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Vic Oliver: The First Castaway Remembered

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As Desert Island Discs celebrates 70 years this month, David Baddiel explores the mercurial life of its very first castaway, entertainer Vic Oliver.

In the early forties presenter Roy Plomley devised a series which has been a constant presence in the choppy waters of radio ever since. The very first broadcast of Desert Island Discs was recorded at the bomb-damaged Maida Vale studios, London, on 27 January 1942. Plomley's guest was Vic Oliver.

In the forties, as a comedian, musician, host and music hall act Oliver was a household name. He'd married Winston Churchill's daughter and found fame appearing on the wartime radio show "Hi Gang" while forging a successful stage career.

During those war years he'd also attracted the attention of the Nazi party who'd included his name on a list of people to be arrested in the event of a successful invasion of Britain, there are also false reports that his mother had perished in a concentration camp despite Oliver confirming in his 1950's autobiography that his mother was alive and well and living in London.

As David Baddiel discovers there's a series of false accounts, myths and contradictions concerning Oliver's personal life, his relationship with the Churchill family, his impact on the world of entertainment along with an untold story of how he appeared to keep his Jewish background private.

With archive of Oliver in conversation and performance, contributors include; Bill Pertwee, Writer Brad Ashton, Theatre Historian Chris Woodward and trumpeter Joan Hinde.

The programme is written by Phil Collinge and produced in Salford by Stephen Garner.

Available now

30 minutes

Last on

Thu 26 Jan 2012 11:30
BBC Radio 4 FM only
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