Malcolm Chapman's Tony Hancock and British Comedy Collection

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection consists of many scripts for radio and television series, as well as film and stage material. The majority of these scripts are photocopies, but there are also several originals. There are also sequences of various Hancock-related and comedy-related fanzines, plus Chapman's considerable research into the various comedy series and their stars. These research files include biographical details, press material, photographs and broadcasting information. There are also details of the activities of the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society, plus posters, and assorted memorabilia.

Administrative / Biographical History

Malcolm Chapman was a collector of material documenting the life and career of Tony Hancock.

Hancock (1924-1968) was one of the foremost radio, television and cinema comedians of the 1950s and 1960s. He began his career in the RAF Gang Shows, stage shows put on to entertain the troops during World War Two. After the war Hancock gained a considerable following for his stage shows, most notably at the Windmill Theatre in London's West End. Concurrently Hancock was making many radio appearances, firstly on Worker's Playtime, Variety Bandbox, and Educating Archie.

Hancock became a household name when he was given his own sitcom, Hancock's Half Hour, initially on BBC radio (1954-1959), and later transferring to BBC television (1956-1961), both written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. During these years Hancock had the unusual distinction of having another eponymous series, The Tony Hancock Show broadcast on the rival ITV network (1956-1957). Hancock also made the feature film The Rebel (1960), playing a version of his television persona. The Rebel was also written by Galton and Simpson.

Hancock became increasingly dependent on alcohol, partly as a result of his anxiety during the broadcasting of the live television shows. He became increasingly disillusioned with his writers and co-stars and sacked Galton and Simpson in 1961. After this Hancock appeared in the film The Punch and Judy Man (1963), and in the same year appeared in a new eponymous ITV sitcom, Hancock. Neither of these ventures recaptured his previous success. During the later 1960s he undertook more stage tours, still heavily reliant on alcohol. In 1968 whilst on a tour of Australia Tony Hancock committed suicide, aged 44.

Malcolm Chapman used his considerable knowledge of the life and career of Hancock to assist authors writing biographies of Hancock, and produced an index for Eddie Joffe's book Hancock's Last Stand (1998). In addition to his enthusiasm for Hancock, Chapman also collected research and memorabilia concerning many other comedians including Max Miller, Beryl Reid and Peter Brough, as well as the television series Steptoe and Son, written by Hancock's frequent writing team of Ray Galton and Alan Simpson.

During the 1950s and 1960s it was common practice for the BBC and other broadcasters to wipe the master recordings of television programmes so that the tapes could be reused. Malcolm Chapman was responsible for arranging for amateur recordings of broadcasts to be donated back to the BBC so that they could be re-mastered and preserved. Chapman is also credited with discovering many scripts for lost radio shows, as well as the long-lost 1961 script for a proposed Hancock film The Day Off, by Galton and Simpson. In January 2012 the script was performed by a full cast at a special event at the British Film Institute.

In 2011, Chapman received a Lifetime's Achievement Award from the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society for his research and promotional work, and died the following year aged 63.

It was Chapman's ambition to open a museum dedicated to comedy in Bournemouth, where Hancock spent his childhood.

Arrangement

The collection has been arranged into the following series:

  • THM/432/1 - Hancock's Half Hour BBC Radio scripts
  • THM/432/2 - Hancock's Half Hour - Television scripts (BBC)
  • THM/432/3 - The Tony Hancock Show ITV Television scripts
  • THM/432/4 - Tony Hancock sketches, unused scripts & articles by Galton & Simpson
  • THM/432/5 - Steptoe & Sons - Television scripts
  • THM/432/6 - Television scripts for Paul Merton in Galton and Simpson's ...
  • THM/432/7 - Miscellaneous Radio, Television, Film and Theatre scripts
  • THM/432/8 - Periodicals and Fan magazines
  • THM/432/9 - Chapman's Hancock Research files
  • THM/432/10 - Chapman's comedy research files
  • THM/432/11 - Educating Archie Memorabilia

Conditions Governing Access

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only.Full details of access arrangements may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/ .

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Soo Chapman, widow of Malcolm Chapman, 2012.

Separated Material

The following items have been integrated into the Theatre and Performance collections:

  • S.2623-2013 - Vent doll called Jimmy wearing full evening dress.
  • S.1156-2014 - Costume worn by Hattie Jacques in the BBC Television Series Sykes, 1975, costume designed by Andrew Rose

Books and CDs have been added to the V&A Theatre and Performance Library, as have two scrapbooks relating to Elaine Millar, a stage actress of the early twentieth century.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/ .

Appraisal Information

This collection has been appraised according to departmental policy.

Accruals

No further accruals expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Theatre and Performance Department. Material relating to Tony Hancock in general may be found in several collections, including the V&A Theatre and Performance Library, and also biographical, productions, and photographs files.