Stars & Celebrities of Television & Film
Ball (born 1944), Tommy Cannon (born 1938)
These two former Lancashire welders formed the comedy partnership
of Cannon & Ball in the 1980s, and were popular television entertainers
for most of that decade. Bobby Ball (far left picture) was born
on the 28th January 1944 at Shaw in Oldham, and Tommy Cannon
(near left picture) was born on the 27th June 1938 also in Oldham.
They began their professional careers as a singing duo called
‘The Harper Brothers’ around local clubs, while being factory
workers during the daytime. When they appeared on Hughie Green’s
television talent show “Opportunity Knocks” they changed
their name to Cannon & Ball, and were a popular audience choice
for best act. Within a year they had been voted the Variety
Club Showbusiness Personalities of the Year, voted clubland’s
best comedy act, as well as topping various newspaper and magazine
In 1979 they starred in their own London Weekend Television
show “The Cannon & Ball Show” . They have also been the
subjects of “This is Your Life” programmes, as well as
starring in one film “The Boys in Blue” . Their fortunes
have fared less well in the 1990s, though they appear still
in local clubs, feature at Blackpool shows and are regular characters
in Christmas Pantomimes in the region.
Alistair (Alfred) Cooke, the celebrated journalist, author,
commentator and broadcaster was born on the 20th of November
1908 in Manchester. However, most of his upbringing was in the
USA and he has subsequently taken American citizenship. He is
perhaps best known for his long-running BBC Radio 4 programme
“Letter From America” , which he has regularly broadcast
At Cambridge (England) he gained a BA degree in 1930, and anticipated
a career as an actor, having joined the dramatic society, the
Cambridge University Mummers in 1928 as a founder member. He
was also editor of the student’s literary journal “The Granta” ,
and from 1931 he made many contributions to the American periodical
“Theatre Arts Monthly” . On
a one-year Commonwealth Fund Scholarship, in 1932 he went to
America and visited Yale and Harvard Universities. Here he “fell
in love with America”, and within 3 years had become a permanent
resident, and obtained full US citizenship by 1941. However,
his ties with the land of his birth remained firm and affectionate.
He has continued to be a major contributor to British newspapers,
and has been American feature writer for the Daily Herald, and
Roving Correspondent for The Times.
was at one time a BBC Film Critic, as well as being ‘The
Manchester Guardian’ Newspaper’s Chief US Correspondent
for many years, and has worked for various American Radio Stations
as a specialist in British affairs. He continued writing, mostly
in theatre and film criticism, and published the book “Garbo
and the Nightwatchman” in 1937.
first appeared on television in the 1930s with a short programme
entitled “Accent in America” , although his television
masterpiece was in the 1980s with his definitive 13 part series
“America”, which was subsequently a best selling book for several
years after publication. This book achieved critical acclaim
for its objective and personal analysis of the birth and development
of that nation, and for Cooke’s customary modest, frank, affectionate
and incisive manner of delivery.
He was made a Knight of the British Empire (KBE) for his work
in broadcasting and for the way he is seen to represent the
Englishman abroad. Many Britons thought he was the archetypal
American, while to most Americans he was the quintessential
presenting his “Letter from America” for some
58 years, he finally retired in February 2004, and died a month
later on 29th March 2004.
Born 14th June 1941 in Bredbusy, Stockport, Mike Yarwood was
arguably Britain’s number one impressionist during the 1960s
and 1970s. After many years as a semi-professional working around
local clubs, his career really took off with his appearance
on “Sunday Night at the London Palladium” on Independent
Television in 1964 in which he was an overnight national success.
His impersonation of the then Labour Prime Minister, Harold
Wilson, captured the audience’s attention, and he became very
much in demand as a top entertainer in variety and chat shows
on British television. He had several of his own series of television
Other characterisations which he perfected included impressions
of well-known contemporary football manager Brian Clough, rugby
football commentator Eddie Waring, comedy character Alf Garnett,
television interviewer Robin Day, and later the Conservative
Prime Minister Edward Heath. In the 1980s his popularity declined
as he failed to create new characterisations, or to compete
with the more lively, topical young impressionists (like Rory
Many believed that it was the election of Margaret Thatcher
to Prime Minister in 1979, which was the death blow to Yarwood’s
act – he had never successfully impersonated women, and Mrs
Thatcher defeated him. His personal life was also beset by problems.
Despite several abortive attempts at staging comebacks, he failed
to regain the limelight. His
main television series included “Will the Real Mike Yarwood
Stand Up”, “Look – Mike Yarwood” , and “Mike Yarwood in
In the mid-1990s, Yarwood returned to the stage as prime minister
John Major, but failed to re-establish himself with audiences.
He claimed that one of the difficulties in impersonating John
Major and Tony Blair was that they were “nice guys”.
In July 1990 Yarwood suffered a mild heart attack. The following
year he gave up alcohol and has been teetotal ever since. In
October 1999, he underwent treatment for depression at the Priory
Born Joanne Whalley on August 25th 1966 in Salford and raised
in Stockport, this striking brunette stage and screen actress
was married to the American actor, Val Kilmer, and subsequently
has changed her name to Whalley-Kilmer. Later, after divorcing,
she reverted to her original surname of Whalley. As a stage
actress she appeared at the Royal Court Theatre in London, and
on Broadway in New York.
the 1980s her career has involved her almost exclusively in
movie films, of which her most celebrated leading role was as
Christine Keeler in “Scandal” , which told the story of
the Profumo Trial in the 1950s. She
also appeared on British television in Dennis Potter’s play
“The Singing Detective” with Michael Gambon in the early
films to her credit include “Edge of Darkness”,
“The Wall” (Pink Floyd – 1982), “Dance With a Stranger”
(1985), “Willow” (1988), “Kill Me Again” (1989),
“Shattered” (1991) and “Storyville ” in 1992.
In 1994 she played Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the
Wind” in a made-for-TV adaptation of the sequel novel,
Scarlett. She also starred in the 1997 film “The Man
Who Knew Too Little” .
In 2000 she starred in the leading role for the elevision film
“Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis” and after her
divorce she worked with the pop-punk band Blink-182 and
in 2005, she appeared as Queen Mary I in the BBC television
serial “The Virgin Queen” . Other appearances
have included “Life Line” , a 2006 two-part
drama on BBC1 and in 2008 in the ITV mini series “Flood”
opposite Robert Carlyle.
Also in that year, she appeared on stage in Los Angeles in Billy
Roche’s “Poor Beast in the Rain” at The Matrix
Theatre. She played one of the female leads, in the historical
drama “The Borgias” and made a guest appearance
in season 4 of “Gossip Girl”.
Actress, entertainer, scriptwriter and comedienne, Victoria
Wood was born in Prestwich in 1953, and attended Bury Grammar
School for Girls. She went on to study at the University of
Birmingham. She was ‘discovered’ on the “New Faces” TV
talent show in 1975, and within a year was writing topical and
satirical songs for Esther Rantzen’s “That’s Life” programme
on BBC Television. Noted for her witty use of satirical wordplay,
and catchy “improvised” music with bitingly topical themes,
she has endeared herself to millions in her television appearances,
and her own Victoria Wood TV shows. On the “That’s Life”
programme she met Julie Walters, with whom she has performed
many times since, including in their own “Wood & Walters”
show. Other one-woman shows have included “Victoria Wood
– As Seen on TV” , as well as “An Audience with Victoria
Wood” . She was at one time married to magician Geoffrey
Durham (also at one time known as the Great Soprendo). Her latest
success has been with the television comedy series “Dinner
Ladies” , starring herself with Thelma Barlow and Anne
2006, she won two BAFTA awards for her ITV drama “Housewife,
49” . The next year she directed a revival production
of “Acorn Antiques: The Musical!” with a brand
new cast, which opened at The Lowry in Salford before going
on tour throughout the UK. She was also the subject of an episode
of “The South Bank Show” in March 2007 followed
soon after by her own travel documentary show on BBC1 called
“Victoria’s Empire” , tracing the history, cultural
impact and customs of the British Empire.
On New Year’s Day 2011 she appeared in a BBC drama “Eric
and Ernie” as Sadie Bartholomew, mother of Eric Morecambe.
For the 2011 Manchester International Festival, she wrote and
directed “That Day We Sang” , a musical set
in 1969 with flashbacks to 1929, involving a choir singing with
the Hallé Orchestra in the Manchester Free Trade Hall
(now the Edwardian Hotel) most of the score for the musical
being written by herself.
A local Bury man, born 14 March 1947, the son of Councillor
Jack Skellern, Mayor of Bury from 1971-72, Peter Skellern is
a musician, entertainer and composer. A pianist, with several
musical hits to his name in the early 1980s, notably the classic
“You’re a Lady”. He had played trombone in the school band
and served as organist and choirmaster in a local church before
attending the Guildhall School of Music from which he graduated
with honours in 1968. He went on to join the group called “March
Hare” which recorded a country-pop album under the name
of “Harlan County”, before disbanding in 1971. He
married and has two children.
he worked as a hall porter in Shaftsbury in Dorset, before gaining
international recognition with his UK number 3 hit “You’re
a Lady” . Later albums included “Peter Skellern
Not Without a Friend” which were mostly his own compositions.
In 1975 he produced “Hold On to Love” which established
him as a purveyor of wittily-observed if homely love songs.
credibility as an original composer-musician was confirmed and
enhanced when ex-Beatle George Harrison assisted in the production
of the “Hard Times” album, of which the title
track was recorded later by Ringo Starr.
In 1978 he had a minor hit with “Love is the Sweetest
Thing” (which featured a backing by the Grimethorpe
Colliery Brass band) winning the Music Trades Association award
for best MOR Album of 1979.
he wrote and performed six autobiographical programmes for BBC
Television, followed by “Happy Endings” , (a
series of musical plays), and hosted the “Private Lives”
chat show in 1983. In 1984 he formed “Oasis” with
Julian Lloyd Webber, Mary Hopkin and guitarist Bill Loveday
in an attempt to fuse mutual classical and pop interests, though
that project has, as yet, failed to make any major impact.
are indebted to Mr Eric Ball who kindly supplied most of the
biographical information on Peter Skellern.
Photo courtesy of Bernard Wrigley
Bernard Wrigley was born in 1948 and attended Thornleigh Grammar
School in Bolton. After
leaving school, he spent 2 years working in the Customs & Excise
before turning professional at the Octagon
Theatre as half of “Dave & Bernard.” He started his solo
act(s) at the beginning of 1970. Singing and acting formed,
from the outset equal parts of his career.
He began by singing in folk clubs, and then became involved
with documentaries produced at the new and dynamic Octagon Theatre
in Bolton. This carried on into plays, and then the Ken Campbell
Roadshow, where the acting and singing combined. Here he wrote
such gems as the “Ballad of Knocking Nelly” . From
here, as well as singing all the while, he appeared in numerous
Alan Bennett films, including “Day Out, Afternoon Off,
and Me” and “I�m afraid of Virginia Woolf” .
Then came a steady trail of appearances in such TV programmes
as “Coronation Street”, “Emmerdale”, “Wood
& Walters”, “Children�s Ward” , and adverts,
including singing and acting in a prestigious Guinness TV campaign.
He appeared at a Royal Command Performance during the Queen�s
Jubilee year. Back to the Octagon in the 90s for “Waiting
for Godot” with Mike Harding,
and in “Road”, at the Royal
Exchange Theatre, Manchester. TV appearances include “Last
of the Summer Wine” , “Coogan�s Run” , Asphalt
in Terry Pratchett�s “Soul Music” , and on film the
union official in “Brassed Off” . 1997 saw his tenth
album – “Albert, Arthur and the Car Park “, as well
as a radio play, and “Emmerdale” as Barry Clegg, the
rocket building husband of Zak Dingle�s girlfriend, Lisa. Then
“Snow White and the Seven Dwarf”s ” at Southport
Theatre, “Cold Feet”, “The Cops” , and Northern
Broadside�s Passion play. 1998 saw him playing “The Limestone
Cowboy” at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. All detailed
on his website at www.bernardwrigley.com.
Appearances in 2001 include Steve Coogan�s film “Parole
Officer” , and in Peter Kay�s “Phoenix Nights”
, together with his own radio programmes and a series of concerts
with the Oldham Tinkers. He played two different characters
in Victoria Wood�s “Christmas
Special” on Christmas Day, and earlier in 2000 he was the
prisoner in a TV advert for Walls� Sausages, was murdered in
“Harbour Lights” in May, and in June released “Magnificent
Monologues” , a CD of all the most famous ones including
“The Lion and Albert & The Battle of Hastings” – with
In 1999 he was the Rev. Marvin Winstanley in “Coronation
Street” , then to Norway for a lottery commercial. Summer
saw him presenting Jim Bowen�s morning show on Radio Lancashire
& doing the programme jingles; concerts with the Oldham Tinkers
followed and October saw a book of his songs and monologues
from Landy Publishing. Guest spot on the Houghton Weavers� “20
event Christmas Tour” ended the year, with two Christmas
episodes of “Dinner Ladies”.
as supplied by Bernard Wrigley himself). www.bernardwrigley.com
1940) A veteran of film, stage and television, John Mahoney, (probably
best known in the UK as Frasier Crane’s father in the TV comedy
series “Frasier” ) was born in Manchester on 20th June
1940, the son of a local baker, one of eight children, and emigrated
to the United States after finishing school. In the US he joined
Subsequently, he became a naturalised America citizen and received
his bachelor’s degree from Quincy College and a master’s degree
in English from Western Illinois University.
At 37, Mahoney took the decision to pursue a lifelong ambition
and began a career in the theatre, enrolling at the St Nicholas
Theatre, performing alongside the likes of John Malkovich, who
invited him to join the Steppenwolf Theatre. Mahoney has since
appeared in more than 30 Steppenwolf productions. In addition
to a Tony Award, he received a Clarence Derwent Award and a
Drama Desk nomination for his performance in “House of Blue
Leaves” as well as a second Drama Desk nomination and Theatre
World Award for his part in an off-Broadway production of “Orphans.”
Among his many film credits are: “Tin Men”, “Moonstruck”,
“Barton Fink”, “Suspect”, “The Russia House”, “Frantic”, “Betrayed”,
“Eight Men Out”, “Say Anything”, “The Manhattan Project”, “In
the Line of Fire”, “Article 99”, “Striking Distance”, “The Hudsucker
Proxy”, “Reality Bites” and “The American President.”
Television appearances have included “The Human Factor”,
“H.E.L.P.”, “Lady Blue”, “Favourite Son”, “Dinner at Eight,”
“The Image” and “The Water Engine.” Most recently
his portrayal of Kelsey Grammer’s father in “Frasier”
has won many television awards. He presently lives in Chicago.
2011, Mahoney appeared in the new play “The Outgoing
Tide” at Northlight Theatre in Chicago as well as making
two guest appearances on the TV Land sitcom “Hot In
Cleveland” which reunited him with his “Frasier”
co-stars Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick, who was also his co-star
in the movie “The American President”.
Born on 1 October 1888, John E. Blakeley was the man behind
The Mancunian Film Corporation – one of the woefully neglected
film studios of the region. He opened the studio in Manchester
in 1947 at a cost of �70,000, in an old chapel in Dickenson
Road, Rusholme. It was known locally as “The Fun Factory” or
“Jollywood”. Films produced by this studio had a distinctly
northern flavour (which may explain why they found little favour
in London and the South). Made on a shoestring budget with various
northern hall performers as cast, they were extremely popular
with the working people of Lancashire, though London critics
slated these films. Stars included the likes of George Formby,
Nat Jackley, Norman Evans, Duggie Wakefield, Jimmy James, Jewel
& Warris, Josef Locke, Jimmy Clitheroe, Diana Dors, and Frank
Randle. His father James had first opened studios in Rusholme
in 1908, and John soon followed in his footsteps, making some
20 or so films during six year in Manchester, (though early
films were actually shot in London), and the studio remained
in profit for the whole of that time.
arrival of television in the 1950s marked the end of Mancunian
comedies and at the age of 65 Blakeley decided to call it a
day and retired. The studio closed in 1953. Mancunian Films,
did continue however, with his son Tom taking over the production
of a series of B-picture crime movies.
E Blakeley died oln 20 February 1958 in Stockport.
story of John E Blakeley and Mancunian Films is the subject
of the book “Hooray for Jollywood” by Philip Martin Williams
and David L. Williams.
Find out more at the website: https://www.angelfire.com/ab7/history_doorstep/jollywood/
are grateful to Philip & David Williams for suggesting this
topic and providing material on John Blakeley and Mancunian