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Tony Hancock

Known for his clever turns of phrase and his two favorite words, "flippin' kids," British comedian Tony Hancock always wanted to entertain, thanks to his father, who acted and sang semi-professionally. He worshiped his father, saying later in life that the majestic King Stag in the Disney film Bambi was a perfect representation of the man. Following in his footsteps would be difficult at first, since one of Hancock's earliest performances was delivering dirty jokes to an unappreciative audience of soldiers and Sunday school teachers. In 1942 he joined the RAF, where he would be assigned to perform in the Gang Shows that would entertain the troops with a much cleaner act.

Back in civilian life he didn't get his break until 1951 when he joined the cast of two radio shows: the unpopular Happy-Go-Lucky and the very popular Educating Archie. In 1954 he was given his own show, Hancock's Half Hour, which made the jump to television in 1956 and lasted until 1959. He became a huge star in Britain during this time and used this clout to move to the world of film in the early '60s. His films were not as successful as his previous work, and when he returned to television his efforts were overshadowed by Britain's current favorite sitcom, Steptoe and Son, which was created by two of Hancock's former writing partners.

Known to be overly critical of himself and devastated by his failure to climb back to the top, Hancock became an alcoholic, an addiction he explained would "send away the tigers" that had been scratching at his back. He was hired by Australian television to develop a 13-episode series in 1968. He moved there that same year but had only had finished three episodes when he committed suicide on June 24, 1968, leaving behind a suicide note that explained, "Things just went wrong too many times." His influence in Britain has lived on into the 21st century, with a statue honoring him being constructed in 2001 in birth city of Birmingham while the U.K. alt-rock group Manic Street Preachers referenced his description of alcoholism with the title of their 2007 album Send Away the Tigers. ~ David Jeffries
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