The Stanley Baxter Story
Eddie Izzard presents a rare profile of comedy actor, Stanley Baxter.
For many of a certain generation, Stanley Baxter is a part of their childhood or their adolescence, a comic who would turn up on TV from time to time and then, as often as not, disappear for another year. Stanley became more painstaking with his shows as the years rolled by and by the mid 1970s he was only doing one show a year - at Christmas.
But what shows they were! Snappy one-liner sketches forming the comedy grout for great production number parodies of Hollywood movies, in which Stanley played all the parts. He was Mae West in an alternative Gone With The Wind; he was Katherine Hepburn in a version of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? where Sidney Poitier would have been welcomed with open arms; and he was Judy Garland in an Oz ruled by Ronald Reagan.
He began his career during wartime on the BBC Scottish Home Service, after making a local name for himself doing impressions in Glasgow church halls. After a spell in the army in National Service, Stanley joined the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre where he learnt his craft under the highly respected director Tyrone Guthrie. Another member of the Citizens' was Jimmy Gilbert, who moved to London and invited Stanley to take part in a television revue series he was putting together in 1959. On the Bright Side was a success and Stanley was on his way.
He did several sketch series for the BBC in the years that followed but by the mid 70s, he was down to one minutely crafted Christmas show a year, working with the same writer, Ken Hoare and the same director, David Bell, every time. His most recent outing was an archive Christmas special last year on ITV with one or two new sketches.
Stanley is a comedian who is an impressionist but whose impressions work in spirit rather than accuracy - he is first and foremost a comedy actor. He is also a perfectionist, something that may have worked against him in a world where television budgets have shrunk. But the shows are gems, polished jewels forever captured in the amber of comedy history.
Interviewees include Maureen Lipman; Julia McKenzie; Denise Coffey; TV director/producers Jimmy Gilbert, Tom Gutteridge, John Kaye Cooper and John Bishop; actor David Kernan; film director Ken Annakin; Barry Cryer; TV boss Jim Moir; Gordon Kennedy; Justin Edwards; and Stanley Baxter himself, along with many of his character creations. This documentary first broadcast in 2009.