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Harry H. Corbett Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (2)  | Trade Mark (1)  | Trivia (20)  | Personal Quotes (10)  | Salary (1)

Overview (4)

Born in Rangoon, Burma [now Yangon, Myanmar]
Died in Hastings, East Sussex, England, UK  (heart attack)
Nickname H
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Harry H Corbett (he added the "H" to avoid being confused with Sooty's friend) was born in Burma in 1925. His father was an officer in the army. His mother died when he was very young and he moved to England as a child and was brought up in Manchester by an aunt.

After his war service, he joined a repertory company and during the 1950s appeared in many stage productions. At the end of this period he made the move to the big screen and appeared in about twenty movies (mostly 'B' pictures) during the years from 1959 to 1980, including the starring role of Detective Sergeant Bung in Carry on Screaming! (1966), Rattle of a Simple Man (1964) and the two "Steptoe and Son" movies in the early 1970s. He suffered a series of heart attacks between 1979 and 1982, before his premature death aged 57.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Joolz

Family (2)

Spouse Maureen Crombie (2 September 1969 - 21 March 1982)  (his death)  (2 children)
Sheila Steafel (10 October 1958 - August 1964)  (divorced)
Children Susannah Corbett

Trade Mark (1)

Often played roles craving social acceptability

Trivia (20)

Father of Jonathan Corbett and actress Susannah Corbett.
The middle initial 'H' was just to avoid confusion with the other Harry Corbett (who operated the glove puppet "Sooty"). He said it stood for "Hanyfink" (anything).
He could do a very accurate impression of British prime minister Harold Wilson and used it for the film It's Not the Size That Counts (1974).
Served in the Royal Marines during the Second World War.
He was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1976 Queen's New Year Honours List for his services to drama. Prime Minister Harold Wilson intended the award to go to him partly because he was a Labour Party supporter but the "H" got missed out of the name and the offer initially went to Sooty and Sweep entertainer Harry Corbett instead. Both were eventually included in the same honours list.
Corbett was a Labour Party campaigner, a personal friend of Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and recorded a party political broadcast.
He suffered a heart attack in September 1979 and was involved in a serious car crash shortly afterwards. Corbett had smoked 60 cigarettes a day for years, but cut down to 20 a day after the heart attack.
He wore a hairpiece to cover his bald spot from the second season of Steptoe and Son (1962). By the end of the series he wore a full wig.
Had been a member of Joan Littlewood's workshop company.
Got the part of Detective Sergeant Sidney Bung in Carry on Screaming! (1966) when Sidney James was unavailable due to a theatre commitment. His fee of £12,000 was the highest paid to a Carry On actor at that time.
He kept a high profile in British cinema, courtesy of the serious films he appeared in. Quite a few consisted of being Crime films.
He replaced Sid James, not long before filming a "Carry On" movie.
Contrary to popular belief, Corbett didn't begin wearing a wig in "Steptoe and Son" until 1972, although he was already losing his hair when the series began in January 1962. When the series was revived in 1970 after a five year absence he wore a piece at the front.
Although he claimed to have handled the fame of "Steptoe and Son" fairly well, the actor was privately harboring feelings of disappointment at the idea of being typecast.
He may have killed two Japanese soldiers during hand-to-hand fighting in New Guinea in 1945, although this is unconfirmed.
His military service left him with a damaged bladder following an infection, and a red mark on his eye caused by a thorn, which was not treated until late in his life.
He deserted from the army after being posted to Tonga, but later handed himself in to the military police.
He declined to convert to Judaism to marry his first wife in 1958.
Auditioned for the role of Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File (1965) but ultimately lost out to Sir Michael Caine.
A memorial service was held for him at St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden on 29th April 1982.

Personal Quotes (10)

Success has meant that people listen to me a bit more. It's the money that does that. You look at two chaps in an office, one earning fifty quid and another thirty. It's the bloke on fifty nicker who's going to get listened to. Yes, I've developed quite a bit of admiration for the chaps on the top of the heap. They've got the power. There may be a lot of idiots up there, too, but their voice is louder than anyone else's. To some extent, money has bought me that sort of freedom.
One thing that frightens me - when people ask me to explain my success. For once you've pinned down the formula, you're finished. After Harold, the junk man, had gone no one would take me seriously. In a movie I was in with Edward G. Robinson, A Boy Ten Feet Tall (1963), I was supposed to be a devil, and they just fell about with hilarity. I haven't tried villainy since.
I like the part because the man I'm playing is a failure - and failures are often of more interest in life than successes. I think there's a bit of everyone in Harold. Most of us try to put on an act, often behave in a way that's foreign to us. Harold makes fumbling attempts to 'get culture' by reading or listening to highbrow records, by dragging his father to exclusive restaurants and foreign films. He doesn't really succeed in kidding anyone, and somehow his failure is complete and pathetic.
Harold is not me, Harold only exists on paper.
I take marriage seriously but it's a bit of a burden to free enterprise. And if you don't want to get hot, stay out of the kitchen, I say. There is a sense in which every man is a bachelor, hugging his independence and never giving it up without further hankering for it. So you must be dead certain that marriage is going to provide some pretty hefty and permanent compensations. I don't believe in romantic love. That eternity bit. I think you feel it when you're about 13, then it wears away with the acne. But I've a great urge for strong temporary attachments. The trouble with women is they think in terms of centuries. I tend to look ahead just a couple of months. When I say 'forever,' I tend to mean 'till Christmas.' They think we're planning to go hand-in-hand for our pensions.
I had met Galton and Simpson and told them how much I admired their work, and I really did, and I said to them if they ever felt I could work with them then ... well, I never envisaged in a thousand years going into light entertainment. I looked at what was on television and the only thing making any, I don't know, social comment was the Hancocks, the Eric Sykes, this kind of half hour comedy programme, you see. And ooh, I did envy them. Anyway, they remembered this conversation, clearly, and this thing about the rag and bone men thumped through the door. I read it, and immediately wired back - 'delicious, delighted, can't wait to work on it'.
I would take job after job as the mood struck me. I built prefabs, stacked timber, made electric switches. I changed with the weather. When the sun came out I burst out with it. When it got cold I pulled a roof in over me somewhere and eventually I became a partner in a two-man car spraying business. I worked hard at this, because I was the half-boss. There was only me and this other fellow and there was money in it. I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed. I sprayed when the dawn came up, when night fell - and when there wasn't a single car around - I still sprayed. From this developed my colourful language, or at least my colourful language developed when the lease ran out. We were making a lot of money at the time. However, to wash away the spray I would occasionally toddle off to a pub or two. And there I met some of the real characters of the world. Pub musicians. And they were extremely valuable to me when my highly lucrative half-business folded because one of them suggested I had a go at the local drama company. They knew I was mad keen on acting. I just needed the right shove at the right time.
I wanted to be a doctor at one time. Fancied myself very strongly as a do-gooding type healer of the sick. But, of course, it's a long and expensive business and I didn't have the money or the brains to compensate for not having the money. I also wanted to be an actor. So there I was, out in civvy street again. Out of one mob and into another mob and the only difference was the shape of the uniform. But although there was nothing about me that was important I felt great personal happiness. I owned nothing yet the world belonged to me. Great days.
Television was what made it possible. I would never have been allowed to try to do comic acting if it hadn't been for television. That's what is crashing the barriers. (1969)
I used to spend many a glorious hour in the dear old lovable Coronation Cinema in Wythenshawe. It was a dream palace. I was reared on those marvellous films of the thirties. I idolised all and everything and that's where the spark first flew off the forge, I suppose. (1967)

Salary (1)

Carry on Screaming! (1966) £12,000

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