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Women in the Goon Show

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

The first Goon Show of 1953 was episode nine of the third series, broadcast on 6 January. Titled ‘The Navy, Army and Air Force’, it is in the long Goon tradition of military themed sketches and episodes – although, of course, no recording exists.

The Radio Times listing is available on page 18. Elsewhere in this issue there is a short piece announcing the return of Take It From Here, another hugely popular radio comedy of the era. Find it on page 6 and 7.

Dick Emery deputised for Spike Milligan for the second time in this episode, as Spike remained unable to perform.

For all of Spike Milligan’s qualities, he can be a very frustrating person to research. This is particularly the case when he comments so dismissively about the people with whom he worked and collaborated. Larry Stephens’ legacy was tarnished somewhat by Milligan branding him a ‘glorified typist’ (although this was by no means the only reason his work was forgotten by many).

Milligan was also terribly dismissive of the women who appeared in the Goon Show – so much so, in fact, that he got their names wrong, or couldn’t remember them at all. In an interview for the 1997 book The Goons: The Story, Milligan says, “the girls appeared from time to time according to who was dating them” – implying they had no other reason to be there.

Charlotte Mitchell

He goes on to name a “Charlotte Greenwood”, when he meant Charlotte Mitchell, and a “Margaret McMillan”. The latter is most likely a reference to Margaret Lindsay, who was supposed to appear in the first episode of the first series but didn’t. Lindsay was replaced by Marie Benson, according to the sleeve notes from The Goon Show Compendium Volume 13.

(Margaret McMillan was a pioneer of early years education who died in 1930, which amused me as Milligan claimed she was his girlfriend at one point.)

Charlotte Mitchell, for her part, was a successful actress and poet, and a very funny Goon.

The third “little girl” he refers to is similarly dismissed – “I’m grateful I have forgotten her name” – which is very rude to the film and TV actress Cecile Chevreau, who appears in ‘African Incident’ (Series 8 Episode 14).

Cecile Chevreau

Spike also missed out Ellis Powell, who appeared in ‘Where Does Santa Claus Go In The Summer?’ (Series 3 Episode 8), but in his defence in this case he was recovering from a nervous breakdown at the time and so was not involved in the writing or recording for that one. He also forgot Carole Carr, who appeared in ‘Robin Hood’ (Series 3 Episode 7) and the short film Down Among the Z Men.

See my 23 July blog for more on Charlotte Mitchell. Chevreau and Carr will get the attention they rightly deserve in future blogs.

Right - rant over. Carole Carr has arrived to entertain you with her wonderful singing voice.

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