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Happy birthday, Kenneth Connor

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

Known predominantly for his roles in the Carry On… films and ‘Allo, ‘Allo, Kenneth Connor was a minor Goon, appearing in two episodes in the ninth series. He was born on this day in 1916 in Islington, north London.


Kenneth Connor

Connor had replaced Peter Sellers on Ray’s A Laugh, a show fronted by comedian Ted Ray, when Sellers’ other commitments (including the Goons) took him away. In 1951 he appeared in a series called Bumblethorpe, written by Spike Milligan, Larry Stephens, and Peter Ling, who went on to co-create the TV soap Crossroads. (More of Bumblethorpe later!)


He also appeared on The Idiot Weekly, Price 2d, a television show firmly in the Goon mould, written by Milligan and starring Milligan and Sellers, among many others.


As far as Goon Shows are concerned, Connor was one of four actors called in to fill in for Peter Sellers on ‘Who Is Pink Oboe?’, episode 11 of series nine. He played one half of a strange Irish couple (along with Graham Stark) that filled the usual role of Minnie Bannister and Henry Crun, with less success.


Greenslade: Hello all passengers, this is your Captain Merry Jim Greenslade speaking. Here is a warning: this ship will be passing through fish-infested waters, many of them sympathetic to the Germans, so therefore, there must be no naked lights on board. Mr O’Toole: You hear that Mrs O’Toole? Put some clothes on that match. Mrs O’Toole: Well, oh I can’t. I’m looking for my Dorothy bag darlin’... I must find it, cocky. Mr O’Toole: Why, what’s in it? What’s in it, eh, eh? Mrs O’Toole: You are, darlin’. Mr O’Toole: Oh dear, you naughty woman, you told me it was an overcoat sewn up at the bottom.

(‘Who Is Pink Oboe?’, Series 9 Episode 11, broadcast 12 January 1959)


For the 17th and final episode of that series, Connor was called in to stand in for Harry Secombe, after he sent a message to the rest of the cast saying he had been struck down by the “Peruvian Crut” (otherwise known as mumps).


Ken: Ohhh what a night folks. Ten miles I have travelled and no signs of the two doctors. I must complain to the AA, the BB and the CC, or in English yes yes. Bluebottle: Can I stop singing now, Captain? My nose has started to bleed. Ken: Go away lad will you, I’m acting. Bluebottle: Oh, could I act wid you den? Ken: Yes, but keep quiet. Bluebottle: Can I be your stand in? Ken: Alright. Stand in that hole over there.

(‘The £50 Cure’, Series 9 Episode 17, broadcast 23 February 1959)


(According to Roger Wilmut in his Goonography, this episode was expected to be the last of them all, but the lack of Secombe played a role in persuading Milligan and the BBC to press on with the final six episodes, forming series 10.)


Bloodnok: Wait a moment sir! Lift-up your trouser leg. [FX: Wooden blind goes up] Bloodnok: Just as I thought! The ragged underpants of Gunner Connor, ex-regimental strangler. Ken: Exposed! Tell me, how do you know my terrible secret? Bloodnok: The war lad, France and the Low Countries. Remember? Ken: Err... Bloodnok: The invasion, Salerno. Remember we spent that night in a field together? Ken: Sheila Francis, 601 ATS Company! Darling, what hit you? Bloodnok: Put me down you blind military fool!

(‘The £50 Cure’, Series 9 Episode 17, broadcast 23 February 1959)


Salerno was where many Allied troops entered the country in 1944 during the operation to liberate Italy. Connor was a gunner with the infantry, according to his Wikipedia page (although this is not properly sourced). This would have placed him near the front line and not all that far away from Gunner Secombe and Lance-Bombardier Milligan (based on my understanding of their respective memoirs), whose regiments were also part of the Italy campaign after serving in North Africa. Later all three joined the Entertainments National Service Association and the Stars in Battledress, the organisations formed to entertain troops waiting for demobilisation.


Connor appeared in The Ladykillers in 1955, Sellers’ first big break on the big screen, and in Davy in 1957, which was designed to perform the same job for Harry Secombe. He also performed on the stage alongside Secombe in The Four Musketeers in 1967.


For a full rundown of his career, his obituary from the Independent is available here, published after his death (as most obituaries are) on 28 November 1993.


(Image sourced from Wikipedia)

 

Episode nine of the first series hit the airwaves at 7:45pm on 23 July 1951. It’s sandwiched on page 16 of the Radio Times in between a programme about marine exhibits on London’s South Bank and an episode of Twenty Questions featuring Kenneth Horne, 14 years before he starred in Round the Horne.


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