Today marks the 100th birthday of comic actor and Goon Graham Stark, born on this day in 1922.
Stark first appeared on the Goon Show in December 1951, guesting on 'Cinderella', the Goons' first Christmas pantomime alongside Lizbeth Webb.
Just over a year later in January 1953, he began to regularly appear on the show, alternating weekly with Dick Emery as a substitute for Spike Milligan, who was signed off for several weeks. He appeared in four shows, none of which survive, unfortunately.
Stark also co-starred in the Goons' Coronation edition to celebrate the new queen in June 1953, alongside Wuffo the Wonder Dog. His last appearance on the Goon Show was as part of a quartet of actors brought in to replace Peter Sellers at short notice for 'Who Is Pink Oboe?' (Series 9 Episode 11) in January 1959.
Stark: Excuse me sir, your airship's ready sir. Seagoon: Let me taste... Delicious! Right, tell Eccles to get inside, run my bath and lay out a blonde mannequin. Stark: Hooray for war! Haha! Valentine Dyall: I think we're going to have trouble with him.
(from 'Who Is Pink Oboe?', Series 9 Episode 11, broadcast 12 January 1959)
Stark was a close friend of Peter Sellers. The two met during the war as they were both performers with Ralph Reader's Gang Shows, set up to entertain the troops (mainly the RAF) stationed across Asia. It was through the Gang Shows that Stark and Sellers first met Dick Emery and Tony Hancock, among others.
Upon his demob, Stark was among the many future entertainment stars to hang out at the Grafton Arms, and so was easily brought into the Goon fold.
As well as his appearances on the Goon Show, Stark also appeared in many other Goon-related projects. In Down Among the Z Men he partnered with BBC announcer Andrew Timothy in a distinctly Grytpype-and-Moriarty-esque duo. He was one of the small band of performers who created The Running Jumping and Standing Still Film, and appeared in A Show Called Fred and Son of Fred alongside Milligan and Sellers.
As well as an actor, Stark also directed several comedy productions, including The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins.
He became a regular in the Pink Panther movies, appearing in several of the sequels even after Sellers' death, playing Dr Auguste Balls (among other characters), and featured in the stage play of The Bed-Sitting Room in 1963.
Among Stark's many other credits are several Eric Sykes projects, including The Plank (1967), Rhubarb (1969), and Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines (1965), as well as the James Bond spoof Casino Royale, starring Peter Sellers.
Stark's acting chops saw him feature in films alongside Gene Wilder, Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, Sammy Davis Jr, and Sean Connery, as well as working with just about everybody else in British comedy at some point or another.
Quoted in Stark's obituary in the Belfast Telegraph, Joanna Lumley said he was "full of madness, energy, optimism, kindness and wild humour", adding: "Being with him is like doing the Cresta Run on a bouncy castle: unpredictable and huge fun."