Harry Worth

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Harry Worth (born Harry Illingsworth, 20 November 1917, Fitzwilliam Street, Hoyland Common, South Yorkshire, died 20 July 1989, Hertfordshire) was an English comedy actor and comedian. His standard performance was as a genial, bumbling middle-class and middle-aged man from the North of England, who reduced all who came into contact with him to a state of confusion and frustration.

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Early life

Worth was the youngest of eleven children of a miner. When he was only five months old his father died from injuries resulting from an industrial accident. He left school at 14 and was himself a miner for eight years before joining the RAF.[1] As a teenager he was in the Tankersley Amateur Dramatic Society and taught himself ventriloquism, buying his first dummy in 1936.[1] He toured for two years with Laurel and Hardy towards the end of their careers. Oliver Hardy persuaded him to drop the ventriloquist routine and concentrate on becoming a comedian which he then did. He did, however, continue to include the vent act in his cabaret act through his career.

Television career

Worth's first appearance was a five-minute standup on "Henry Hall's Guest Night" in 1955.[1]

He is now best remembered for his 1960s series "Here's Harry", later re-titled "Harry Worth", of which he produced over 100 episodes. The famous opening credits of "Harry Worth" featured Harry stopping in the street to perform an optical trick involving a shop window (raising one arm and one leg which were reflected in the window, thus giving the impression of levitation). Reproducing this effect was popularly known as "doing a Harry Worth". He also starred in "Thirty Minutes Worth" and "My Name is Harry Worth".

The shop window sequence was filmed at St. Annes Square, Manchester, at Hector Powes tailors shop which is now a Starbucks coffee shop.

One famous comic sketch involved Worth and his family preparing for a royal visit to the area, during which the Queen was to visit his house. His fussing about the house drove his family mad. Just before the Queen was due to arrive, a beggar arrived at the door and kept coming back as an increasingly frustrated Worth tried to get him to go away. When a knock came on the door one more time Worth grabbed a bucket of filthy water and threw it out of the door at the caller, only to find that it wasn't the beggar but the Queen standing there, and he has just soaked her.

Another sketch involved Worth complaining to a policeman outside the Houses of Parliament that Big Ben clock was slow because Jimmy Young, the legendary presenter on BBC Radio 2 famed for "always being right" had said that it was ten minutes past ten, while the clock said it was 10am. After pestering the policeman, Worth had the clock moved forward by ten minutes (the first time the timepiece had ever been adjusted). Just as the clock was changed, Young appeared on the radio to apologise that the studio clock was wrong by ten minutes. A mortified Worth was seen speeding away in his car, to furious shouts from the angry policeman.

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