Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Dinner For One • Freddie Frinton and May Warden

Freddie Frinton

Freddie Frinton [Wikimedia]

Freddie Frinton is a name to conjure with. The comedian and music hall artist was often mentioned by my parents, who frequently used him as the butt of a joke about theatre comedy — stage drunks in particular — but with great affection. It was in Blackpool in 1945 that Frinton first performed Dinner for One, a music hall sketch originally written by Laurie Wylie in the 1920s. He ended up buying the rights so that he wouldn’t have to pay every time he performed the show. Interestingly, for someone known for playing drunks, Frinton himself was teetotal. Older visitors may remember the actor from the 1960s sitcom, Meet the Wife, in which he appeared with Thora Hird.

Since the 1970s, Dinner for One has had overwhelming success in Germany as well as Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, where it is broadcast every New Year’s Eve. Yet the British are barely aware of it.

The sketch presents the 90th birthday of upper-class Englishwoman Miss Sophie, who hosts a celebration dinner every year for her friends Mr Pomeroy, Mr Winterbottom, Sir Toby and Admiral von Schneider. (The plot has nothing to do with New Year’s Eve. There is a “Happy New Year” toast, but this appears to be purely a reference to Miss Sophie’s birthday.) The problem is that due to Miss Sophie’s considerable age, she has outlived all of her friends, and so her equally aged manservant James makes his way around the table, impersonating each of the guests in turn. Wikimedia

maywarden

May Warden 1891-1978 [still from Dinner for One]

Frinton’s partner in crime as the ancient Miss Sophie is actress May Warden. Born in 1891, she was still working in her 80s, notably in 1973 as Billy’s grandmother in the television adaptation of Billy Liar. She also had a non-speaking part in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange in 1971.

With great thanks to texthistory for blogging about the video. See also the BBC.

Sarah Vernon © 09-01-16

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