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The famous optical illusion from the opening titles of his BBC TV series Harry Worth.
|Born||Harry Bourlon Illingsworth
20 November 1917
Fitzwilliam Street, Hoyland Common, South Yorkshire
|Died||20 July 1989
|Cause of death||Spinal cancer|
Harry Worth (born Harry Bourlon Illingsworth, 20 November 1917, 47 Fitzwilliam Street, Hoyland Common, South Yorkshire, died 20 July 1989, Hertfordshire) was an English comedy actor and comedian. His standard performance was as a genial, bumbling middle-class and middle-aged man from the North of England, who reduced all who came into contact with him to a state of confusion and frustration.
Early life 
Worth was the youngest of eleven children of a miner. When he was only five months old his father died from injuries resulting from an industrial accident. He left school at 14 and was himself a miner for eight years before joining the RAF. As a teenager he was in the Tankersley Amateur Dramatic Society and taught himself ventriloquism, buying his first dummy in 1936. During World War Two, he performed in an RAF Variety show and had extra material written for him by the show's director, Wallie Okin. He toured for two years with Laurel and Hardy towards the end of their careers. Oliver Hardy persuaded him to drop the ventriloquist routine and concentrate on becoming a comedian which he then did. He did, however, continue to include the vent act in his cabaret act through his career, using much of the material that he'd used during the war. This included an appearance on the Royal Variety Show.
Television career 
Worth's first appearance was a five-minute standup on "Henry Hall's Guest Night" in 1955.
He is now best remembered for his 1960s series Here's Harry, later re-titled Harry Worth, which lasted for over 100 episodes. The opening titles of Harry Worth featured the comedian stopping in the street to perform an optical trick involving a shop window (raising one arm and one leg which were reflected in the window, thus giving the impression of levitation). Reproducing this effect was popularly known as "doing a Harry Worth". He also starred in Thirty Minutes Worth and My Name is Harry Worth.
The shop window sequence was filmed at St Ann's Square, Manchester, at Hector Powes tailors shop which is now a Starbucks coffee shop.
One famous comic sketch involved Worth and his family preparing for a royal visit to the area, during which the Queen was to visit his house. His fussing about the house drove his family mad. Just before the Queen was due to arrive, a beggar arrived at the door and kept coming back as an increasingly frustrated Worth tried to get him to go away. When a knock came on the door one more time Worth grabbed a bucket of filthy water and threw it out of the door at the caller, only to find that it wasn't the beggar but the Queen standing there, and he had just soaked her.
Another sketch involved Worth complaining to a policeman outside the Houses of Parliament that Big Ben clock was slow because Jimmy Young, the BBC Radio 2 presenter known for "always being right" had said that it was ten minutes past ten, while the clock said it was 10am. After pestering the policeman, Worth had the clock moved forward by ten minutes (the first time the timepiece had ever been adjusted). Just as the clock was changed, Young appeared on the radio to apologise that the studio clock was wrong by ten minutes. A mortified Worth was seen speeding away in his car, to furious shouts from the angry policeman.
Although never scripted, his catchphrase was generally known as "My Name Is Harry Worth. I don't know why - but, there it is!". One running joke in the television show involved references to Harry's never seen aunt known only as "Auntie", the popular nickname for the BBC itself. In one show, Harry commissioned a portrait of Auntie, only to receive a head-and-shoulders print of a woman with no face.
By the early to mid-1980s Worth was forced to retire early from his shows by health problems but he continued working in radio (and made TV guest appearances time-to-time for either interviews or pop-up guest appearances on some shows) until a few months before he died. Among the last regular appearances of his career were leading roles in the sitcoms How's Your Father? (Yorkshire TV 1979-81) and Oh Happy Band! (BBC TV 1980).
Personal life 
Worth was a private person and resisted attempts by publishers to write his biography; it was over 16 years after his death before a book - My Name Is Harry Worth - was written. He was married to dancer Kay Flynn and they had one daughter, Jobyna. Worth died in July 1989, aged 71, of spinal cancer.
On 20 July 2010 (21 years after his death) a blue plaque was unveiled by comedian Jimmy Cricket, a friend of Worth's, on the house where he was born. The British Comedy Society arranged the unveiling in conjunction with Worth's biographer, Roy Baines, and the event was sponsored by Revelation Films, who also released a DVD of his work the same week.
- Daily Mirror August 15, 1971 page 11 "Harry Lands a Scoop"
- GRO Register of Deaths: JUL 1989 10 135 DACORUM, HERTFORDSHIRE - Harry Worth, DoB = 20 November 1917, aged 72
- "New York Times, 22 July 1989". The New York Times. 1989-07-22. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
Further reading 
- Roy Baines (2005) My Name is Harry Worth ISBN 0-9551854-0-8
- Martin Smith (2007) The portrayal of the working class and the left in British situation comedies 1960-1980 and its relevance for anti-fascism today in Julie Waterson (Ed.) 30 Years of Fighting The Nazis: An ANL Symposium ISBN 1-872208-86-X
- Harry Worth at the Internet Movie Database (DOB Now Correct)
- Harry Worth: The Man in the Window BBC Radio 4 programme