Ronnie Corbett

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Ronnie Corbett
CBE
Ronnie-corbett.JPG
Ronnie Corbett arriving at the premiere of Burke and Hare, Chelsea, London, United Kingdom
Born Ronald Balfour Corbett
(1930-12-04) 4 December 1930 (age 84)
Edinburgh, Scotland
Residence Shirley, London, England
Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland
Occupation Actor, comedian, broadcaster, writer
Years active 1952–present
Spouse(s) Anne Hart (m. 1965)
Children Andrew Corbett (deceased)
Emma Corbett
Sophie Corbett
from the BBC programme Front Row Interviews, 1 May 2011.[1]

Ronald Balfour "Ronnie" Corbett, CBE (born 4 December 1930) is a Scottish actor and comedian who had a long association with Ronnie Barker in the television comedy series The Two Ronnies. He achieved prominence in Sir David Frost's 1960s satirical comedy programme The Frost Report and later starred in the sitcoms Sorry! and No – That's Me Over Here!.

Early life and career[edit]

Corbett was born in Edinburgh in 1930, the son of London-born Annie Elizabeth (Main) and William Balfour Corbett, master baker.[2] He has a brother about six years younger, and a sister about ten years younger than himself.[3] Corbett was educated at the Royal High School in the city, but did not attend university. After leaving school, he decided he wanted to be an actor while performing in amateur theatricals at a church youth club. However, his first job was with the Ministry of Agriculture.

He then did national service with the Royal Air Force, during which he was the shortest (in height) commissioned officer in the British Forces.[4] A former Aircraftman 2nd class, he was commissioned into the secretarial branch of the RAF as a pilot officer (national service) on 25 May 1950. He was given the service number 2446942.[5] He transferred to the reserve (national service list) on 28 October 1951, thereby ending his period of active service.[6] He was promoted to flying officer on 6 September 1952.[7]

Following National Service he moved to London and Gravesend to act, and started his career by playing schoolboy roles in films. At 5 ft 1 in (1.55 m) tall, Corbett was suited to playing younger than his years. References to his height frequently crop up in his self-deprecating humour.

He has worked in film, television, and on stage since the 1950s. In his first stage co-starring appearance he was billed as Ronald Corbett at Cromer, Norfolk, in Take it Easy in 1956, co-starring with Graham Stark. He appeared in Crackerjack as a regular in its early days, one episode with Winifred Atwell. He had a walk-on in an early episode of the 1960s series The Saint (credited as 'Ronald Corbett') and appeared in films including Rockets Galore! (1957), Casino Royale (1967), Some Will, Some Won't (1970) and the film version of the farce No Sex Please, We're British (1973).

Corbett starred in the first London production of the musical The Boys from Syracuse (as Dromio of Syracuse) in 1963 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, alongside Bob Monkhouse.[8] In 1965 he was in cabaret at Winston's, Danny La Rue's Mayfair nightclub. David Frost saw him and asked him to appear in The Frost Report. Corbett was in the West End, playing Will Scarlett in Lionel Bart's Robin Hood musical Twang!. It failed, leaving Corbett free to accept.[9]

Rise to fame[edit]

Corbett (right) in the Class sketch

It was in The Frost Report (1966–67) that Corbett first worked with Ronnie Barker. The writers and cast were mostly Oxbridge graduates from the Footlights tradition. Corbett said he and Barker were drawn together as two grammar school boys who had not gone to university. The show was a mixture of satirical monologues, sketches and music. Corbett and Barker were beginning to be thought of as a pair. They appeared with John Cleese in one of the most repeated comedy sketches in British television, the Class sketch, in which Corbett got the pay-off line: "I get a pain in the back of my neck."

Continuing under Frost, Corbett starred in No – That's Me Over Here!, a sitcom written by Frost Report writers Barry Cryer, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle (ITV 1967–70). Cryer and Chapman wrote two follow-ups: Now Look Here (BBC 1971–73) and The Prince of Denmark (BBC 1974). Corbett also appeared in Frost on Sunday (ITV 1968) and hosted The Corbett Follies (ITV 1969).

The Two Ronnies[edit]

"It's goodnight from me." "And it's goodnight from him". On left, with partner Ronnie Barker in their regular news anchor spoof.

His BBC television comedy show with Ronnie Barker, The Two Ronnies, lasted from 1971 to 1987. Barker and Corbett performed sketches and musical numbers. Corbett presented a monologue. Sitting in a large easy chair (emphasising his small size), and usually wearing a Lyle & Scott golfing V-neck sweater, he would tell a simple joke over several minutes, often allowing himself to appear to lose his train of thought.

Later career[edit]

His best-known role away from The Two Ronnies is as the 40-something Timothy Lumsden, dominated by his mother, in the sitcom Sorry! (1981–88). In 1996, he appeared on the première of the short-lived BBC game show Full Swing, hosted by Jimmy Tarbuck. In 1997, Corbett played Reggie Sea Lions in the film Fierce Creatures, which also starred his former comedy teammate John Cleese.

He also hosted the game show Small Talk and has played minor parts occasionally since its end – notably Griselda in a television production of Cinderella in 2000, and reviving his armchair monologue routines for a weekly appearance in a stand-up show hosted by Ben Elton.

In 2003, he appeared in advertisements for the Sky+ digital television service alongside Alice Cooper. The premise was a running gag about their being happy housemates. In December 2004, Corbett appeared on the BBC news quiz Have I Got News For You.

In 2005, Corbett teamed up again with Ronnie Barker for The Two Ronnies Sketchbook, comedy sketches from their original series with newly recorded linking material. Also in 2005, Corbett appeared with comedian Peter Kay in the spoof music video for the number 1 single "Is This the Way to Amarillo?", in which the song—originally by Tony Christie—was mimed. Corbett is remembered for accidentally falling over in the video; however, he found the fall funny when played back, and it was kept in the final version.

He performed in Children's Party at the Palace as Mr Tibbs, the Queen's butler.

In 2006, he played a hyper-realised version of himself in Extras, caught taking drugs at the BAFTA Awards. He also starred as himself in Little Britain Abroad, in which Bubbles DeVere tried successfully to seduce him. He opened the centre in Cromer, North Norfolk, named after Henry Blogg, "the greatest lifeboatman of all time". He had opened Cromer's high school swimming pool in the 1970s.

Corbett was the "castaway" in the BBC Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs on 21 October 2007. He featured as a Slitheen in a Sarah Jane Adventures episode for Red Nose Day 2009.

He had a television interview about his life on 7 November 2009 for Piers Morgan's Life Stories. On 14 November 2009 he hosted Strictly Come Dancing alongside Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman. Regular host Bruce Forsyth had flu.

In February 2010, he was in the John Landis thriller comedy Burke and Hare.[10] In August 2010 he was a panellist in the BBC 1 comedy show Would I Lie to You?.

In August 2010, he was the star of the Good Food HD programme Ronnie Corbett's Supper Club with Rob Brydon and Brydon's good friend Steve Speirs. The show's premise was that the main guest of the programme has to choose a meal as if it were their last, and Corbett would cook it for him/her and his other guest, whilst they chatted about the guest's past and their current/future projects. In December of the same year he starred in a one-off special: The One Ronnie.

From 2010, he has starred in the BBC Radio 4 sitcom When The Dog Dies. The series reunited Corbett with Ian Davidson and Peter Vincent, the writers of Sorry! The series returned to BBC Radio Four for a second series in August and September 2012, and again for a third series in January and February 2013.

Already Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2012 New Year Honours for services to entertainment and charity.[11][12]

Personal life[edit]

Corbett married actress and dancer Anne Hart in 1965; they have two daughters, actresses Emma and Sophie Corbett. Their first child, Andrew, had a heart defect and died, six weeks old, at St Thomas' Hospital.[3] He has lived in Shirley, Croydon, for many years. He also has a home in Gullane, East Lothian, in Scotland. He is a beekeeper and keeps hives at his second home in East Lothian.[13]

Corbett is a golfer and appears in celebrity and pro–am events; in 2009 he made a documentary with Colin Montgomerie in which they played at Gleneagles.[14] A keen cricket fan, Corbett is also a past president of the cricketing charity the Lord's Taverners (1982 and 1987).[15] He also supports his local football club, Crystal Palace as well as his hometown club Heart of Midlothian.[16]

In August 2014, Corbett was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[17]

Filmography[edit]

Television[edit]

Year Title Role
1952 You're Only Young Twice (film) Student
1953 Rheingold Theatre Young Hooligan
1955 The Vise
1957 Sheep's Clothing Valet
1963 The Saint Call Boy
1966-1967 The Frost Report Various Roles
1967-1970 No – That's Me Over Here! Ronnie
1969 Hark at Barker
1970 Jackanory Storyteller
1971-1973 Now Look Here Ronnie
1974 The Prince of Denmark Ronnie
1971-1987 The Two Ronnies Himself & Various characters
1981-1988 Sorry! Timothy Lumsden
1994-1996 Small Talk Host
1998 Timbuctoo Narrator &
All Characters Except Giant Squeak
1998 The Ben Elton Show Himself
2000 Cinderella ITV Panto Griselda (One of the Ugly Sisters)
2004 The Keith Barret Show Himself With His Wife
2004 Monkey Trousers Various roles
2005 The Two Ronnies Sketchbook
2006 Extras Himself
2006 Little Britain Abroad Himself
2008 Love Soup Gordon Baxter
2009 Sarah Jane Adventures (Comic Relief) Ambassador "Rani" Ranius/Slitheen
2009 Strictly Come Dancing Host
2010 Ant and Dec's Push The Button Voiceover
2010 The One Ronnie Himself
2011 Ronnie Corbett's Comedy Britain Himself
2013 Ronnie's Animal Crackers Himself

Film[edit]

Year Title Role
1956 Fun at St. Fanny's Chumleigh
1957 Rockets Galore! Drooby
1962 Operation Snatch Soldier (uncredited)
1967 Casino Royale Polo
1970 Some Will, Some Won't Herbert Russell
1970 The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer Interviewer
1973 No Sex Please, We're British Brian Runnicles
1997 Fierce Creatures Reggie Sea Lions
2010 Burke and Hare Captain Tam McLintoch

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Ronnie Corbett". Front Row Interviews. 1 May 2011. BBC Radio 4 Extra. http://bbc.co.uk/programmes/b010tbkh. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  2. ^ Barratt, Nick (23 June 2006). "Family detective". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 12 January 2008. 
  3. ^ a b "Desert Island Discs with Ronnie Corbett". Desert Island Discs. 21 October 2007. BBC. Radio 4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/desertislanddiscs_20071021.shtml.
  4. ^ "The One Ronnie, BBC One: A timeline of Ronnie Corbett's career". The Daily Telegraph. 21 December 2010. 
  5. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38960. p. 3454. 4 July 1950. Retrieved 27 December 2012.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 39376. pp. 5782–5783. 2 November 1951. Retrieved 27 December 2012.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 39990. p. 5574. 16 October 1953. Retrieved 27 December 2012.
  8. ^ London Cast Recording. The Boys from Syracuse. Decca Record Company Limited, 1963. LK 4564.
  9. ^ Corbett, pp. 5–7
  10. ^ "John Landis' 'Burke & Hare' Goes Behind Cameras!". Bloody-disgusting.com. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 26 October 2010. 
  11. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60009. p. 7. 31 December 2011.
  12. ^ "New Year Honours for Corbett, Bonham Carter and golf champions". BBC News Online. 31 December 2011. Retrieved 31 December 2011. 
  13. ^ Jackson, Peter (5 August 2009). "Is urban beekeeping the new buzz?". BBC. Retrieved 22 January 2012. 
  14. ^ "Ronnie Corbett: golf". programmes.stv.tv. Retrieved 21 April 2010. 
  15. ^ "The Lord's Taverners". lordstaverners.org. Retrieved 21 April 2010. 
  16. ^ "Comedian Ronnie Corbett launches Welsh Premier League". BBC Sport. 14 August 2012. Retrieved 12 January 2014. 
  17. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories | Politics". theguardian.com. 2014-08-07. Retrieved 2014-08-26. 

References[edit]

  • Corbett, Ronnie; Nobbs, David (2006). And It's Goodnight From Him ... Michael Joseph, Penguin. ISBN 0-7181-4964-5. 

External links[edit]