George serenaded Beryl until
she agreed to be his bride
FEEN-A-MINT could have scoured the
world and not found a bigger attraction
for their new series of Continental
radio programmes than George
Formby, the Lancashire Lad who has
leaped to the front with the speed of a
With that look of gormless pathos
and that insidious ukulele; with that
capacity for getting and out of scrapes
with fantastic guile and with at
characteristic voice, Formby has
become one Britain's biggest screen
His appeal is simple. George is
every mother's son out for a lark. The
plights into which he gets are those
which we would all get into, except (and here we swell a couple of
inches in height !) that we're too darned clever.
The screen, stage and radio George isn't a bit clever. So we're
sorry for him and, damme, we like the spirit with which he can laugh
at himself and bash that absurd ukulele and sing the sort
inconsequential nonsense that cheers people up. Meanwhile, the real
George is clever enough be able to earn more in a month than you
and ;well, I, anyway!) earn in a year.
George Formby Sen. would have been proud of his son especially
now that, through the medium the radio, he is reaching a public more
vast than the famous old-time star ever dreamed of. But, course,
George Jun. never saw his father on the stage; and George Sen.
never saw his son perform. It wasn't till after his father's death that
young George realised that he might make
career on the stage.
He'd outgrown his early love, that of being a
jockey, and though he was and still is a crazy
out motor-cycling, and has won many prizes
on local grass tracks, he never seriously
considered taking it up professionally.
Instead, under the name of George Hoy,
and with a stock of nonsense songs and his
beloved ukulele, he set out to make good on
The scene is 1921 at a northern theatre.
Sixteen year-old "George Hoy" is making his
first bow as professional. He prances on to the
stage, goes into a song, is smitten with stage
fright, forgets his lines, resumes valiantly,
forgets them again, re-starts . . . and then
dries up completely.
What a beginning for an aspiring young star!
The tough northern crowd had no sympathy to
spare for the little Wigan lad who wanted to
make good. They'd paid out good brass to be
entertained and, sitha, who was this gormless
.stripling who was fooling 'em? They hissed. . .
But George had all the Lancastrian's ability
for taking it on the chin. He tried again and, gradually, he became
popular. But not until he was topping bills did he take on the name
that will be for all time famous in vaudeville . . . George Formby.
In 1925 he took three of his own shows on tour, and films were
beginning to nibble. Now, of course, as well as being a popular
sponsored and B.B.C. radio star he has starred in many films, No
Limit, Keep Your Seats, Please, Feather Your Nest, Keep Fit and I
See Ice. The latter film is the first Formby vehicle that has had a
showing in a "first-run" West End cinema. The West End rarely takes
kindly to the unashamed slapstick which Formby puts over so well.
George has not changed one bit with success. He earns more
money, of course, and is able to gratify his tastes in high-powered
cars, but he is still the same good-humoured, unritzy, retiring fellow
that he always was.
It still takes about three hours of unremitting toil before a journalist
can persuade him to let fall a single fact about George Formby. But
he'll talk about Beryl. Oh, yes!
Because Beryl, whom you'll be hearing in these forthcoming
broadcasts, and who "taps " like a veritable female Fred Astaire, is
far more important to him than electric light signs, publicity, contracts,
autograph hunters or any of the trappings of stardom.
She's his wife.
They met when they were both appearing in the same show up
north. And she gave it as her considered opinion that, as an artiste,
George was pretty terrible. I can imagine that wide grin of his when
he heard her say so. His placid good humour would not have been
ruffled a bit. He probably strummed a couple of bars on his ukulele,
went into a song and dance and asked her out to tea !
Gradually they became friendly and then one day George decided
that she must be his wife. So he went and serenaded her one night
at her home . . . and he kept on plonking his ukulele until she said
"Yes ! "
When they got married George had £70 in debts . . and no money
to meet them. Beryl had no debts, and exactly £70 in the world. So
the two things sort of cancelled out and, broke to the wide, they
The going was pretty hard, as you can imagine. They toured the
country in shows and as a separate act. They worked small halls and
lived in bed-sitting-rooms. But, all the time, George's popularity was
increasing. The time was to come when Beryl would be able to give
George a huge Packard motor-car as a birthday present while, in
turn, George was able to give her the beautiful detached house near
Blackpool where they now live.
By the way, it's amusing how they got this house. They were
compelled to move from their semi-detached villa near Preston
because of George's playful habit of keeping the neighbours up all
night while he scoured the short-wave radio stations.
So they toured around in their Packard trying to find the ideal
house. Eventually, from a batch of material sent to them by various
estate agents, they came across a picture of the very house of their
dreams. But, unfortunately, it was detached from the estate agent's
letter and they had no means of finding out where it was situated.
One week-end they were out for a spin when suddenly, looming
through some trees, they saw some gables which struck them as
familiar. Yes, you've guessed it . . . quite by chance they had found
the identical house that they had wanted !
Recently, on top of a 'bus, I overheard the following conversation
between two flappers. It struck me as an illuminating commentary.
First Flapper: "Who's your favourite film actor, Peg?"
Second Flapper: " Robert Taylor. Who's yours? " First Flapper : "
Why, I like George Formby !" Second Flapper: "What, him? Why, he
ain't a bit good looking!"
First Flapper: " I know, but he doesn't half make me laugh ! "
In the Feen-A-Mint programmes George Formby " won't half make
you laugh," and if last Sunday's programme is any indication of those
to come-then I'll be listening to them all-not half I won't !