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Happy birthday, Jacques Brown

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

Happy birthday to… Jacques Brown, who was born on this day in 1900. He was producer for two Goon Show episodes: ‘The Missing Prime Minister’ (Series 4 Episode 15) and the one-off special ‘The Reason Why’ (see yesterday’s blog).


His first name, despite its French appearance, is pronounced “Jakes”, according to Wallace Greenslade’s announcement at the end of ‘The Reason Why’.


Brown was a producer on a number of other successful series, including Beyond Our Ken and Much Binding In The Marsh. He was also trumpet player and actor earlier on his career, and had small roles in a couple of George Formby films during the Second World War.


Brown was involved with the Goons at a very early stage, as he was invited to produce a trial recording before the first episode in 1951. However, he insisted on it being recorded without an audience, and the resulting pilot was rejected by the BBC. Goon champion Pat Dixon stepped in and helped get the show off the ground, according to Spike Milligan’s manager Norma Farnes, cited in this 2018 review of a Goon Show revival performance.


Among the other shows Brown worked on was a short-lived series called Happy Holiday, starring one Peter Sellers. I stumbled upon this via a website selling rare books and scripts, which has Brown’s copies of five episodes available for a tidy £5,000.


Written by our friend Jimmy ‘KOGVOS’ Grafton and Peter Griffiths, Happy Holiday also featured Dick Emery and Dennis Price, both of whom graced Goon Show studios. Angela Morley was in charge of the music and the show was “devised” by Dennis Main Wilson.


As per the listing on Neil Pearson Rare Books:

Set in the seaside resort of Littleton-on-Sea, the 45-minute show was a light-hearted sitcom with plenty of musical interludes, in which everybody played themselves except Peter Sellers, who played everybody else. The show was devised by the indefatigable Dennis Main Wilson, and ran for a single series between July and August in 1954.

The listing for the first programme, broadcast on 15 July 1954, is available here.


According to Wikipedia, Jacques Brown retired from the BBC to nurse his wife through cancer, and after her death he helped his brother-in-law with a cake decorating business. He died in April 1975 from complications after a car accident. (I should say that the Wikipedia article has just one source, so this may be inaccurate.)

 

Episode 20 of the third series of the Goon Show was broadcast on 31 March 1953, as detailed on page 24 of the week’s edition of the Radio Times. I love the juxtaposition of this episode, following immediately after a party-political broadcast from Conservative Party politician and foreign secretary Anthony Eden, and preceding an Easter message from the Reverend George MacLeod.

The film of the book of the plot of the... etc etc

The episode included a sketch titled ‘The Man Who Never Was’. This was obviously a favourite idea of Spike Milligan’s, as he revisited it twice more: the final episode of series six, and episode 21 of series eight.


Unfortunately, no script or recording exists so it’s impossible to know how much of the sketch survived into the reworkings. Regardless, it was based on a true story.


In short, near the start of the Second World War, a memo went out listing a variety of ways that the Allies could go about deceiving the enemy. One of these was to dress up a dead body as a senior officer, plant fake papers and plans on him, and float him ashore. They did this, and it worked – but more of that when we get to series six.


This episode was supposed to be number 21, but the previous week’s broadcast (scheduled for 24 March 1953) was cancelled due to the death of Queen Mary.

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