Max Bygraves

 

Further to your obituary of 3 September, Max Bygraves is justly remembered as a great all-round entertainer, writes Robert Chesshyre, the last of a kind whose roots were deep in the music hall of yesteryear. It is less well known that he was occasionally a straight film actor, and it was in that context that, as a teenager in 1958, I met him.

He starred in A Cry from the Streets, directed by Lewis Gilbert and based on a novel by my aunt, Elizabeth Coxhead. He and Elizabeth became pals and I was invited to watch a day's shooting in a Buckinghamshire wood. The plot, briefly, concerned the fate of two children orphaned when their father murdered their mother and was, in consequence, hanged.

Their social worker was played by Barbara Murray, very much the upper middle class stereotype of the 1950s. Bygraves was the electrician who did jobs at the children's home, and he and Murray fell for each other and he fell also for the children, taking them on trips. For Bygraves' benefit a couple of songs had been inserted into the film, and I recall vividly singing along with the child actors (principally Colin Petersen and Dana Wilson) as they practised.

The song "You gotta to have rain" was pure Bygraves, and the opening lyrics were: "If you didn't have rain every now and again/Then you couldn't have flowers…" It was magical sitting on a log being charmed by Bygraves and belting our hearts out. His enormous warmth, concentrated on a few children, rapidly drew into the circle the rest of the cast and the film technicians, and we sang to rival the woodland birds.

I have to say that watching the film today – it is available on DVD and is occasionally still shown on television – it's apparent that Bygraves was not the greatest of film actors, and was wise to return to his day job at the London Palladium. But in person he was charm personified and utterly unselfconscious. He told a story that I still remember.

His wife, Blossom, had just taken up golf, and by coincidence a man called at the Bygraves' front door with a cheap set of lady's clubs for sale (Bygraves admitted that they were almost certainly of dodgy provenance). Sensing a bargain – despite his growing wealth, his former childhood poverty still cast its shadow – Bygraves snapped up the clubs and proudly presented them to Blossom.

It was only then that the penny dropped. The reason why the clubs were so cheap was that they were for left-handers. Blossom was right-handed. Bygraves hadn't realised that there was a difference in clubs. He smiled ruefully as he told the tale. He had got, he admitted, exactly what he deserved.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate / Junior C# Developer

£18000 - £25000 Per Annum + bonus and benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

IT Project manager - Web E-commerce

£65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...

Female PE Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

Teaching Assistant - Shropshire

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Teaching Assistants needed in Shropshi...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits