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Minnie Bannister

We’re on to episode eight of the fourth series. On 20 November 1953 ‘The Missing Bureaucrat’ was broadcast – as can be clearly seen on page 42 of the Radio Times at 9:30pm.

There is no existing recording that I know of, leaving me with just one question: if the bureaucrat was really missing, would anyone notice?

Minnie Bannister was another long-running character created by Spike Milligan. By pinching his Adam's apple and waggling it, he found he could create a high-pitched, wavering old-lady voice, and it quickly became a regular part of his repertoire.

According to Humphrey Carpenter's biography of Spike, Minnie Bannister made one of her first radio appearances in Bumblethorpe, the obscure series Milligan created with Larry Stephens.

Minnie formed a duo with Henry Crun sometime in the fourth series, I believe. Crun was initially paired with a character called Whacklow, which was not particularly successful as a partnership. Peter Sellers used the name 'Whacklow, Futtle & Crun' as a legal firm in his correspondence with the other Goons.

Minnie and Henry made for a much more amusing pairing. The doddery duo allowed Milligan to pad out the script with hilarious circular conversations based on them both being hard of hearing and short of memory.

Henry Crun: I've just had a clever idea, Minnie. Minnie Bannister: Have you, Henry? Henry: Yes, Min dear, it is a very clever idea. Minnie: Oooooh! How did you come to think of it, Henry? Henry: You know, it came to me, when I was thinking about - thinking , er, - [pause] - Min! Minnie: Yes, Henry? Henry: I've forgotten what it was I was thinking about when I got the idea. Minnie: Oh. Never mind Henry. What was the idea? Henry: I've forgotten, Min.

(from 'The Great Tuscan Salami Scandal', Series 6 Episode 23, broadcast 21 February 1956)

After one such exchange, Minnie was even heard to remark: "We've filled in the time like the producer asked..."

The Minnie and Henry skits also demonstrate Milligan's and Sellers' fantastic comic timing, which I believe comes straight from their respective talents as musicians. Listening back to some exchanges, you can hear the pair argue, pause for breath, then both begin arguing again at the same split second. It's simple, but brilliant, comedy.

Peter Sellers was famed for his cars. One in particular seemed to mean the most to him: a 1930 Austin Heavy Twelve Open Road Tourer Deluxe, dubbed "Old Min". It came up for auction earlier this year.

This particular piece of Sellers' "metal underwear" (as Milligan dubbed his cars) also belonged to Spike. The story goes that it was Milligan's car initially, but he lost his license and so passed it to his Goon colleague. After a few years Sellers gifted it back, but took it back after less than a week after being horrified that Spike had left it out in the rain.

That was just an inkling of how obsessed Sellers was with cars - you had to take care of them. Here's another insight, again courtesy of Spike, talking to Terry Wogan in 1987.

Sellers: Hurry up Tim. Hurry up. I'm on my way to buy a new motor car Tim. Secombe: You've only just bought a new Rolls. Sellers: Ah, but it's facing the wrong way Tim. It's facing the wrong way. [FX: Phone from cradle] Sellers: Hello motorcar man. Hello? Hello? Hello motorcar man. Can you send me a catalogue of motorcars facing the other way please?

(from 'Tiddleywinks', Series 8 Episode 24, broadcast 10 March 1958)

"Old Min" was sold for £30,375 at a Bonhams auction in May this year. See the listing here. Hagerty, a classic car website, has another article about Peter Sellers' car addiction.

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