Balham, Gateway to the South

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"Balham, Gateway to the South" is a comedy sketch parodying a short travel documentary about the South London suburb of Balham. It was written by Frank Muir and Denis Norden for the short-lived BBC radio series Third Division, and was featured in the second edition on 2 February 1949. It compared the area, during postwar austerity, to faraway exotic locations depicted in travelogues of the day.[1][2] One memorable part of the sketch is the pronunciation of Balham as "Bal-Ham" in an American accent, instead of the British pronunciation "Ballum".

The original sketch was performed by Peter Sellers as narrator, with others such as Benny Hill and Michael Bentine contributing other voices. The script features the narration of exaggerated claims regarding the attractions of the area. The sketch was later performed solo by Peter Sellers, in a parody of the American newsreel-travelogue host James A. Fitzpatrick, on the 1958 Parlophone record The Best of Sellers, produced by George Martin.[1][3][4] The sketch was scored by Ron Goodwin, and that led Alfred Hitchcock to engage him to do the score for Frenzy.[5]

The sketch was expanded in 1979 to form the script of a short (21-minute) colour film of the same name directed by Micky Dolenz. Starring Danny Schiller and Judy Gridley as American tourists and Robbie Coltrane in several roles, including those originally voiced by Sellers. It was narrated, in an English accent, by David de Keyser and was released for broadcast in 1981.[6][7]


  1. ^ a b Muir 1997, p. 157.
  2. ^ Sikov 2002, p. 46.
  3. ^ Vestey, Michael (1998-07-04). "The cure for SAD-ROM". The Spectator. Retrieved 2013-07-11.
  4. ^ "Peter Sellers – The Best Of Sellers". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-09-04.
  5. ^ Gleason, Alexander (2003-01-11). "Ron Goodwin". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-09-04.
  6. ^ "Balham: Gateway to the South (1979)". BFI Film Forever. Retrieved 2018-09-04.
  7. ^ "Balham – Gateway to the South". TC Cream. Retrieved 2018-09-04.


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