Frederick Bittiner Coo|
17 January 1909
Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England, UK
16 October 1968 (aged 59)|
London, England, UK
|Occupation||Comedian, music hall artist, television actor|
Freddie Frinton, born Frederick Bittiner Coo, (17 January 1909 – 16 October 1968) was an English comedian who remains a household name in Germany and Scandinavia because of his performance in Dinner for One.
Frinton was born in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, the illegitimate child of a seamstress, Florence Elisabeth Coo and was brought up by foster parents. He started working in a Grimsby fish processing plant—where he is said to have entertained his colleagues with parodies and jokes—but was ultimately sacked. He moved into music hall, where he enjoyed modest success and renamed himself Freddie Frinton.
During the Second World War he made a moderate breakthrough as a comedian. In 1945, Frinton first performed the sketch Dinner for One in Blackpool. As he had to pay a royalty every time he performed the sketch, he bought the rights to Dinner for One in the 1950s, which turned out to be a very prescient decision.
At the age of 55, Frinton became a belated success as the plumber husband in the popular television sitcom Meet the Wife, which ran for 40 episodes (the wife was played by Thora Hird). The series is mentioned in the Beatles song "Good Morning Good Morning" with the line "It's time for tea and Meet the Wife". In October 1968, at the age of 59, Freddie Frinton died suddenly from a heart attack in London. He is buried in City of Westminster Cemetery, Hanwell.
Dinner for one
This would be the end of the story of a not very well remembered English comedian, were there not a surprising postscript. In 1963, Frinton's Dinner for One was recorded by the Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) German television station, and watching the unsubtitled English language sketch on television has subsequently become a German, Austria and Swiss New Year's Eve tradition, with the short seeing multiple repeats every year from 1972 onwards. The role of Miss Sophie was played by May Warden.
The television cult also caught on in Scandinavia and Dinner for One has been a hugely popular permanent, mandatory institution on Danish, Finnish and Swedish television on New Year's Eve for many years, as well as in Belgium in the original version. It became so popular that a Dutch version was made with the Dutch actor Joop Doderer for Dutch viewers. It is also shown every 23 December on Norwegian television, (NRK) and has been shown on the Australian SBS television network on New Year's Eve for at least the last fifteen years. The programme and its main actor Frinton are far less well known in Britain than in any of these countries.
Ironically for an actor whose roles often comprised playing a drunk, Frinton was a teetotaller, (complete abstinence from alcoholic beverages), having seen in others the damage that alcohol could do.
Frinton was married twice - firstly, in 1931, to Maisie Basil, and secondly to Nora Gratton, in 1945. He had a son by his first marriage, and four further children by his second - two daughters and two sons.
- Stars in Your Eyes (1956)
- According to the NDR, and the General Record Office (Births, Marriages, Deaths) Frinton's birth name was Coo. The IMDb gives his birth name as Bittener but this appears to have been a mistake.
- General Register Office: Register of Births - MAR 1909 7a [5_]77 GRIMSBY - Frederick Bittiner Coo
- General Register Office: Register of Deaths - DEC 1968 5a 202 BRENT, Frederick Frinton aged 54 (59?)
- Hooper, John (31 December 2002). "British comedy lives on in German television". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
- Stewart, Jude (30 December 2005). "The Mystery of Dinner for One". Slate. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
- Simkins, Michael (12 November 2010). "Acting drunk can be staggeringly difficult". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 January 2011.