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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Harold Hare meets Tony Hancock

One of the jobs I had recently was to scan a load of covers from Harold Hare's Own Paper which, to the uninitiated, was a rather nice nursery title published by Fleetway in 1959-64. It was published in a large size (9 1/2" x 12 3/4") and many issues had half or full page illustrations by Hugh McNeill of the topsy-turvy bunny of the title.

In November 1962, Harold had the misfortune of picking up a book called Thrilling Mystery Story from the library and found himself in a storyline straight out of Hancock's Half Hour which, to those poor uninitiated folk, was a radio series broadcast by the BBC between 1954 and 1959 starring Tony Hancock. The show was a huge success, breaking away from the variety format of other comedy shows and presenting its listeners with a storyline that filled the full half hour. Hancock was transferred to the TV in 1956, the show lasting for seven seasons until 1961.

One of the finest TV episodes was called 'The Missing Page', in which Hancock borrows a book from the library, a thriller called Lady Don't Fall Backwards by D'Arcy Sarto, only to find that the final page, with the solution to the mystery, is missing. The whole show is hilarious from start to finish and has quite a few subtle jokes that some of his viewers may have missed. One is the name of the author: D'Arcy Sarto was made up from the names of two of the most popular pseudo-American gangster writers of the fifties, D'Arcy Glinto and Ben Sarto. The book, Lady Don't Fall Backwards, was a typical of the hard-boiled titles that adorned their novels. It was later used by Joan Le Mesurier (wife of John Le Mesurier) for her autobiography.

Even more interesting is the picture below in which you can see the mocked-up thriller cover and the author's name: D'Arcy Clinto!

(When I was putting together the little souvenir booklet for the 1st Paperback & Pulp Fair held at the Grosvenor in 1991 I thought it might be fun to include Lady Don't Fall Backwards as one of the illustrations, just to see if anyone noticed. Having an artist for a flatmate helped -- Alison did a fine job of painting up a cover in the style of H. W. Perl at his worst and it fitted in a treat amongst the other poorly photocopied covers. And nobody spotted it!)

(Another retrospectively funny joke in 'The Missing Page' is Hancock's response to a librarian who accuses him of marking a book that he doesn't like eggs, foreshadowing a series of commercials that Hancock did for the Egg Marketing Board some years later.)

Back to Harold Hare, who trips over a basket of plumbs and also loses the final page of the book. Racing back to the scene, Harold spots his Aunt Hilda using the missing page to tuck inside her hat to stop it slipping down on her head; since Harold would rather Aunt Hilda didn't find him reading a thriller, he dresses up as her -- supposedly for a fancy dress party, giving him an excuse to borrow her hat. What is it about rabbits dressing up in drag? Bugs Bunny was always doing it. Anyway, Aunt Hilda removes the page from the lining of her hat (as Harold's head is bigger than her's) and uses it to wedge shut a cupboard door, then as a bookmark. Harold has to join her at the hairdressers if he's to get his hand on that missing page... which you'll be pleased to hear that he manages by the end of the story.

Next week: "A pint? That's very nearly a paw full!" Or maybe not...

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read this comic from the first issue when I was a little girl. I lived in New Zealand then and over the years I have asked people if they remembered it and no one ever has. I was beginning to think I had imagined it. There was a book at Christmas, I think it was called Harold Hare's Own Annual.
A M Wright

Stuart Williams said...

Anyone know anytng about the HAROLD HARE'S PET CLUB. It may be a spin-off to the comics but not sure. Thank you. Stuart (mt e-mail is stuartwilliams59@yahoo.co.uk)

Anonymous said...

I loved harold hare shouting out, 'hold onto your holly hocks as he zoomed around in his red racing car. I have got a red racing car now and shout out 'hold onto your holly hocks to my passengers!HOW SAD IS THAT!!!!!!!!!!!