British comedian, actor, and singer Bernard Cribbins (1928-2022) gave up the ghost today at age 93, and naturally many are leading with his Doctor Who connection, but that’ll have to be some else’s lookout.
I knew Cribbins from lots of movie and TV performances, and I’m delighted to learn that he first attained fame in his native country with hit novelty records produced by George Martin for Parlophone. The first and highest charting of these was the hilarious “Hole in the Ground” (1962), available on Youtube for your listening pleasure. You won’t regret spending a couple of minutes listening to it. It’s very cleverly written and showcases Cribbins’ talents not just as a singer but as a dialect comedian using two very different accents.
Cribbins was in three of the Carry On comedies, as well as such pictures as The World of Suzy Wong (1960) with Willian Holden and Nancy Kwan; Richard Lester’s The Mouse on the Moon (1963) with Margaret Rutherford, Terry-Thomas, and Ron Moody; the 1965 Hammer remake of She; the all-star James Bond parody Casino Royale (1967), Jerry Lewis’s Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (1968); and Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972, as the barman), among many other things. He did tons of British television which American audiences won’t know, but some they will: including a hilarious episode of Fawlty Towers (in which he is a hotel inspector with a Hitler moustache), and shows like Space: 1999; Tales of the Unexpected; and Midsomer Murders. Oh, yes, and also Doctor Who.
Cribbins was from a working class Lancashire family. He first gained attention for his performances in several West End shows starting in 1956. His most recent onscreen appearance was in 2018; he continued to do audio work as late as 2021. Having started out in the theatre at age 13, you could say that he was in the business for 80 years. Hell, “Hole in the Ground” turned 60 this year!
BTW, the subject of today’s post is not to be confused with that other long-lived star of the 20th century, Bartholomew Cubbins.
For more on variety entertainment, including radio and tv variety, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy see Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.
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