Frank Muir and Denis Norden Archive

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The Archive contains more than six hundred scripts, the majority from Muir's and Norden's radio work, but about 90 for television productions. The greatest part is the work of Frank Muir and Denis Norden, but the names of collaborators are on the title pages of relevant scripts. Contributions from John Cleese, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and others appear in the files of Cambridge Circus (box 37).

Administrative / Biographical History

The Frank Muir and Denis Norden Archive contains more than six hundred radio and television scripts by two gifted humorists acknowledged to be among the foremost British comedy writers of their age.

Denis Norden (b 1922) grew up in Hackney and originally pursued a career in cinema and theatre management in the 1930s. Although the pair were not to meet until 1947, he and Frank Muir (1920-1998) already had something in common as both served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and both spent much of their free time writing comedy material to amuse fellow servicemen. At the war's end, Muir landed a job with the British Broadcasting Corporation, writing comedy material for ex-airman Jimmy Edwards, and, in 1947, the scriptwriter Ted Kavanagh brought him together with Norden in the hope that the newly introduced pair might hit it off. It was the beginning of an outstanding thirty-year career, all of which is represented in the Archive, from their first major success, Take it from Here, which won the hearts of the British listening public in (1949?), to their television characters The Glums in the late 1970s. The intervening years produced such favourites as Bedtime with Braden, Gently Bentley(with Josephine Crombie and Alma Cogan) and the unforgettable Whack-O! series, described by the British Comedy website as 'undoubtedly one of the major successes of early British television'. 'Professor' Jimmy Edwards was the star, and sixty half-hour episodes were broadcast over eight series. The full scripts of some episodes classed as 'missing', including 'The Marchioness', are held at Sussex. The pair also scripted episodes of The Peter Ustinov Show. Muir and Norden were in constant demand for three decades; their partnership only began to wind down when Muir took a full-time executive role with BBC Light Entertainment. They were appointed CBE (Commanders of the British Empire) in 1980.

Arrangement

Prior to deposit, the collection had been carefully ordered and clearly listed. The original listings are retained and are the means of locating the scripts within the archive. Each box includes a list of its contents.

Conditions Governing Access

Items in the collection may be consulted for the purpose of private study and personal research, within the controlled environment and restrictions of the Library's Special Collections Reading Rooms.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by Denis Norden and Jamie Muir, son of the late Frank Muir, acting for his family, in 2000.

Note

Prepared by John Farrant, August 2002, with acknowledgement to Neil Parkinson.

Other Finding Aids

A handlist is available in the Library and also on its website.

Conditions Governing Use

COPIES FOR PRIVATE STUDY: Subject to copyright, conditions imposed by owners and protecting the documents, the Library can supply, at a charge, photocopies, photographs or digital copies.

PUBLICATION: A reader wishing to publish material in the collection should contact the Head of Special Collections, in writing. The reader is responsible for obtaining permission to publish from the copyright owner.

Bibliography

Frank Muir and Denis Norden, The Glums(audio tape, includes episodes originally transmitted in Take it from Here in the 1950s) (BBC Worldwide Ltd, 1996).