own productions! An early appearance came at the age of 17, when he played the waiter in a Chester Royalty Theatre production of George Bernard Shaw's 'You Never Can Tell.'

After some three years, Hugh left the Chester Chronicle in 1942 to perform with ENSA, the troops entertainment organisation. This also lasted for three years, until the war ended.

Hugh's first radio programme, the 'Stay at Home Show', came in 1948, and his televisual debut came two years later, in 1950, in the 'Centre Show', which was broadcast for troops. He appeared in variety shows and pantomimes, as well as doing a stand-up comedy routine between the strip acts at the infamous Windmill Theatre in London.

It was in 1957 that Hugh made the first of 25 appearances in 'Hancock's Half Hour'. In March 1958, he also went on tour with Tony Hancock, entertaining the troops in Cyprus, Malta and Tripoli. Following this, he found he got much better parts in the show. The characters he played included the court usher ('Twelve Angry Men' 2/10/1959), the railway ticket clerk ('The Train Journey', 23/10/1959), the launderette attendant ('The Big Night' 30/10/1959), a patient in the waiting room ('The Cold' 4/3/1960), a chip fryer ('Sid in Love' 18/3/1960), the florist ('The Bowmans' 2/6/1961), the lift attendant ('The Lift' 16/6/1961) and perhaps most famously, a fellow patient in 'The Blood Donor' (23/6/1961) who befriended Hancock with banal conversation, only to end up off with his wine gums!

Another much loved scene featuring Hugh Lloyd came in 'The Football Pools' (27/11/1959). Here, he played the cashier/turnstile operator at the match Hancock and Sid were desperate to attend: "You don't think l like being stuck here in this straight jacket, do you? All you lot piling through here. You don't think of me as a human being. You just think of me as a hand, poking out, taking your two-bobs. Well, I'm more than just a hand! At the end of this hand, there's a body... a human being throbbing with life and emotion. I'm just the same as you are. If you prick me, do l not bleed? If you tickle me, do I not laugh? If you poison me, do I not die?"
"Punch him in the fag-hole.... see what he does then!" is Sid's caustic response.

It was in 'Hancock's Half Hour' that Hugh found fame, soon becoming a popular and well-known face on television. Hugh's part in the Hancock legacy will be fondly remembered. But he was a versatile actor, and in a career spanning over fifty years, could turn his hand to most forms of work, from comedy and light entertainment, including appearances in 'Dr. Who', to stage work ranging from pantomime to productions in the West End and at the National Theatre.

Meek, timid characters were often his stock-in-trade, and following the end of the 'Hancock' series in 1961, he went on to star in 'Hugh and I' (1962-67) with Terry Scott. Written by John Chapman, Terry Scott played an unemployed bachelor son living with his mother in suburbia, while Hugh Lloyd was the fretting lodger who provided the rent through his job at an aircraft factory. Scott involved the unwitting Lloyd in his many money-making ruses, but as justice would have it, the schemer invariably lost out to his 'simple' friend.

A sequel followed, namely 'Hugh and I Spy' (1968), which was followed in 1969 by the somewhat surreal (and less successful) 'The Gnomes of Dulwich', a show which centred on three life-sized gnomes in one garden - Big (Scott), Small (Lloyd) and Old (John Clive) - lined up against plastic 'impostors' who lived in the garden next door.

In 1970, Hugh went on to appear with Peggy Mount in the West End in a production of J B Priestley's 'When We Are Married'. He played the part of Herbert Soppitt, which Priestley described as 'inspired casting', also writing to Hugh 'Your performance from the first has given me very great pleasure.' Performing with Peggy Mount on stage led to television work with her, in the ITV series 'Lollipop Loves Mr. Mole' (1971-2) where he again played a more vulnerable character to Peggy Mount's domineering wife.

Hugh also came up with his own idea for a sitcom, 'Lord Tramp' (1977). Written by Michael Pertwee, Lloyd played the happy-go-lucky tramp Hughie Wagstaffe, who inherits a title and a country estate, only to ultimately decide that he preferred his previous life - free of responsibilities and material wealth.

Many guest apearances in other sitcoms then followed. These included 'Last of the Summer Wine' (1983), 'In Sickness and in Health' (1985 and 1990), 'You Rang, M'Lord' (1993) and 'My Family' (2002 and 2006). He also took on a number of dramatic roles, to further critical acclaim, and further proving himself to be a valuable character actor. These included Alan Bennett's television plays, for example 'A Visit from Miss Protheroe' (1978), in which he played a dying filing clerk. In the 1980s, he played, as part of Ian McKellen's company at the National Theatre, in Sheridan's 'The Critic', Webster's 'The Duchess of Malfi', and Chekhov's 'The Cherry Orchard'. Tours with these productions to Chicago, Paris and Aberdeen followed. In the early 1990s he appeared at the National Theatre of Wales, and also had two seasons at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 'Hobson's Choice.' Other 'straight' parts included Joseph Brown in 'Cider with Rosie' (1998), the Aged P in 'Great Expectations' (1999) and a vicar in 'Oliver Twist' (1999).

Hugh's film appearances were few, but they included roles in the 'The Rebel' (1961) and 'The Punch and Judy Man' (1962), 'The Mouse on the Moon' (1963), 'James and the Giant Peach' (1976) and 'Quadrophenia' (1979). He also played the part of Porky in the Anthony Hopkins' direction of 'August' (1996), a film based on Chekhov's 'Uncle Vanya'.

The above is a far from comprehensive list of Hugh Lloyd's many and varied appearances and performances during his career. But the parts he played were generally 'fun' characters, inoffensive, and never 'nasty' or 'mean'. Indeed he would turn down acting roles if he considered them "blue" or offensive. His idols were Laurel and Hardy, because they never needed to offend anybody, and when he saw them on stage, he found them as funny there as they had been in their films.

Hugh Lloyd's autobiography 'Thank God for a Funny Face' was published in 2002, and in 2005, he was awarded the MBE in the New Years Honours List for his services to drama and charity. For more than fifty years, he was one of Britain's best loved comedy actors, working with some of the funniest television comedians of the age. He died on Monday 14 July 2008, aged 85. He will be sorely missed.