Film Stars

George Formby (Entertainer) 1904-1961

Born 26 May 1904
Died 6 Mar 1961
Aged 56

George Formby entertaining the crew of the Headquarters ship HMS AMBITIOUS, off the Normandy coast in 1944. Author: War Office Second World War Official Collection, and now in the public domain.

George Formby with the British army in France, 1940. Author: War Office official photographer Puttnam L A (Lt), and now in the public domain.

Hillcrest, George Formby Jnr’s home at 143 London Road Stockton Heath.

The blue plaque on George’s former home, Hillcrest, seen on the far left of the first photo.

The Formby family grave at Warrington Cemetery

Inscription for George Jnr and his mother

George Formby, OBE was an English actor, singer-songwriter and comedian who became known to a worldwide audience through his films of the 1930s and 1940s. On stage, screen and record he sang light, comical songs, usually playing the ukulele or banjolele, and became the UK’s highest-paid entertainer. During his life he lived at 143 London Road Stockton Heath, Warrington at a house known as Hillcrest, which became Amado Boutique Hotel on 7 October 2011, although is no longer in business as a hotel.

Born in Wigan, Lancashire, George Formby was the son of George Formby Sr, from whom he later took his stage name. After an early career as a stable boy and jockey, Formby took to the music hall stage after the early death of his father in 1921. His early performances were taken exclusively from his father’s act, including the same songs, jokes and characters. In 1923 he made two career-changing decisions – he purchased a ukulele, and married Beryl Ingham, a fellow performer who became his manager and transformed his act. She insisted that he appear on stage formally dressed, and introduced the ukulele to his performance. He started his recording career in 1926 and, from 1934, he increasingly worked in film to develop into a major star by the late 1930s and 1940s, and became the UK’s most popular entertainer during those decades.

During the Second World War Formby worked extensively for the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), and entertained civilians and troops, and by 1946 it was estimated that he had performed in front of three million service personnel. After the war his career declined, although he toured the Commonwealth, and continued to appear in variety and pantomime. His last television appearance was in December 1960, two weeks before the death of Beryl. He surprised people by announcing his engagement to a school teacher, Pat Howson, seven weeks after Beryl’s funeral, but died in Preston three weeks later, at the age of 56. He was buried in Warrington, alongside his father.

Early life

Formby was born blind owing to an obstructive caul, although his sight was restored during a violent coughing fit or sneeze when he was a few months old. After briefly attending school—at which he did not prosper, and did not learn to read or write—Formby was removed from formal education at the age of seven and sent to become a stable boy, briefly in Wiltshire and then in Middleham, Yorkshire. After a year working at Middleham, he was apprenticed to Thomas Scholfield at Epsom, where he ran his first professional races at the age of 10, when he weighed less than 4 stone (56 lb; 25 kg).

In 1915 Formby Sr allowed his son to appear on screen, taking the lead in By the Shortest of Heads, a thriller directed by Bert Haldane in which Formby played a stable boy who outwits a gang of villains and wins a £10,000 prize when he comes first in a horse race. The film is now considered lost, with the last-known copy having been destroyed in 1940. Later in 1915, and with the closure of the English racing season because of the First World War, Formby moved to Ireland where he continued as a jockey until November 1918. Later that month he returned to England and raced for Lord Derby at his Newmarket stables. Formby continued as a jockey until 1921, although he never won a race.

Beginning a stage career: 1921–1934

On 8 February 1921 Formby Sr succumbed to his bronchial condition and died, at the age of 45; he was buried in the Catholic section of Warrington Cemetery. After his father’s funeral Eliza took the young Formby to London to help him cope with his grief. While there, they visited the Victoria Palace Theatre—where Formby Sr had previously been so successful—and saw a performance by the Tyneside comedian Tommy Dixon. Dixon was performing a copy of Formby Sr’s act, using the same songs, jokes, costumes and mannerisms, and billed himself as “The New George Formby”, a name which angered Eliza and Formby even more. The performance prompted Formby to follow in his father’s profession, a decision which was supported by Eliza. As he had never seen his father perform live, Formby found the imitation difficult and had to learn his father’s songs from records, and the rest of his act and jokes from his mother.

On 21 March 1921 Formby gave his first professional appearance in a two-week run at the Hippodrome in Earlestown, Lancashire, where he received a fee of £5 a week. In the show he was billed as George Hoy, using his mother’s maiden name—he explained later that he did not want the Formby name to appear in small print. His father’s name was used in the posters and advertising, George Hoy being described as “Comedian (son of George Formby)”.

In 1923 Formby started to play the ukulele and introduced it into his act during a run at the Alhambra Theatre in Barnsley. When the songs—still his father’s material—were well received, he changed his stage name to George Formby, and stopped using the John Willie character. Another significant event was his appearance in Castleford, West Yorkshire, where appearing on the same bill was Beryl Ingham, an Accrington-born clog champion clogdancer and actress who had won the All England Step Dancing title at the age of 11. Beryl, who had formed a dancing act with her sister, May, called “The Two Violets”, had a low opinion of Formby’s act, and later said that “if I’d had a bag of rotten tomatoes with me I’d have thrown them at him”. Formby and Beryl entered into a relationship and married two years later, on 13 September 1924, at a register office in Wigan, with Formby’s aunt and uncle as witnesses. Upon hearing the news, Eliza insisted on the couple having a church wedding, which followed two months later.

Beryl took over as George’s manager, and changed aspects of his act, including the songs and jokes. She instructed him on how to use his hands, and how to work his audience. She also persuaded him to change his stage dress to black tie—although he appeared in a range of other costumes too—and to take lessons in how to play the ukulele properly. By June 1926 he was proficient enough to earn a one-off record deal—negotiated by Beryl—to sing six of his father’s songs for the Edison Bell/Winner label.

Film career: 1934–1940

With Formby’s growing success on stage, Beryl decided it was time for him to move into films. In 1934 she approached the producer Basil Dean, the head of Associated Talking Pictures (ATP). Although he expressed an interest in Formby, he did not like the associated demands from Beryl. She also met the representative of Warner Bros. in the UK, Irving Asher, who was dismissive, saying that Formby was “too stupid to play the bad guy and too ugly to play the hero”. Three weeks later Formby was approached by John E. Blakeley of Blakeley’s Productions, who offered him a one-film deal.

The film, Boots! Boots!, was shot on a budget of £3,000 in a one-room studio in Albany Street, London. Formby played the John Willie character, while Beryl also appeared, and the couple were paid £100 for the two weeks’ work, plus 10 per cent of the profits. Formby followed this up with Off the Dole in 1935, again for Blakeley, who had re-named his company Mancunian Films. The film cost £3,000 to make, and earned £80,000 at the box office.

The success of the pictures led Dean to offer Formby a seven-year contract with ATP, which resulted in the production of 11 films, although Dean’s fellow producer, Michael Balcon, considered Formby to be “an odd and not particularly loveable character”. The first film from the deal was released in 1935. No Limit features Formby as an entrant in the Isle of Man annual Tourist Trophy (TT) motorcycle race.

Second World War: service with ENSA

At the outbreak of the Second World War Dean left ATP and became the head of the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), the organisation that provided entertainment to the British Armed Forces. He undertook his first tour in France in March, where he performed for members of the British Expeditionary Force.

Post-war career: 1946–1952

In 1946 the song “With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock”, which Formby had recorded in 1937, began to cause problems at the BBC for broadcasts of Formby and his music. The producer of one of Formby’s live television programmes received a letter from a BBC manager that stated “We have no record that “With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock” is banned. We do however know and so does Formby, that certain lines in the lyric must not be broadcast”. Other sources, including the BBC, state that the song was banned from being broadcast.

Between July and October 1946 Formby filmed George in Civvy Street, which would be his final film. In that same year Formby went into pantomime in Blackpool. While there, he learned of his appointment as Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1946 King’s Birthday Honours.

Health problems and intermittent work: 1952–1961

In later years he worked with the likes of Terry-Thomas and the Billy Cotton Band and performed in pantomimes and summer seasons. On Christmas Eve 1960 – two hours before the premiere of Aladdin – Formby received a phone call from Beryl’s doctor, saying that she was in a coma and was not expected to survive the night. Formby went through with the performance, and was told early the next morning that Beryl had died. Her cremation took place on 27 December, and an hour after the service Formby returned to Bristol to appear in that day’s matinee performance of Aladdin. He continued in the show until 14 January when a cold forced him to rest, on doctors’ advice. He returned to Lytham St Annes and communicated with Pat Howson; she contacted his doctor and Formby was instructed to go to hospital, where he remained for the next two weeks.

On Valentine’s Day 1961, seven weeks after Beryl’s death, Formby and Howson announced their engagement. Eight days later he suffered a further heart attack which was so severe that he was given the last rites of the Catholic Church on his arrival at hospital. He was revived and, from his hospital bed, he and Howson planned their wedding, which was due to take place in May. He was still there when, on 6 March, he had a further heart attack and died at the age of 56.

Formby was buried alongside his father in Warrington Cemetery with over 150,000 mourners lining the route.

Shortly after Formby’s death a small group of fans formed the George Formby Society, which had its inaugural meeting at the Imperial Hotel Blackpool, and still exists to this day.

Information Retrieved from Wikipedia, where you can read a detailed account of George’s films.

Bert Kwouk (Actor) 1930-2016

Born 18 Jul 1930
Died 24 May 2016
Aged 85

Herbert Tsangtse Kwouk, OBE was a British actor, known for his role as Cato in the Pink Panther films. He made appearances in many television programmes, including a portrayal of Imperial Japanese Army Major Yamauchi in the British drama series Tenko and as Entwistle in Last of the Summer Wine.

Early life

Kwouk was born in Warrington, Lancashire, where his parents were on a business trip touring Europe, but was brought up in Shanghai. In fact Kwouk himself said he was born in Warrington, Lancashire, “because my mother happened to be there at the time,” but at 10 months old was taken back to the family home in Shanghai.

His father was a textile tycoon descended from a Tang dynasty general. Between the ages of 12 and 16, he attended the Jesuit Mission School there, which he described as “the Far East equivalent of Eton”. He left China in 1947 when his Chinese parents returned to Britain and was then sent to the United States to complete his education. In 1953, he graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. The Kwouk family fortune had been lost in the 1949 revolution and in 1954 he returned to Britain, where a girlfriend “nagged [him] into acting”.


Kwouk made his film debut in the film Windom’s Way (1957). One of his earliest film roles was in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) in the role of the leader of a prison revolt who later aids the main character Gladys Aylward (Ingrid Bergman) in heroically leading orphans to safety.

He was best known for playing Cato Fong, Inspector Clouseau’s manservant, in the Pink Panther film series. The character was first introduced in A Shot in the Dark (1964), the second film in the series, and was a role that Kwouk would reprise on another six occasions until the 2006 series reboot. The running gag was that Cato was ordered to attack Clouseau when he least expected it to keep him alert, usually resulting in a ruined romantic encounter or Clouseau’s flat being completely destroyed. Amid the chaos, the phone would ring and Cato would calmly answer it before dutifully handing the phone to his employer and being thumped by Clouseau.

He was a stalwart of several 1960s ITC television series, such as Danger ManThe Saint and Man of the World, when an oriental character was required. Kwouk featured as one of the leads in the short-lived series The Sentimental Agent (1963) and had minor roles in three James Bond films. In Goldfinger (1964), he played Mr. Ling, a Chinese expert in nuclear fission; in the non-Eon spoof Casino Royale (1967), he played a general and, in You Only Live Twice (also 1967), Kwouk played the part of a Japanese operative of Blofeld, credited as Spectre 3. He appeared with Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn in The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968).

A reference to Kwouk’s appearances in several films with Peter Sellers is found in the opening scene of The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu (1980) where Sellers says to him “your face is familiar.” His next major role was as the honourable but misguided Major Yamauchi in the World War II television drama Tenko (1981–84). Kwouk featured in many British television productions that called for an oriental actor. As a result, he became a familiar face in the United Kingdom and appeared as himself in the Harry Hill Show as well as several of Hill’s live tours.

In 2000, he appeared in an episode of the syndicated western TV series Queen of Swords as Master Kiyomasa, an aged Japanese warrior-priest. Sung-Hi Lee played his female pupil, Kami. He provided voice-overs on the spoof Japanese betting show Banzai (2001–04) and subsequently appeared in adverts for a betting company. From 2002 to the series’s end in 2010, he had a regular role as one of the three main characters in the long-running series Last of the Summer Wine, as ‘Electrical’ Entwistle. His later work also included voice acting for radio drama, video games, and television commercials.

Burt also had a cameo in Super Gran in 1985.

Personal life

Kwouk married Caroline Tebbs in Wandsworth, London, in the summer of 1961. Their son Christopher was born in 1974. Kwouk was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to drama. In later years, he lived in Hampstead, London.


Kwouk died on 24 May 2016 at the age of 85, from cancer at the Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead.

Information retrieved from Wikipedia.

Pete Postlethwaite (Actor) 1946-2011

Born 7 Feb 1946
Died 2 Jan 2011
Aged 64

British actor Pete Postlethwaite, speaking at the Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh, opposing the G8 summit, on 3 July 2004. Author: Dave Morris from Edinburgh, UK and used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Peter William Postlethwaite, OBE was an English character actor. 

He was born in Warrington, Lancashire, the fourth and youngest child of William Postlethwaite, a cooper, wood machinist, and school caretaker, and Mary Geraldine (née Lawless), working-class Roman Catholics.

Postlethwaite attended St Benedict’s RC Junior School and a seminary. He then joined the 4th form at West Park Grammar School, St Helens where he enjoyed sport including rugby league. He spent an extra year re-sitting some O-levels and then took four A-levels in English, history, geography, and French.

Some of his film roles include In the Name of the Father (1993), Sharpe (1994), The Usual Suspects (1995), Dragonheart (1996), James and the giant Peach (1996), Romeo + Juliet (1996), Brassed Off (1996), Amistad (1997), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), Animal Farm (1999), The Constant Gardener (2005), Clash of the Titans (2010), Inception (2010), and The Town (2010).

An on television, Postlethwaite played Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill on Sharpe. He trained as a teacher and taught drama before training as an actor.

He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2004 New Year Honours list. Less than one month after his death, he was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in Ben Affleck’s The Town (2010).


Early in his career, Postlethwaite was advised to adopt a new surname for his acting work by his first agent and by peers who quipped that his name “would never be put up in lights outside theatres because they couldn’t afford the electricity”. Postlethwaite rejected the advice.

He was also the first male drama teacher at Loreto College in Hulme, Manchester.

He initially trained to be a Catholic priest but opted for a career in theatre and started his career at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, where his colleagues included Bill Nighy, Jonathan Price, Antony Sher, Matthew Kelly, and Julie Walters. Postlethwaite and Walters had an intimate relationship during the latter half of the 1970s.

In 2003, he toured Australia and New Zealand in a 90-minute one-man play, Scaramouche Jones, in which he played a clown trying to find out why he is who he is before he dies at midnight, receiving a nomination for the TMA Award for Best Actor and winning the Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Solo Performance. This was directed by Rupert Goold, who would also direct his Lear in 2008, in which Postlethwaite played every character. As well as Australia, the play toured Canada, New Zealand and the UK to great acclaim.

Steven Spielberg called Postlethwaite “the best actor in the world” after working with him on The Lost World: Jurassic Park, to which Postlethwaite quipped: “I’m sure what Spielberg actually said was, ‘The thing about Pete is that he thinks he’s the best actor in the world.'” Pete is also rumoured to have added “it sounds like an advert for lager and it’s only one man’s opinion”.

Postlethwaite next starred in a Liverpool stage production of King Lear in 2008 at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, and at the Young Vic, London. He appeared in the climate change-themed film The Age of Stupid, which premiered in March 2009. Having recently installed a wind turbine in his garden, so impressed was he by the film, he wrote in The Sun newspaper that, “The stakes [of climate change] are very, very high. They’re through the roof. How could we willingly know that we’re going into extinction… and let it happen.”

Terminally ill, Postlethwaite made a conspicuous return to Hollywood in three 2010 films, first as Spyros in Clash of the Titans. He next appeared in the blockbuster hit Inception as Maurice Fischer, an industrialist who is slowly dying. Lastly, his performance in The Town as florist/crime boss Fergus “Fergie” Colm was well received by critics, making several publications’ lists of Oscar predictions for Best Supporting Actor. Postlethwaite’s last appearance on screen was in Nick Hamm’s film Killing Bono, based on the memoir of Neil McCormick. The role was written specially for Postlethwaite to accommodate his illness. The film was released on 1 April 2011. His final role was due to be in the BBC series Exile, written by Danny Brocklehurst and Paul Abbott, but he had to pull out because of ill health. Jim Broadbent replaced him in the role.

Illness and death

Postlethwaite died of pancreatic cancer at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital on 2 January 2011, and was survived by his wife and children. The cancer had been diagnosed in March 2009. Postlethwaite continued acting almost to the end of 2010, showing clear signs of weight loss during his last performances. In his last two years, he worked on his memoir A Spectacle of Dust with Andy Richardson. It was published on 1 June 2011.

Information retrieved from Wikipedia, where you can read a fuller account of his filmography. See also the IMDB website.

Nathan Head (Actor) 1980-

Born 8 Oct 1980


Actor Nathan Head on set of the film Shades of Grey. The image is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Nathan Head is a British actor known for his work in independent horror films. He trained in Manchester, where he took acting classes at the Northern Actors Centre, whose patrons included Sarah Lancashire, Shobna Gulati and Brigit Forsyth.

Early career

Head first gained attention with his role as demonic Raymond Korkinsky in the award-winning film The Archangel Murders, which was shown at Cannes in 2010. The film had a limited theatrical release in October 2009, playing alongside Halloween and Someone’s Knocking at the Door. Head also voiced a character in the animated spin-off Underworld Tales.

Work in the horror genre

Head is best known for his work in the British horror genre, notably his leading roles in the films Theatre Of Fear and the mockbuster Exorcist ChroniclesTheatre Of Fear entered the Asda UK DVD charts at number 19 and Exorcist Chronicles gained recognition in America upon its release via Time Warner Cable. Both films received positive reviews from Silver Screen magazine, Scream magazine and Rue Morgue magazine as well as being featured in The Guardian and leading genre publication Fangoria magazine, Exorcist Chronicles‘ popularity led to Head appearing on BBC Merseyside to talk about his love for the horror genre and his years of experience in acting in horror prosthetics, creature makeup and special effects makeup.


FM radio

From August 2009 to July 2011 Head appeared on the weekly Matinée Show on Tameside Radio 103.6FM, Sundays 15:00 to 17:00. He co-presented the show and read the entertainment news.

Internet radio

Head produced and hosted a feature on Online World Radio called The Showbiz Slot, covering various entertainment-themed subjects. The show was broadcast on Online World Radio in 2010 and released on iTunes as a podcast in 2011, with a second series released in 2012.

Other media

In September 2017 Head recorded a short audio contribution for inclusion in the official eleventh YouTube anniversary video of colorization artist Stuart Humphryes.

Information retrieved from Wikipedia.