Sunday, 6 March 2011

on This Day - March 6th

1961: 'Ukulele king' Formby dies
One of Britain's most popular entertainers, George Formby, has died after suffering a heart attack. Lancashire-born Formby, 56, was one of the UK's best-paid stars during his heyday in the 1930s and 1940s.
His nationwide fame was unusual in the era before ownership of television sets was widespread.
For six successive years during the 1940s he headed a popularity poll compiled by British cinema-goers who flocked to see him in films such as "Spare a Copper" and "George in Civvy Street".
His stage persona was that of a good-natured imbecile but he was a shrewd professional who amassed a fortune, earning up to £35,000 per film.
But Formby turned down many more lucrative offers, including one from Hollywood, so he could entertain British and American troops during the Second World War.
His contribution to the war effort earned him an OBE in 1946.
Stage name
Born George Hoy Booth in Wigan in 1904, he was the son of Lancashire's most famous music hall star who first adopted the name Formby for the stage.
At the age of seven Formby junior was apprenticed to a jockey but weight gain ruled racing out as a career.
Instead he followed his father onto the music hall stage, making his debut as a 17-year-old.
The young Formby made his name with an act which featured a ukulele, the instrument which was to become his trademark along with his toothy grin.
From that era stem some of his most famous songs including "When I'm Cleaning Windows" and his catchphrase "Turned out nice again".

Surprise fiancée
At the height of his career he topped the bill at several Royal Command performances at the London Palladium.
But a weak heart led to his official retirement in 1952 although he had since occasionally appeared on the stage and in pantomimes.
His final heart attack occurred at the home of his fiancée, Patricia Howson, 36. The couple were due to marry in May.
The announcement of their engagement in February was a surprise to many, coming as it did just two months after the death of Beryl, Formby's wife of 36 years. 

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