Bud Flanagan in a BBC publicity photograph from 1943
|Born||Chaim Reuben Weintrop
14 October 1896
Whitechapel, London, England, UK
|Died||20 October 1968
Kingston, London, England, UK
|Other names||Robert Winthrop|
|Occupation||Music hall and vaudeville entertainer|
|Known for||Music hall comedy double act|
|Spouse(s)||Ann "Curly" Quinn|
Bud Flanagan, OBE (14 October 1896 – 20 October 1968) was a popular English music hall and vaudeville entertainer and comedian, and later a television and film actor, he was best known as a double act with Chesney Allen. Flanagan was famous as a wartime entertainer and his achievements were recognised when he was awarded the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1959.
Flanagan was born Chaim Reuben Weintrop in Whitechapel, in the East End of London. His parents, Wolf Weintrop (1856–1932) and Yetta (Kitty) Weintrop (1856–1935) were Polish Jews who were married in the city of Radom, Poland, and fled to Łódź on their wedding day to avoid a pogrom. Wolf and Yetta Weintrop intended to escape to the "New World" from Eastern Europe – they paid for a ticket to New York and a dishonest ticket agent gave them a ticket to London.
In London, Wolf learned to be a shoe and bootmaker, and earned extra money singing as a part-time cantor (Hazzan) and by singing in pubs on Saturday nights. Wolf and Yetta Weintrop had ten children all born in London. At the time of the 1881 UK Census, Wolf "Wienkopf" and family lived in Brick Lane and by the 1891 UK Census, the "Wientrob" family had moved on to 12 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields.
At the time of the 1901 census the Weintrop family were still at Hanbury Street, with Reuben aged 4 living with six of his siblings and his parents over a fried fish shop. They later owned a barber shop and tobacconist in Whitechapel. Weintrop/Flanagan attended school in Petticoat Lane, and by the age of 10 was working as call-boy at the Cambridge Music Hall. In 1908, he made his début in a talent contest at the London Music Hall in Shoreditch, performing conjuring tricks as 'Fargo, the Boy Wizard'.
Weintrop/Flanagan was born with a sense of adventure and was keen to see the world. In 1910, aged 14, he decided to leave home and walked all the way to Southampton where he claimed to be an electrician aged 17 to get a job aboard ship. He sailed with the SS Majestic to New York, and jumped ship when it arrived in the USA. Reuben got various jobs selling newspapers, delivering telegrams for Western Union, and even harvested wheat in Fargo, North Dakota. He joined a vaudeville show that toured across the USA and in October 1914, he sailed with a show to perform in New Zealand and Australia. He travelled to perform on stage in South Africa where he met up with his brother Alec (Alexander) who was living there at the time. Once back in San Francisco, Reuben decided to return to Britain to enlist to fight for Britain in the First World War. He returned to Britain in 1915 and enlisted as "Robert" Weintrop; he joined the Royal Field Artillery, and was sent with his unit to fight in France. In the Army, he worked as a driver and entertained the troops with his singing and impersonations. Here he met the unpopular Sergeant Major Flanagan from whom he later adopted his stage name. In 1919 he formed a comedy double act, 'Flanagan and Roy'.
Bud Flanagan is best remembered as part of a double act with Chesney Allen, Flanagan and Allen. They had first met on active service in Flanders, but did not work together until 1926, touring with a Florrie Forde show. They established a reputation and were booked by Val Parnell at the Holborn Empire. As music hall comedians, they would often feature a mixture of comedy and music in their act and this led to a successful recording career as a duo and roles in film and television. Flanagan and Allen were both also members of The Crazy Gang, appearing in the first show at the London Palladium in 1931, and continued to work with the group, concurrently with their double-act career.
Flanagan and Allen's songs featured the same, usually gentle humour for which the duo were known in their live performances, and during the Second World War reflected the experiences of ordinary people during wartime. Songs like "We're Going to Hang Out the Washing on the Siegfried Line" mocked the German defences (Siegfried Line), while others like "Miss You" sang of missing one's sweetheart during enforced absences. Other songs such as their most famous "Underneath the Arches" (which Flanagan co-wrote with Reg Connelly) had universal themes such as friendship, which again, helped people relate to the subject matter. The music was usually melodic, following a binary verse, verse chorus structure, with a small dance band or orchestra providing the backing. The vocals were distinctive because while Flanagan was at least a competent singer and sang the melody lines, Allen used an almost spoken delivery to provide the harmonies.
Allen retired in 1945 and Flanagan became a solo performer. In 1959 he was awarded the OBE, and received the award from the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace. By the 1960s, and with his popularity on the wane, Flanagan used his wealth to invest in betting shops.
Flanagan's last recording was Jimmy Perry and Derek Taverner's theme for the British sitcom Dad's Army, "Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Hitler?", recorded shortly before his death in 1968 and for which he was paid 100 guineas (£105). The song was a pastiche of the sort of songs Flanagan had sung during the war.
He met his wife Anne ("Curly"), daughter of Irish comedian Johnny Quinn ('The Singing Clown'), who was a dancer in "Mrs. Stacey's Young Ladies". They were married in 1925 and in 1926 their son Buddy was born. Buddy died of leukaemia in Los Angeles, USA, on 29 February 1956. After his death, the estate of Bud Flanagan started a charity to promote cancer research. A primary aim of the Bud Flanagan Leukaemia Fund is to support the Leukaemia/Myeloma Unit at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton, Surrey.
- "Supplement to the London Gazette". 5 June 1959. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
- My Crazy Life. Frederick Muller Ltd., London. 1961.
- "East London History". eastlondonhistory.com. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
- "The Dad's Army Appreciation Society". Dadsarmy.co.uk. 14 May 2000. Retrieved 22 April 2010.
- "Plaque indicating Bud Flanagan's final resting place". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 22 April 2010.
- Ray Donn. "The Bud Flanagan Leukaemia Fund". Bflf.org.uk. Retrieved 22 April 2010.
- Royal Marsden Hospital
- "The Royal Marsden Hospital". Royalmarsden.nhs.uk. Retrieved 22 April 2010.