Roy Hudd

Quoth the raven… ‘Nev­er­more!’ brush with ra­dio panel Roy’s as Mis­ter show roy­alty and a stint who Tom leads him to won­der quothed what… and why!

YOURS (UK) - - News -

‘The phrase: “never work with an­i­mals or chil­dren…” isn’t cred­ited to any­one!’

I’ve just fin­ished two of the most en­joy­able jobs of the year. One was a re­turn to BBC Ra­dio 4 to be part of a panel game that has been a favourite of mine since it first be­gan in 1976 – Quote…Un­quote.

I have to tell you I’m not a enor­mous fan of panel games; an ad­mirer, yes, but I rarely know the an­swers to any of the ques­tions. What chance would I have against the witty, eru­dite (I don’t even know what that word means

– a whiten­ing tooth­paste per­haps?) panel mem­bers of Have I Got News For You, I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, QI, Just a Minute, or the mind-bend­ing ana­gra­matic cryp­tic posers of Round

Bri­tain Quiz. I don’t even know ex­actly when to drop a coin into the Tip­ping Point ma­chine.

My scraps of knowl­edge are gleaned from read­ing any­thing from The Great Western Rail­way Timetable 1936 to ‘Keep off the Grass’ warn­ings (in Latin). As a child I could re­cite the list of in­gre­di­ents on a Camp Cof­fee la­bel. “Why?” my Gran would en­quire...

Of course the great quotemas­ter, Nigel Rees, who de­vised and has hosted Quote...Un­quote since the Mid­dle Ages al­ways seems to know just what ques­tions will pro­duce funny and knowl­edge­able replies from the par­tic­i­pants. In my case he clev­erly an­gles his en­quiries with teasers in­volv­ing mu­sic hall his­tory, jokes and songs, such as, “Com­plete the fol­low­ing – ‘I’ve got a luvverly bunch of …!’ or “Who wrote the phrase, ‘Quoth the raven’?” I man­aged to take up a good ten min­utes an­swer­ing that one – let me ex­plain...

In the days when the­atri­cal digs were still in ex­is­tence, the land­ladies kept vis­i­tors’ books that were signed by pay­ing guests – hope­fully with flat­ter­ing com­ments about the rooms, hos­pi­tal­ity and grub. I was ad­vised to al­ways look through these com­ments be­fore agree­ing to stay. The clever warn­ing guar­an­teed to send you has­ten­ing away was a sim­ple quo­ta­tion at­trib­uted to Edgar Al­lan Poe. It would say, ‘Quoth the Raven’. And what had the raven quothed? “Nev­er­more!” In other words, “I will nev­er­more re­turn to this es­tab­lish­ment. Head for the hills!

My sec­ond en­joy­able job was the ti­tle role in the stage ver­sion of the ITV film, Good­night Mis­ter Tom. John Thaw played Mis­ter Tom in the film and I was so flat­tered to be asked to be part of this unique pro­duc­tion.

Oddly enough, it was one of Nigel’s many books that I con­sulted to try to find who ac­tu­ally said a phrase that is known to ev­ery­one in­volved with show­busi­ness – ‘Never work with an­i­mals and chil­dren’. I al­ways thought it had to have been said by yet an­other com­edy hero of mine, WC Fields, but Nigel told me it was said about WC at a din­ner by a guest who was asked to sum him up. His de­scrip­tion of the un­for­get­table comic was, ”Any man who hates chil­dren and dogs* can’t be all bad.” So the ‘Never work with…’ isn’t cred­ited to any­one. I was anx­ious to find out who’d said it as Good­night Mis­ter Tom in­volved his af­fec­tion for his dog, Sammy, and a col­lec­tion of vil­lage lads and lasses and evac­uees. Next col­umn I’ll spill the beans on my merry crew of friends, the stars of the fu­ture.

■ *My favourite quo­ta­tion re­gard­ing dogs comes from PG Wode­house and ap­plies equally to co­me­di­ans, “It is fa­tal to let any dog know that he is funny, for he im­me­di­ately loses his head and starts ham­ming it up.”

■ Quote…Un­quote re­turns to BBC Ra­dio 4 from Novem­ber 5

Good­night Mis­ter Tom with Roy in the ti­tle role look­ing rather se­ri­ous with young Wil­liam

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