Brian RIX (1924-2016)
THIS IS YOUR LIFE - Brian Rix, actor, in the first 'sleepover' in the programme's history, was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at a friend’s house party in Surrey. The show was recorded the following evening.
Brian formed his own theatre company in 1947 becoming a highly successful actor-manager at the age of only 26. He is best known for his association with the Whitehall Theatre where his company specialised in producing farces.
Brian was honoured by This Is Your Life a second time in 1977.
Brian recalls his experience of This Is Your Life in his autobiography My Farce From My Elbow reproduced here with kind permission of the author...
…some people, however, can keep news to themselves. I know women are supposed to tattle about everything but I can honestly say that Elspet was like a clam for nearly a year when it came to the preparation of my “This Is Your Life” on BBC Television. They had wanted to do the programme in 1960, but Elspet was expecting Jonty so felt it would be safer if they could postpone. They could, and Elspet (plus my father and mother and a great many friends) kept absolutely shtum for all that time and I had absolutely no inkling at all that it was going to happen. In fact, they caught me at a party and we were at least a couple of hours late arriving.
Let me explain what happened. On Sunday 17th September I had two dates. One was a cricket match for my brother-in-law, Peter Mercier, at Ewell. After that I was supposed to go home, change, pick up Elspet and drive off to the depths of Surrey for a house-warming party given by Johnnie Koon, who runs a number of splendid Chinese restaurants in town. As I was packing my cricket bag I noticed Elspet kept on at me to be back early from cricket, but I got a bit stroppy about this for Johnnie’s invitation said the party would last till dawn.
“So why should I hurry back if I’m enjoying myself after the match?” I queried.
“Because it will look very rude if we’re not there on time,” said Elspet rather lamely.
“Bollocks,” quoth I, and went off happily to play cricket, confident I had won that round of repartee.
Well it so happened that I did enjoy myself at the match and didn’t get home till 8.30, wanting a leisurely bath first before dressing for the party. Elspet was frantic, but I still didn’t twig that anything was up and about 9.15 we drove off to Surrey and met the first of the autumn fogs. Two hours later we finally found our way to the Koon household, in a state of great tension to say the least, and were met by a distraught Eamonn Andrews and a number of his equally panicky production acolytes. Still I didn’t guess and wandered off with Eamonn to have a drink. That was it. A hidden film camera appeared, the book was thrust into my hands and we were off, with me giggling weakly the while and wishing I hadn’t been so beastly to Elspet – for you’re supposed to love your wife in “This Is Your Life”. Anyway, the programme wasn’t ruined, in spite of our late arrival, for it was recorded and shown several weeks later. I had a terrible lump in my throat for most of the time. My father came on and dried.
“What do you think of your son’s achievements?” prompted Eamonn.
“Not bad,” was the laconic reply, and there my father stuck and no amount of help from Eamonn could get him going on his rehearsed story. Donald Wolfit was the very opposite. Eamonn couldn’t stop him and by the time Donald finished he’d ascribed to me many parts I had never played. Colin Cowdrey made me very proud when he said I could certainly have made a county cricketer – but Colin is notoriously kind. A BBC studio manager was produced, who claimed he was with me in the RAF, but I honestly couldn’t remember him at all. Two old age pensioners and an ardent fan enlivened the proceedings. Hattie Jacques dealt with charity. George Radford was flown from Canada, and the rest of the Whitehall was represented by Wally Patch, George Jeger, John Chapman and all the children (plus their parents) who had been born to members of the company over the past decade. By now I was blubbing quite openly and kneading Elspet’s hand as though it were dough. The knock-out punch came when our own kids arrived and Leo Franklyn, dressed as a nanny, wheeled on Jonathan in his pram, followed by an over-excited, barking Bastien. I know it’s mawkish – but my quick was really touched that night….
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