Larry

Cartoonist known for his distinctive 'big-nose style' and his captionless 'Man' series in 'Punch'
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Terence Parkes ("Larry"), cartoonist and illustrator: born Birmingham 19 November 1927; married 1952 Pauline Woodward (one son, one daughter); died Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire 25 June 2003.

Larry was once described by the former Punch editor Alan Coren as "the only great silent comedian still in business". For more than half a century his distinctive and instantly recognisable captionless cartoons brightened the pages of countless newspapers and magazines, both in Britain and overseas. Admired and respected by his contemporaries, he was also one of the most successful and original cartoonists of his generation.

Born Terence Parkes in 1927, in Birmingham, he was the only child of Walter Parkes, a welding foreman in a motor-car factory, and his wife Alice. He was educated at Handsworth Grammar School, where a near contemporary was the Labour MP Denis Howell, and when war broke out in 1939 he and his classmates were evacuated to Stroud in Gloucestershire. He drew his first "proper" cartoon - a joke about the bomb plot to kill Hitler - while still at school.

He later enrolled to study fine art for three years at the Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts but his training was interrupted by National Service in the Royal Artillery (1946-48). After returning to complete his course, specialising in book illustration, he went on to qualify as an art teacher for the newly formed secondary modern schools. At about this time he began submitting cartoons to newspapers and magazines and his first published works appeared (under his real name) in the Birmingham Sunday Mercury and Birmingham Gazette.

His first job was as an art teacher at Lincoln Road Secondary Modern School in Peterborough, Lincolnshire (1951-54). It was here that he acquired his pseudonym, a nickname given him by pupils in honour of Larry Parks, star of the popular film The Jolson Story (1946), which was being screened in Peterborough.

Tiring of teaching, he returned to Birmingham and worked as a progress-chaser in the Lucas Turbines factory. However, he continued to produce cartoons in his spare time and in 1954 he had his first drawings accepted by Punch. Two years later, in the autumn of 1956, he was briefly (for three months) a staff cartoonist on the Daily Express, sharing an office with the political cartoonist Michael Cummings and the sports cartoonist Roy Ullyett.

He turned full-time freelance in 1957, settling in Solihull and later Stratford-upon-Avon, and soon became one of the most successful joke cartoonists of his day, working for newspapers and magazines including Birmingham Evening Mail (sports cartoons), Soldier, Private Eye, The Oldie, The Guardian, Opera Now and The Daily Telegraph as well as producing drawings for advertising clients such as Double Diamond beer (he claimed to have created the slogan "I'm only here for the beer") and the Inland Revenue amongst others.

He also produced cartoons and commentary for Granada TV's Afternoon Edition (1963-64) and for a short while in 1973-74 was a scenery painter at Joan Littlewood's Theatre Royal in London. In addition he supplied visual jokes for the television comedian Marty Feldman as well as material for the films Carry On Camping (1969) and Carry On Up the Khyber (1968); for both of these he also drew cartoons to illustrate the title credits.

Larry's first really big success as a cartoonist came in the late 1950s with his captionless Punch series "Man in Apron" - about a balding middle-aged, middle-class husband attempting to cook and do housework. It caught on in Britain and the US - where it was praised by such comic greats as Charles Schultz (creator of "Peanuts") and Harpo Marx - and led to a book of the same title in 1959. Future series featuring the same character were also later turned into successful books: More Man in Apron (1960), Man in Office (1961), Man at Work (1962), Man at Large (1964), Man and Wife (1965), Man's Best Friend (1966), Man in Garden (1966), More Man in Garden (1967), Man in Motor Car (1968), Man in School (1972) and Man on Holiday (1973).

The "Man" character carried through into much of Larry's later work. Writing in 1994 Larry said of him:

This bloke I draw must somehow strike a familiar chord with readers. . . He tends to get embarrassed about love and doesn't really know what it's all about, but he's reliable. He's not practical, of course, but he's ingenious, and he gets there in the end.

Though Larry admitted that he was himself one of the last of the "old school" as a husband, he denied that the "Man" figure was a self-portrait and later said that he was based on his father, in character if not in looks:

Indefatigable he was - though, like me, he always had a good head of hair. The reason I drew him bald was to distinguish him from the women - my cartoon faces always look the same, male or female.

Larry's jokes about fine art were also very popular, especially those which imagined new subjects for Rodin's sculpture. The first collection of these was Larry's Art Collection (1977) and in 1992 he also began experimenting with three- dimensional clay cartoons on art themes. Other collections of his drawings included The Larry Omnibus (1967), Larry (1974), Best of Larry (1983), Larry's Garden Lot (1988), Larry's DIY Man (1989) and Larry at War (1995). A light-hearted autobiographical book, Larry on Larry, appeared in 1994.

In addition Larry drew humorous book illustrations for James Herriot's Vets Might Fly (1976), George Mikes's How to be Poor (1983), Stephen Pile's The Return of Heroic Failures (1988), Kenneth Williams's Back Drops (1983), the Private Eye "Colemanballs" series (1982-96) and many other publications. He also produced greetings cards, calendars, plates and bathroom tiles. When interviewed in 1994 he said: "A cartoonist should have a hack's temperament, and not be too precious."

Larry won many awards for his cartoons and his drawings have been exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and in many commercial galleries in Britain and overseas. Examples of his work were included in the exhibition "Drawn & Quartered: the world of the British newspaper cartoon, 1720-1970" at the National Portrait Gallery in 1970. Cartoons by him are held in such public collections as the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Museum Department of Prints and Drawings, Essex University and the Centre for the Study of Cartoons and Caricature at the University of Kent at Canterbury.

A fan of the humour of Jacques Tati, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Will Hay and Sid Field, Larry also admired the art of Daumier, Lautrec and Van Gogh. His favourite cartoonist was Starke:

No hesitation about it - Heath Robinson, Bateman, Hoffnung were all dazzling artists but to me they were never as amusing as Les Starke at his best.

Though Larry's drawing technique was entirely his own - it was Russell Brockbank, Art Editor of Punch, who encouraged him to keep his loose, sketchy line by publishing drawings he had originally submitted as roughs - he later admitted that his "big-nose style" was influenced by the work of the French cartoonist Jean-Maurice Bosc. He worked very quickly, using an old-fashioned Rolinx dip pen and Pelikan or Rotring black ink (sometimes also coloured inks or watercolour) on ordinary typing paper.

Larry was 5ft 10in tall and of sturdy build. Normally clean-shaven, he had a full head of grey (formerly black) hair and wore spectacles when working. Never happier than when smoking his pipe and with a glass of real ale in his hand, he spoke with a strong Birmingham accent and usually wore a cloth cap. Though fond of cats (he always had two) he was very much a dog man and owned a number of labradors and a large black-and-tan Rottweiler bitch called Gerda.

An engaging raconteur with strong opinions on a wide variety of topics, he will be remembered too for his kindness and generosity by the many young artists and writers he encouraged during his lifetime.

Mark Bryant

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