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Bud Flanagan
Bud-flanagan.jpg
Bud Flanagan in a BBC publicity photograph from 1943
Background information
Birth name(s): Chaim Reuven Weintrop
Date of birth 14 October 1896
Birth location Whitechapel, London
Date of death 20 October 1968
Death location Sydenham, London
Other name(s) Robert Winthrop
Genre(s) Music hall comedy double act
Spouse(s) Ann "Curley" Quinn

Bud Flanagan (14 October 1896 – 20 October 1968) was a popular English wartime entertainer, born Chaim Reuben Weintrop in Whitechapel, in the East End of London.

Contents

Family Background

His parents, Wolf and Yetta (Kitty) Weintrop were Polish Jews who were married in the town of Radom, Poland, and fled to Łódź on their wedding day to avoid a pogrom. Wolf and Yetta Weintrop intended to escape to the "New World" from Eastern Europe - they paid for a ticket to New York and a dishonest ticket agent gave them a ticket to London . In London, Wolf learned to be a shoe and bootmaker, and earned extra money singing as a part-time Cantor (Hazzan) and by singing in pubs on Saturday nights. Wolf and Yetta Weintrop had ten children all born in London. At the time of the 1881 UK Census, Wolf "Wienkopf" and family lived in Brick Lane and by the 1891 UK Census, the "Wientrob" family had moved on to 12 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields.

Early life

Blue plaque on 12, Hanbury Street where Flanagan was born in 1896

At the time of the 1901 census the Weintrop family were still at Hanbury Street, with Reuben aged 4 living with six of his siblings and his parents over a Fried Fish shop. They later owned a barber shop and tobacconist in Whitechapel. Weintrop/Flanagan attended school in Petticoat Lane, and by the age of 10 was working as call-boy at the Cambridge Music Hall. In 1908, he made his début in a talent contest at the London Music Hall in Shoreditch, performing conjuring tricks as 'Fargo, The Boy Wizard'.

Weintrop/Flanagan was born with a sense of adventure and was keen to see the world. In 1910, aged 14, he decided to leave home and walked all the way to Southampton where he claimed to be an electrician aged 17 in order to get a job aboard ship. He sailed with the SS Majestic to New York, and jumped ship when it arrived in the U.S.A. Reuben got various jobs selling newspapers, delivering telegrams for Western Union, and even harvested wheat in Fargo, North Dakota. He joined a vaudeville show that toured across the U.S.A. and in October 1914, he sailed with a show to perform in New Zealand and Australia. He traveled to perform on stages in South Africa where he met up with his brother Alec (Alexander) who was living there at the time . Once back in San Francisco, Reuben decided to return to England in order to enlist to fight for Britain in World War I. He returned to England in 1915 and enlisted as “Robert” Weintrop - he joined the Royal Field Artillery, and was sent with his unit to fight in France. In the Army, he worked as a driver and entertained the troops with his singing and impersonations. Here he met the unpopular Sergeant Major Flanagan from whom he later adopted his stage name. In 1919 he formed a comedy double act, 'Flanagan and Roy'.

He met his wife Anne ("Curly"), daughter of Irish comedian Johnny Quinn, ('The Singing Clown'), who was a dancer in "Mrs. Stacey's Young Ladies". They were married in 1925 and in 1926 their son Buddy was born. Tragically, Buddy died of leukemia in Los Angeles, U.S.A., in February 1956. After his death, the estate of Bud Flanagan started a charity to promote cancer research. A primary aim of the Bud Flanagan Leukemia Fund[1] is to support the Leukemia/Myeloma Unit at the Royal Marsden Hospital[2] in Chelsea, London.

Career

Bud Flanagan is best remembered as part of a double act with Chesney Allen, Flanagan and Allen. They had first met on active service in Flanders, but did not work together until 1926, touring with a Florrie Forde show. They established a reputation and were booked by Val Parnell at the Holborn Empire. As music hall comedians, they would often feature a mixture of comedy and music in their act and this led to a successful recording career as a duo and roles in film and television. Flanagan and Allen were both also members of The Crazy Gang, appearing in the first show at the London Palladium in 1931, and continued to work with the group, concurrently with their double-act career.

Flanagan and Allen's songs featured the same, usually gentle humour for which the duo were known in their live performances, and during the Second World War reflected the experiences of ordinary people during wartime. Songs like "We're Going To Hang Out The Washing On The Siegfried Line" mocked the German defences (Siegfried Line), while others like "Miss You" sang of missing one's sweetheart during enforced absences. Other songs such as their most famous "Underneath the Arches" (which Flanagan co-wrote with Reg Connelly) had universal themes such as friendship, which again, helped people relate to the subject matter. The music was usually melodic, following a binary verse, verse chorus structure, with a small dance band or orchestra providing the backing. The vocals were distinctive because while Flanagan was at least a competent singer and sang the melody lines, Allen used an almost spoken delivery to provide the harmonies.

Flanagan and Allen stopped working together with Chesney Allen's retirement in 1945, when Allen gave up performing to become a theatrical agent; but Flanagan continued working until his death. In 1960, he was awarded the national order of merit, the OBE[3], and received the award from the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace. His last recording was Jimmy Perry and Derek Taverner's theme for the British sitcom Dad's Army[4], "Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Hitler?", recorded shortly before his death in 1968. The song was a deliberate pastiche of the sort of songs Flanagan had sung during the war.

Bud Flanagan was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium[5]. His son Robert married Jacqueline Freysselinard and their son, Michel Winthrop, is living now in France.

References

  1. ^ The Bud Flanagan Leukaemia Fund - http://www.bflf.org.uk/
  2. ^ The Royal Marsden Hospital - http://www.royalmarsden.nhs.uk/RMH/
  3. ^ Celebrities Appointed to the OBE - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_celebrities_appointed_to_the_Order_of_the_British_Empire#F
  4. ^ The Dad's Army Appreciation Society - http://www.dadsarmy.co.uk/
  5. ^ Plaque indicating Bud Flanagan's final resting place - http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Flanagan&GScty=406454&GRid=17276346&

See also

External links

Sources

  • Flanagan, Bud (1961) 'My Crazy Life' (Autobiography), F Muller, London
  • Chambers, Colin (2002). The Continuum Companion to Twentieth Century Theatre. London: Continuum. ISBN 082644959x.  
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