Frank Skinner explores the legacy of British comedy icon George Formby in a new BBC Four documentary airing later this month.
More than eighty years ago, Formby’s appeal was so great he c earned the equivalent of £3 million a year – equal to the multimillion salaries of today’s footballers.
Making 19 films between 1934 and 1946, he was Britain’s top cinema attraction for six consecutive years and became the world’s biggest star, ahead of Errol Flynn, Bette Davis and Bing Crosby, when he signed to Columbia Pictures in 1941.
His work also included 200 records – all performed with his trademark ukulele, toothy grin and wide-eyed innocence – including Leaning on a Lamp-Post which sold over 150,000 copies in one month and the infamous With my little stick of Blackpool Rock, banned by the BBC because it was considered too rude for broadcasting.
Adored as a working class hero and celebrated for his tireless contribution to the war effort, when the ‘turned out nice’ Lancashire lad died over 150,000 people lined the streets of Warrington (more than double the town’s population).
Frank Skinner on George Formby uncovers the one simple ingredient that has ensured Formby’s long-lasting legacy: his mastery over the ukulele.
Skinner says: “As long as ukuleles exist people will come to George Formby conventions to watch those solos: every little move of the finger, every little twitch of the wrist. We all want to play like that and that will keep George Formby’s memory alive forever.”
Frank Skinner on George Formby will be transmitted on October 27th at 9pm on BBC 4.