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Do you remember when TV's Mr Pastry came to town?

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: December 22, 2013

By Dan Shaw

  • 1950s TV comedian George Martin

  • Mr Pastry, aka Richard Hearne

  • Adverts for some familiar local names from the 1953 Dudley Hippodrome programme

  • Programme for Mr Pastry Comes to Town at Dudley Hippodrome 1953

  • Do you recall any of these local firms advertising in the Dudley Hippodrome programme?

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WE have another old programme for a show at the Dudley Hippodrome from the collection of Jo Davies of Brierley Hill. This one dates to March 1953 and is for a show by a popular children's entertainer.

Mr Pastry Comes to Town was the show, a variety bill headed by the comic actor Richard Hearne as his most famous creation.

The touring show was produced by the entertainment impresarios Lew and Leslie Grade and played for a week in Dudley, beginning on 30th March, 1953. The show featured comic sketches with Mr Pastry as a floorwalker in a department store, a removal man shifting a piano, or reciting Shakespeare, all in his inimitable style and with his usual attending chaos.

Richard Hearne was born in 1908 into a theatrical family and he began his career as an acrobat in an act with his father. He developed his bumbling Mr Pastry character in the 1930s and went on to star in his own TV series in the early 1950s, becoming a mainstay of children's TV for the next 30 years. He also enjoyed success in America, making several appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show. He died in 1979, aged 71.

Joining Mr Pastry on the bill were several variety stars of the day.

The Whirlwind Volants, also known as the Seven Volants, were a comedic acrobatic troupe founded in the early '50s by ex-paratrooper Johnny Hutch (1913-2006). In later life he found new fame in the Benny Hill Show as the little old man whose bald head is repeatedly slapped.

Also on the bill was the magician Ali Bey. His real name was David Lemmy (1905-1975) and his act was noted for its fast pace and loud explosions, all with a mystical eastern flavour. Sadly, his career was curtailed by an accident when a theatre safety curtain struck him on the head.

Ronald Boyer and Jeanne Ravel were a celebrated ballroom and cabaret dance act credited with introducing the samba to Britain and choreographing the first television ballet. They first danced together in the 1930s and after Boyer's wartime service in the Royal Navy they made many appearances on TV before their retirement at the end of the '70s.

The Betty Hobbs Globe Girls were a dance troupe with the gimmick of performing their routines balancing on large balls.

Music was provided by the Tanner Sisters – Stella and Frances. They made many appearances on radio and TV in the 1950s, singing with Buddy Holly and having a regular spot on Educating Archie. The pair ended their singing act in 1960 but Stella went on with an acting career, appearing in shows such as The Rag Trade, Budgie, Fawlty Towers and EastEnders.

Popular TV comic of the day George Martin was also in the show. He was called "the casual comedian" as he performed his act in his shirtsleeves, often with a paper tucked under his arm and smoking a pipe. He later became a scriptwriter for Dave Allen, Tommy Cooper, David Nixon and Basil Brush.

Also on the bill was a 27-year-old actor named Warren Mitchell, who appeared in the Mr Pastry sketches.

He had been inspired to become an actor by his friend Richard Burton and he first made a name for himself in Educating Archie and then in 1959 he replaced Kenneth Williams in the final radio series of Hancock's Half Hour. He went on to have numerous film and TV roles but is best remembered as Alf Garnet in Till Death Us Do Part.

The old programme is also interesting because of the adverts for local firms and we have reprinted some of them – perhaps you can remember them?

Did you go and see Mr Pastry's show at the Dudley Hippodrome? Do you have memories and pictures from shows at other Black Country theatres? Contact dshaw@blackcountry bugle.co.uk

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