Curry, chips, and more batter puddings
Trawling through some of the Goon-related material available at Neil Pearson Rare Books, I stumbled upon a copy of a script for 'The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler of Bexhill-on-Sea'.
However, it's not from the 1954 recording that was broadcast as part of the fifth series. Instead it comes from a hastily cobbled-together recording session that took place on 22 May 1955, and mistakenly lists Larry Stephens as the sole author. My thanks to Neil Pearson Rare Books for sending me the sales blurb for this item, which has since been bought and so isn't available on the website.
[Milligan's] regular roster of characters appear in it, the episode is well known, and has been released in a BBC CD compilation. This script, therefore, is something of an oddity: according to the title page it was recorded at the Camden Theatre in London on 22 May 1955; the sole credited author is Larry Stephens; and Spike Milligan's name is not included among the cast. We are grateful to Mark Cousins for the following explanation:
"The [Camden Theatre] session was originally booked to record a special programme (not Goon Show related) called Summer Is A Comin', which was to have been scripted by Milligan. However, Milligan was having marital problems and in addition his children were quarantined with measles, all of which appears to have affected his fragile mental state. By May 1955 his doctor [had written] a sick note to the BBC: 'Mr T Milligan... is suffering from nervous disability and is unable to follow his occupation.'
"The recording was due to have taken place the following weekend, so not wishing to lose a recording slot, producer Peter Eton came up with the idea of resurrecting an old Goon Show script. The possibility of getting Eric Sykes to write a new one was also explored, but he was busy writing for Frankie Howerd. Larry Stephens' name also came up, but apparently he was unwell, so Eton selected 'The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler' which had already been particularly successful and well received by the listeners. (I suspect that Larry Stephens' name on [this] script is simply an error rather than anything more calculating).
"After the recording, the Home Service decided not to broadcast the recording and it lay in the archives unheard until it was issued in Series 5 Part Two of The Goon Show Compendium. The Goon Show Preservation Society has copies of all the Goon Show scripts... but not this one as far as I am aware."
All this amounted to a two-handed Goon Show recording, with Sellers taking on Milligan's parts (ahem) as he did later in 'The Macreekie Rising of '74' (Series 7 Episode 4) in 1956. I'm still trying to track down a copy of the Compendium to listen to this version of the Hurler's crimes.
*** Rant warning ***
Sunday 21 November marked 52 years since Spike Milligan's and Eric Sykes' joint series Curry & Chips first aired on ITV.
I'll be honest, I've not bothered to look up any episodes because I know it to feature a blacked up Spike, something I think we can all just do without. I've read quotes from writer Johnny Speight who claimed that the broadcaster that cancelled it (the Independent Television Authority) had missed the point and it was the British characters that came across as bigoted.
I can't help but disagree with this on a fundamental level. If your joke involves having someone blacked up rather than cast an actual non-white actor, it will only serve to undermine any point you're trying to make. I have the same issue with Monty Python sketches that feature a blacked up member of the cast for no useful satirical reason.
I don't mean this to sound like I'm getting on my high horse, although I probably am. Rest assured I will soon fall off. It's just something I fundamentally object to. Here endeth the lesson.