Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Veteran actor and TV star Hugh Lloyd died on the 14th July 2008 at the age of 85.

Hugh Lloyd, awarded an MBE in 2005, died at his home in Worthing, West Sussex. Although Lloyd accepted parts in productions as diverse as Alan Bennett's A Visit from Miss Protheroe and the detective series Charlie, he always claimed he was happiest in 'cheerless underdog parts'.

It is not surprising then that Lloyd considered as particular triumphs the role of a mournful worm in James and the Giant Peach and that of a concrete garden ornament in The Gnomes of Dulwich.

He drew inspiration from his childhood hero Stan Laurel. 'I saw Laurel and Hardy on stage,' he recalled, 'and they were brilliant. They were real professionals, economical, they didn't do anything unless it was funny.'

Despite Lloyd's physique (he was short, overweight and balding and was once described as looking like 'a melancholic mole') he received a considerable amount of mail from female fans.

'I think they take one look at my face,' he recalled, 'bearing all the marks of human suffering, and they think I need mothering.' Undeterred by three previous divorces, Lloyd was married for the fourth time in 1983 to a woman 30 years his junior.

Hugh Lewis Lloyd was born on April 22 1923 and brought up in Chester, the son of a tobacco factory manager. The Lloyds were strict Methodists and disapproved of their son's childhood ambitions of becoming a comedian. 'Every holiday in Llanfairfechan I used to spend the day watching the pier-end concert party,' he recalled, 'then I'd tell my parents I'd been playing on the beach.'

At the outbreak of the Second World War Lloyd left the King's School, Chester, and instead of becoming a comic, as he had hoped, started work as a cub reporter on the Chester Chronicle. 'My father was dead against the stage,' he remembered. 'He thought it was too insecure and persuaded me into journalism instead.'

As a reporter Lloyd spent most of his time reviewing local theatrical performances. When he began putting on his own amateur productions he reported those as well. 'I never had such good reviews again,' he admitted. 'I was forever drawing attention to myself as 'this promising young comedian'.'

Lloyd began his association with Tony Hancock when he was offered several 'one-liners' in the radio show Hancock's Half Hour in 1954.

After joining Hancock on a tour of Cyprus, Malta and Tripoli, entertaining the troops there, Lloyd and Hancock became close friends. 'I've never worked with anyone like him before or since,' he recalled, 'Tony was a one-off, a really talented actor.'

On their return to Britain Hancock offered Lloyd much larger parts in the television version of Hancock's Half Hour in 1956. Lloyd played 'the patient in the next bed' in one of Hancock's best-known episodes 'The Blood Donor'. He went on to co-star in over 30 sketches including 'The Librarian', 'The Lift' and 'The Reunion'.