Obituary: Anthea Askey

PERT AND pretty, sweet and very petite, Anthea Askey was the delightful daughter of one of the country's all-time favourite funny men, Arthur Askey, who might very well have called himself "sweet and petite" if only in jest. The only child of Arthur and his beloved wife, May, both of whom might be described as pocket-sized, Anthea inherited her father's spirit of comedy and her mother's good looks. Domesticity and producing grandchildren for her parents deprived her of a fulsome career in television and faithful viewers of a major star.

Anthea Shirley Askey was born in 1933 in the same Golders Green nursing home where her funny father was having his tonsils removed. "It was a sort of package deal," he was pleased to remember. A few weeks later Askey was to make his first BBC radio broadcast in Saturday Night Music Hall. He felt his daughter's birth brought him luck for within a few years he would become the star of radio's first regular comedy series, Band Waggon, which would lead him into a string of major comedy films over the next decade.

Anthea's education at a nearby convent was interrupted by the Second World War. The Askey family evacuated themselves to Worthing, then in 1940 to Lytham in Lancashire while Arthur starred at the Blackpool Opera House, then to Portmeirion in Wales, moving to Lake Windermere in 1941, a cottage in Little Milton in 1942, after which Anthea was put into a boarding school at Bletchley.

Finally in 1944 the Askeys bought a house in Sussex. Moving in at Christmas they discovered their gardener was augmenting his income by selling their prize vegetables to the local greengrocer.

By this time Anthea's permanent nickname for her dad was "Wave". As an infant in arms she thought it was his name. Every time Askey left the house, wherever it might be, her mother took the child's arm and said, "Wave!"

She made her first stage appearance in 1945 at the age of 12. She was attending boarding school on the Isle of Wight at the time. The local repertory theatre at Ventnor needed a young girl for a small part in the Emlyn Williams play Dear Evelyn. Anthea was eager to take the job, as it meant no homework plus late nights for a fortnight. Dad was especially delighted when an on-stage door stuck. Anthea gave it a couple of pulls, then ad-libbed "I think I'll go through the French windows, it's quicker!" Like father, like daughter.

In 1946 Askey received his first invitation (of nine) to take part in the Royal Variety Performance. After the show he asked Anthea how she liked it. "Do you know daddy," she said, "they didn't give me a spoon with my ice-cream".

In 1948 the 15-year-old Anthea passed her radio audition and was cast as the lisping Violet Elizabeth Bott in the latest series of sit-coms based on Richmal Crompton's Just William. Naughty schoolboy William Brown was played by David Spenser, the former newsreader Bruce Belfrage played Mr Brown, while his wife was played by none other than Enid Trevor, wife and straight-woman to comedian Claude Hulbert.

By 1949 Anthea Askey was a hardened "pro" and joined her father on stage in his play The Kid from Stratford. Then the Askeys upped and went to Australia, where they starred in The Love Racket. They intended to stay for three months but were such a hit they ended up spending a full year. When she finally returned home Anthea was cast in her first pantomime at Bolton.

In 1954 Arthur threw her a star-studded 21st birthday party at the Dorchester Hotel. The 150 guests included his old Band Waggon partner Dickie Murdoch, Norman Wisdom, Bobby Howes and his film-star daughter Sally Ann, and the entire Crazy Gang not forgetting "Monsewer" Eddie Gray. Askey, knowing his daughter's heart, invited as a surprise guest her secret love, the cinema heart-throb Herbert Lom.

The same year Anthea made her cinema debut, backing up father in his starring vehicle The Love Match. This John Baxter production based on Glenn Melvyn's successful play also featured Thora Hird as her mother, James Kenney, the handsome son of the popular "miserable" comedian Horace Kenney, and a guest star appearance by veteran comedian Robb Wilton in his radio role of Mr Muddlecombe JP.

The following year she played her father's daughter once again in Ramsbottom Rides Again, a comic western about the timid grandson of a tough guy sheriff. In the cast were the pop star Frankie Vaughan, Sharni Wallis and Sabrina, her father's busty discovery from his BBC television series.

Anthea Askey made her last film in 1959. This was father's final starring vehicle, Make Mine a Million. He played a television make-up man while she did a guest star walk-on with her television co-star, Dickie Henderson. For by this time she had become one of the new stars of London's latest television channel, the Independent Commercial Company, Associated-Rediffusion.

She began as ever in a production starring her father. This was a serialised version of Love and Kisses, shown in five episodes at the end of 1955 and not much more than a direct full-frontal filming of the Glenn Melvyn stage play currently performing in Blackpool. The programmes were made by Jack Hylton Productions, who would make Arthur Askey's final cinema films and most of his, and all of Anthea's, television series. Hylton, once a dance band leader, now an impresario, was the contract comedy producer for ITV and, of course, agent for the Askeys.

Next came Before Your Very Eyes (1956), taken over from the BBC and again starring father and daughter, followed by Living it Up (1957), a television version of Askey's first ever radio series reuniting him with Dickie Murdoch 18 years later, this time they were living (on the programme) in a flat atop not Broadcasting House but Television House. Anthea played herself.

In 1957 came the show that would make her a full-blown star at last. Beginning as The Dickie Henderson Show and later retitled The Dickie Henderson Half-hour, the series ran for several years. Dickie, whose first contact with Askey was singing with his sisters, the Henderson Twins, in the stage version of Band Waggon, played husband to Anthea's wife. The scripts were Anglicised from an American sit-com starring Sid Caesar, and a number have been preserved by the National Film Archive. In the later programmes, Anthea's role was taken over by June Laverick.

In 1956 Anthea had married Bill Stewart, her father's stage manager in Love Match, and now fell pregnant. Unhappily their firstborn died when only three weeks old. Later she was able to present her father with three grandchildren, Jane, Andrew and William. Tragically Anthea Askey died just a week before she was due to marry Will Fyffe Jnr, the pianist son of the Scottish comedian Will Fyffe.

Denis Gifford

Anthea Shirley Askey, actress: born London 2 March 1933; married 1956 Bill Stewart (two sons, one daughter, and one son deceased); died Worthing, West Sussex 28 February 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

film
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
Arts and Entertainment
Sassoon threw his Military Cross into the Mersey
booksAn early draft of ‘Atrocities’ shows the anti-war sentiment was toned down before publication
Arts and Entertainment
Actors and technicians on the march against changes made by Hollande
theatreOpening performances of the Avignon theatre festival cancelled as actors and technicians walk out
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West performed in a chain mail mask at Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park
Rapper booed at Wireless over bizarre rant
Arts and Entertainment

They're back, they're big – and they're still spectacularly boring

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil