Frank Muir, a king of comedy, dies

Frank Muir, one of the great post-war television and radio comedy writers, died yesterday. David Lister reviews the career of a humorist who became disillusioned with the humour of today.

With his six-foot-six-inch frame, mellifluous voice, bright pink bow ties and bushy RAF moustache, Frank Muir, who died yesterday at the age of 77, is a figure etched in the memory of viewers of such television series as Call My Bluff.

But Muir's greatest talent was not in front of the cameras, but as one of the most successful comedy scriptwriters and producers of the television and radio age. His partnership with Dennis Norden produced the radio sitcom classic Take It From Here and television series such as Wacko, as well as classic sketches for Peter Sellers.

After the Muir-Norden partnership ended in 1964 and Norden went on to take a greater role in front of the cameras, Muir did some of his most important work, becoming assistant head of comedy for the BBC and then head of comedy for London Weekend Television. He became executive producer of such classics as Hancock's Half Hour, Steptoe and Son, The Rag Trade, All Gas and Gaiters, Till Death Us Do Part, On the Buses, Please Sir!, and Not Only ... But Also. He began scriptwriting during service in the Second World War when he became involved with broadcasting to the troops.

Frank Muir died in bed - hours after spending an evening watching the film Forrest Gump on television, and commending the script, his wife Polly, 72, said yesterday. "We watched the film together and he thoroughly enjoyed it," she said. "He maintained an interest in comedy writing to the end."

Mrs Muir said she was with her husband when he died, just after mid-day. She had since broken the news to their two children. Their son Jamie is a television arts producer and their daughter Sally, married to journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft, has for 18 years been a designer of knitwear.

Muir's death comes three months after he published his memoirs, A Kentish Lad.

In a recent interview, Muir lamented the changes to both television comedy and television in general. He said: "I see some smartarse sitcom, like Men Behaving Badly, and then I see Dad's Army, or Till Death Us Do Part ... and the craftsmanship is infinitely greater."Dennis Norden said yesterday: "He was like a brother to me. Nothing is adequate to express my feelings."

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