The characters - part 2
Updated: Oct 13, 2021
Here's the rest of the rag-tag bunch of regular characters. See yesterday's post for part 1.
Major Denis Bloodnok (Peter Sellers)
All four of the Goons – and pretty much everyone else involved in the show – had direct experience of being in the armed forces during the Second World War. A big part of the Goons’ humour was derived from the army, the war, and a desire to send up authority and highlight just how ridiculous the whole thing was.
Thus, Major Bloodnok emerged as one of Sellers’ most distinctive voices – a cowardly army major with his fingers constantly in the till (or the mess tin). He’s also a womaniser, or at least attempts to be, and eats more curry than his underpants can bear. He is also the only Goon to have his own theme tune – composed, I believe, by Stanley Black.
In the earliest recordings that exist (two episodes from the second series), it’s interesting to note that Bloodnok’s voice and character are far more authoritative and ‘straight’ than the quavering, cowardly idiot of later series.
Henry Crun (Peter Sellers)
A doddery, forgetful old man, almost always accompanied by Minnie Bannister. He is often cast as an inventor. After the Goon Show ended, Sellers occasionally wrote joke correspondence to Milligan and Secombe using a letterhead from “Whacklow, Futtle, & Crun”.
Minnie Bannister (Spike Milligan)
An ancient old woman voiced by Milligan, who would pinch his own throat near his Adam’s apple and waggle it to create her wavering voice. Despite her implied age she is often to be found singing, dancing, playing the saxophone, or a combination of all three.
It is regularly hinted that she and Major Bloodnok had a romantic past, and she is also Bluebottle’s auntie.
Jim Spriggs (Spike Milligan)
One of the main satellite characters who doesn’t appear in every episode but is always thoroughly enjoyed when he does. His trademark is to repeat part of his sentence in a sing-song fashion across an octave, for no immediately obvious reason.
As Adolphus Spriggs, he is responsible for one of the Goons’ most memorable songs: ‘I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas’ first appeared in ‘The Tuscan Salami Scandal’ (Series 6, Episode 23, 21 February 1956), and was later released on the ‘Unchained Melodies’ compilation album.
(I was convinced it had been released as a single, but can’t find any evidence online. The ‘Hit Parade’ of popular singles was only introduced in the 1950s though, so perhaps I’ve imagined this.)
Willium Mate (Peter Sellers)
Another regular satellite character, Willium is a slightly wheezy cockney who crops up semi-regularly to move the plot along. He was the first victim of ‘The Mysterious Punch-Up-The-Conker’ (Series 7 Episode 19) and on more than one occasion turned out to be a German spy.
Moriarty: Now then constable - how would you like to join the river police? Mate: Oh, very much sir. [FX: Splash] Mate: (off mic) Thank you very much sir!
(from ‘Dishonoured, or The Fall of Neddie Seagoon’, Series 5 Episode 12, broadcast 14 December 1954)
Pureheart (Michael Bentine)
There weren’t as many strong recurring characters through the first couple of series (at least not from the evidence that I’ve seen and heard), but Bentine’s Pureheart was a regular lead. He was often a captain or professor, and usually responsible for a whacky invention.
Milligan: Now tell me, captain, is it true that you built the Suez Canal? Pureheart: Oh, yes, Mr Milligan, I built it. It took me a long, long, time, though. First I had to get some permissions from Cleopatra. Milligan: But Cleopatra’s been dead for 2,000 years. Pureheart: I told you, it took me a long, long time.
(from Series 2 Episode 1, broadcast 22 January 1952)
For a little more on the characters and some of the peripheral players, see The Goon Show Site. The Telegoons website also has some copies of cartoons by Milligan and Sellers of the main characters.
Cartoon of Bloodnok from The Goon Show Site.