Benny Hill

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Benny Hill (21 January 1924 – 20 April 1992) was an English actor and comedian, notable for his long-running television programme The Benny Hill Show.

Contents

Beginnings

Alfred Hawthorne Hill was born in Southampton, Hampshire and grew up in Wilton Road in the city's Upper Shirley district, where he and his brother attended Taunton's School. During World War II, Hill was one of the students evacuated with the school to Bournemouth School, East Way, Bournemouth, (then Hampshire, since 1974 Dorset). After leaving Bournemouth School, Hill worked variously as a milkman in Eastleigh, Hampshire, a bridge operator, a driver and a drummer before he finally got a foot in the door of the entertainment industry by becoming an assistant stage manager. Inspired by the 'star comedians' of British music hall shows, Hill set out to make his mark in show business. For the stage, he changed his first name to 'Benny', in homage to his favourite comedian, Jack Benny. Hill began appearing at working men's clubs and Masonic dinners before moving on to nightclub and theatre jobs. Hill auditioned for Soho's famed Windmill Theatre (home of Revudeville, a popular show of singers, comedians and nude girls), but he was not hired. Hill's first job in professional theatre as a performer was as Reg Varney's straight man, beating a then unknown Peter Sellers for the role.

Private life

Hill had few friends, although colleagues have insisted that he was never lonely but content with his own company. He never married, although he did propose to three women—one the daughter of a British writer—but was turned down by all three. Although he owned the family home in Southampton, he never owned his own home in London, nor a car. Hill preferred to rent a place to live rather than buy one, first a large double apartment in Queensgate, London for 26 years until 1986, and then a small flat in Teddington, Middlesex, within walking distance of the studios of Thames Television where he recorded his shows. His mother died in 1976 at age 82, and Hill kept the family house at 22 Westrow Gardens in Southampton as a shrine to her, not changing a thing. Before his move to Teddington, whilst looking for somewhere else to live in the Richmond area of London, he lived at 22 Westrow Gardens. Travelling was the one luxury Hill permitted himself; he became a francophile, enjoying frequent visits to France, and in particular Marseille, where until the 1980s he could enjoy anonymity in outdoor cafés, on public transport, and socialising with local women. Besides mastering French, Hill also spoke enough German, Dutch and Italian to get by when travelling. Such holidays were often gathering missions for comedy material, some inspired by foreign surroundings, or borrowed from regional acts.

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