BBC Radio 7, 7 April 2010
Reviewing an episode of Hancock's Half Hour from January 1955
might seem a strange thing to include on a radio drama website. However this particular episode proved a fascinating document,
as it invoked several stereotypes of the Orient characteristic of that time. The plot was straightforward enough: Bill Kerr
and Sidney James were invited to the filmmakers' ball, the highlight of the movie community's year, attracting all the
famous personalities of the time - Audrey Hepburn, Jean Simmons, Glynis Johns, Anna Neagle. However Hancock was left at home
to do the dishes. His friend Moira (Moira Lister) vainly tried to make him happy, but Hancock would have none
of it; he was tired of 'saloon car' experiences and wanted to enjoy a Rolls-Royce instead (sexism definitely intended here).
Eventually his wish was granted, as an unknown benefactor came to the door to give him a reward of nine pounds:
Hancock could now go to the theatrical costumiers, disguise himself as a Turkish sheik and go to the ball.
Ray Galton and Alan Simpson's script contained some dreadful puns: Hancock referred
to Omar Khayyam and his sick father Omar Papa (oh, my papa), and talked of dancing sheik to sheik (cheek to cheek) with the
belle of the ball Dora Bryan. Kerr noticed him at the ball without recognizing that it was actually Hancock in disguise; instead
Hancock, in his long white cloak and black bushy beard, was likened to the early television cook Philip Harben standing
up in bed. He proved particularly immune to Bryan's advances, advising her to "have a yashmak" instead. Eventually Bryan asked
the sheik to make love to her "with all the burning passion of the East;" Hancock's blunt response was to ask "you playing
hard to get?" The clock struck twelve: Hancock rushed home and everything was restored to normal. However he left one boot
behind; in a neat reversal of the Cinderella story, it turned out to be an ex-army boot belonging to a deserter. So Cinderella
Hancock never found his Princess Charming; instead he was carried off kicking and screaming to military prison.
Produced a year before the Suez crisis, this episode revealed just how little people
in general knew at that time about the Orient; and how colonialist stereotypes still dominated popular thinking. The producer,
as ever with Hancock, was Dennis Main Wilson.