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24 September 2014
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ITMA cast, 1947
'It's that man again' -1947

"It's That Man Again", otherwise known as ITMA, was launched in 1939, when the BBC decided that what its radio broadcast needed was a weekly comedy show. The Liverpudlian comedian, Tommy Handley was chosen and with the help of Ted Kavanagh, they created what was to become one of the most popular radio series of the 1940s.

The show was named after the phrase newspapers commonly used to describe Hitler; "It's that man again!". Like all other war abbreviations, RAF, ARP, the programme title was turned into initials and named ITMA.

Tommy Handley 1944
Tommy Handley with a cup of tea courtesy of Mrs Mop, 1944

ITMA was originally set in a pirate, commercial radio station, Tommy was assisted by Cecilia Eddy, playing his secretary Cilly and Eric Egan, as a mad Russian inventor. Four episodes were broadcast over a trial period, yet were not the huge success that they were destined to become.

Not content with just a namesake, Hitler was to aid the show's future once again, as the outbreak of war saw the return of ITMA. A pirate radio station was no longer considered an appropriate setting, and instead was replaced with the Office of Twerps, where Tommy was to become Minister of Aggravation and Mysteries and a brand new supporting cast was introduced.

Vera Lennox
Dotty the secretary
Maurice Denham
Mrs Tickle the office char
Vodkin the Russian inventor
Jack Train

Other stars who have appeared on ITMA over the years include;
Sam Costa
Carleton Hobbs
Molly Wier
Deryck Guyler
Hattie Jacques

From June 1941, the show was renamed 'It's That Sand Again', and was set at a seedy seaside resort, named Foaming at the Mouth. This was thought to be a welcome escape from the subject of war and introduced some memorable characters, including Deepend Dan the Diver, inspired by a man who Tommy Handley had once seen diving off New Brighton Pier.

Jack Train as Colonel Chinstrap
'Don't mind if I do' - Jack train as Colonel Chinstrap

The seaside setting ran for four series and the show reverted to its original name. In April 1941, the cast were invited to Windsor Castle to perform a special show in honour of Princess Elizabeth's 16th Birthday.

Although a stage show and a film of ITMA was made, and it enjoyed some success, the radio show still remained by far the most popular medium in which to enjoy this brand of humour.

In 1942, a nondescript war factory was introduced to Foaming at the Mouth, where the audience first met Colonel Humphrey Chinstrap and his famous catchphrase 'I don't mind if I do'. In further reincarnations, the factory became a spa, holiday camp and hotel.

Post war ITMA, saw a new cast and a whole variety of new settings; the South Sea Island of Tomtopia, Castle Weehouse and the Office of Industrial and Scientific Affairs, before Tommy Handley became a permanent guest in Henry Hall, a tramp's guesthouse.

ITMA cast, 1947
The cast of ITMA - 1947

On the 6th January 1949, the final ITMA was broadcast. Tommy Handley was to die just three days later of a brain haemorrhage and with him died one of the most popular radio shows of the forties.

In a special tribute, 'Mirror of the Month' demonstrated some of the ITMA sound effects. The item closed with the poignant suggestion; "Shall we close the door for the last time." They did.

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