Comedic Legend: Benny Hill

Updated on April 10, 2020
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Readmikenow enjoys writing about unique and interesting people. He likes to learn about individuals who live or have lived unusual lives.

Benny Hill
Benny Hill

Benny Hill is a legendary comedian and actor. He is best remembered for The Benny Hill Show. Its format was a compilation of burlesque, slapstick, as well as double entendre. The show was a combination of live comedy and filmed segments. Almost every episode of the show included Hill performing in some way. In 1971, The Benny Hill Show peaked in its popularity with over 21 million viewers. It was also exported to more than 96 countries around the world.

Young Benny Hill
Young Benny Hill

Early Life

On January 21, 1924, Alfred Hawthorne (Benny) Hill was born in Southampton, England. His father was named Alfred Hill and worked at selling condoms. He later became a manager of a surgical appliance store. His father, and grandfather whose name was Henry Hill, each worked as circus clowns at some point in their lives. His mother's name was Helen née Cave.

Benny Hill working as milkman
Benny Hill working as milkman

Career

Benny Hill worked a variety of jobs before he began his comedy career. He was an assistant stage manager with a touring review, a milkman, a drummer, as well as a bridge operator. In 1942, when World War II started, Hill was trained as a mechanic by the British Army. After September 1944, he was a searchlight operator and truck driver in Normandy. After this time, he was transferred to the British Army's Combined Services Entertainment division.

Benny Hill in Army
Benny Hill in Army

Inspiration

Hill was a fan of the well-known comedians of British music hall shows. They inspired him and he was determined to make himself known in the world of show business. This is when he changed his name to Benny. It was a way he could honor Jack Benny, who was his favorite comedian.

Post World War II

When World War II was over, Hill started working as a radio performer. He later moved into television. His first television appearance occurred in 1950. In the 1960s, Hill attempted to create a sitcom anthology called Benny Hill. It ran from 1962 to 1963. During this sitcom, Hill played a variety of characters during each episode. In 1964, he was involved in an all-star television production of A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. At this time, Hill also had a radio program on BBC's Light Program called Benny Hill Time. It ran for three years from 1964 to 1966. The format of the radio show was topical. Hill played various different characters during the series. This included Fred Scuttle, Harry Hill, and others.

Benny Hill Show
Benny Hill Show

The Benny Hill Show

During his career, Hill struggled to succeed at being on stage. His radio career gave him uneven success. It was when he was performing on television that he discovered a media forum where he could put his comedic strengths on display. The Benny Hill Show was made by combining filmed segments with his live on-stage comedy. The humor it provided depended on parody, innuendo, as well as slapstick. The first episode of The Benny Hill show aired on January 15, 1955. The final episode aired on May 1, 1989. The show was broadcast on the BBC until 1968. Starting in 1969, the show was broadcast by Thames Television until its last episode. It was perfect for displaying all the talents of Hill as a comic performer, imaginative writer, as well as impressionist.

Benny Hill chase scene
Benny Hill chase scene

Common Running Gags

One of the most common gags viewers saw on The Benny Hill Show was known as the run-off. This is a gag involving certain members of the cast chasing Hill. It would also include comedy characters as an old woman, policeman, vicars, and others chasing him. The music played during this gag was "Yakety Sax" by Boots Randolph. This song has been so strongly associated with The Benny Hill Show that it was often referred to as The Benny Hill Show's theme. Starting in the 1980s, the show started featuring a troupe of attractive young women. They were referred to as Hill's Angels. These young women often appeared on their own or as part of a dance sequence as well as a character in one of Hill's many skits.

Benny Hill with Benny Hill Angels
Benny Hill with Benny Hill Angels

Personal Life

Hill preferred to rent an apartment rather than purchase one. During his life, Hill never owned his own home. He rented a double-room apartment for 26 years in London's Queen's Gate district. In 1986, Hill moved to Teddington and lived in Fairwater House. He also never owned any type of vehicle, and he did have a license to drive. Hill never married or had any children. There were two women he asked to marry him, but both of them declined his offer. Hill was very wealthy, but up to his death, he remained engaged in the frugal living habits he had learned from his parents. He walked for miles instead of paying for a taxi, bought cheap food at supermarkets, and always mended and patched his clothes.

Travel

Hill was a huge fan of France and often visited there. His favorite place to stay in France was Marseilles. There he was able to anonymously go outdoors, socialize with local women, and travel freely in public. Hill was fluent in speaking French and could also speak basic Italian, German, Dutch, and Spanish. Traveling to foreign countries was the only luxury Hill let himself enjoy. He refused to stay at five-star hotels and preferred staying at places that provided modest accommodations.

Benny Hill grave marker
Benny Hill grave marker

Death

During the late 1980s, Hill's health declined. On February 24, 1992, he experienced a mild heart attack. Physicians told Hill he must lose weight. They also recommended he have heart bypass surgery. After hearing this from physicians, his health only got worse. It was later discovered he had kidney failure. On April 20, 1992, Hill was found dead. He was sitting in his armchair in front of his television. Hill was 68 years old. His cause of death was listed as coronary thrombosis. On April 26, 1992, he was buried near his birthplace in Southampton at Hollybrook.

Estate

It is estimated that at the time of his death, Hill's estate was valued at over 12 million dollars. In his will, he left his estate to his parents. They had both died several years earlier. Next in line for his estate was his brother and sister, but they were also deceased. Hill's estate was ultimately divided among several of his nieces and nephews.

Legacy

Hill was featured as one of Channel 4's Heroes of Comedy programs in 1998. In 2002, Hill was ranked as the third greatest comedian of the 20th century by DJ Taylor. He was ranked just below Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin.

Benny Hill Biography

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        7 weeks ago

        If you have an opportunity to watch an episode of the Benny Hill Show, I'm sure you'll laugh. He was very funny.

      • emge profile image

        MG Singh 

        7 weeks ago from Singapore

        Frankly, I had heard of Benny Hill but never watched any of his shows. Your article was a great intro to the man and his life.

      • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        8 weeks ago

        Dora, I agree with you. He had so many skits in his show that still make me laugh.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        8 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Benny Hill is a pleasant memory. He deserves his rank. Thanks for making me smile.

      • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        2 months ago

        Liz, thanks. I believe there was a lot more to him than many of us knew. Quite unique man.

      • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        2 months ago

        Pamela, thanks. I agree, some of the skits from his shows will keep people laughing for generations.

      • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        2 months ago

        Flourish, I agree he would have been a challenge to be in a relationship with.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        2 months ago from UK

        I remember watching his show. He probably wouldn't now be considered the most politically correct now. I has no idea that the show ran for so long. I have found the biographical information in your article very interesting.

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        2 months ago from Sunny Florida

        I remember the Benny Hill show and it was so funny. I didn't know anything about his life before now, so this was an interesting read. Thanks for bringing back some funny memories at a time humor is welcomed.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        2 months ago from USA

        I recall watching some of his shoes late at night long ago and he was a wise cracker. Your description of him makes sense in terms of why those two women declined his proposals. No one wants a cheap eccentric husband unless they are totally out of options.

      • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

        Readmikenow 

        2 months ago

        Vlad, I agree. Benny Hill was a comedic legend. His shows still make me laugh.

      • ValKaras profile image

        Vladimir Karas 

        2 months ago from Canada

        Benny Hill, (along with Peter Sellers in "Pink Panther" series, and in unforgettable movie "The Party") were so much fun in those years that now -- decades later -- I still catch myself using lines from those shows when jokingly interacting with my family.

        Nobody could ever copy the style of Benny Hill, because that genius had a charisma of a comedian that he didn't even have to say anything to make one laugh. (Just like no one could ever be a convincing "Inspector Clouseau" after Peter Sellers).

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