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goggle box

The Crazy Gang

For the nickname of Wimbledon football teams of the 1980s, see Crazy Gang
For the fictional criminal group in the Excalibur comic series, see Crazy Gang (Marvel Comics).

The Crazy Gang were a group of British entertainers, formed in the early 1930s. They achieved great national popularity and were a favourite of the royal family, especially King George VI.

Composition

The members were: Bud Flanagan, Chesney Allen, Jimmy Nervo, Teddy Knox, Charlie Naughton and Jimmy Gold and sometimes 'Monsewer' Eddie Gray. Essentially the gang comprised three double acts; Flanagan and Allen, Naughton and Gold, and Nervo and Knox (with some input from Gray). They had all had entertainment success before the Crazy Gang but not of the same magnitude. It was natural for them to get together as they shared a similar style of comedy and worked on the same bills at theatres.

The gang appeared first in their own stage show Crazy Week at the Victoria Palace Theatre, which later became their adopted home, but then made several films. The first was O-Kay For Sound, in 1937 and the best remembered was their war-time film Gasbags (1940). They kept people entertained during the war years with their irreverent comedy style, and Flanagan and Allen's very popular songs also contributed to their success. All their films were directed by Marcel Varnel, the Frenchman who directed a long list of classic British comedies for Will Hay, George Formby and others. Moore Marriott, who was a co-star of Will Hay, often turned up in their films and Eddie Gray their associate and equally crazy comic always did.

Later they made Life Is A Circus (1958), starring Shirley Eaton and in which Flanagan and Allen performed their biggest hit Underneath the Arches again. Chesney Allen withdrew from live performances in later years due to ill health, though ironically he outlived all the others. The Gang made a television series 'The Gang Show' in 1956. The Gang was understudied by Peter Glaze.

Teddy Brown, a very tall and enormously fat American percussionist also appeared with the gang. His speciality was to perform on the xylophone. His other role was to be the butt of practical jokes by the Gang; at one performance Flanagan and Allen took to the stage each encased in one leg of Brown's trousers while Brown frantically called from the wings trying to get them back. His relationship to the main members was similar to that of Eddie Gray.

They were asked to do many Royal Command performances, their last was in 1967, and also did private performances for the royal family. Although they were most popular in Britain and countries like Australia they still have their fans in the U.S., as well as other English speaking countries, although some may find their humour dated. They made several films, but due to them not being able to use their technique of ad libbing, they were not a great success.

Formation of the Crazy Gang

Although George Black is often credited with the formation of the Crazy Gang, the start was more complicated. In 1931 three double acts (Nervo and Knox, Naughton and Gold and Billy Cayll and Hilda Mundy) were tentatively booked at the London Palladium. This caused Black to consider cancelling one of the couples. Nervo and Knox had a technique of entering other acts and Black was persuaded to overcome the difficulty by letting this happen. The show, which was called "Crazy Week" opened on 30 November 1931. Other Crazy Weeks followed with Flanagan and Allen added. The name Crazy Gang was not used until 1937.

Films

  • Okay for Sound - 1937
  • Alf's Button Afloat - 1938
  • Gasbags - 1941
  • Life is a Circus - 1958

Stage Shows

  • Life begins at Oxford Circus - a revue at the London Palladium 1935
  • Round About Regent Street - a revue at the London Palladium 1935
  • All Alight at Oxford Circus - a revue at the London Palladium 1935
  • Okay for Sound - at the London Palladium 1936
  • London Rhapsody - at the London Palladium 1937
  • These Foolish Things - at the London Palladium 1938
  • The Little Dog Laughed - at the London Palladium 1939
  • Together Again - at the Victoria Palace 1947
  • Knights of Madness - at the Victoria Palace 1950
  • Ring out the Bells - at the Victoria Palace 1952
  • Jokers Wild - at the Victoria Palace 1954
  • These Foolish Kings - at the Victoria Palace 1958
  • Clown Jewels - at the Victoria Palace 1959
  • Young at Heart - at the Victoria Palace 1960

note Chesney Allen did not perform with the Gang after 1945 and Eddie Gray was added to the cast in 1958

References

"Kindly Leave the Stage" by Roger Wilmot - published by Methuen - ISBN 0-413-59290-1

See also

  • Underneath the Arches was a musical with a book by Patrick Garland, Brian Glanville and Roy Hudd in association with Chesney Allen that tells the story with the music of The Crazy Gang. Performances were at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London in 1982. Roy Hudd was awarded the "Best Actor in a Musical" Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for his role.
  • Nervo and Knox was also a name taken by an award winning london based creative duo, who specialised in on screen, titles, branding and music promos. Taking their name from the crazy gang duo. Nervo and Knox is also cockney slang for goggle box, i.e. television set. The company ran for three years and disbanded in 2005.

External links

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