Eamonn Andrews Answers the Question that Everyone Asks Him!
The Television Annual for 1958
Television Annual: Eamonn Andrews article
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Eamonn Andrews

a brief biography

The Legend That Was Eamonn Andrews

a celebration to mark the presenter's centenary year

Petula Clark

Diana Dors

Jack Douglas

Barbara Kelly

Joe Loss

David Nixon

Why do I appear so often on your screen? There's nothing complicated about the answer. It's even simpler than working out why a woman buys a new hat when she has six already or a man a new pipe when the rack is full. It's for the same reason you don't say goodbye to an old friend when you make a new one.

I stay in What's My Line? because it is my good luck talisman. When this programme began in 1951, I was as good as unknown on television. Everybody knows that nowadays this show is practically part of the national background, and will always be associated with the pioneer days of post-war television. But we were not to know then, and I was venturing into the unknown.

Only eight weeks after its beginning I was on honeymoon among the mountains of Kerry in Ireland. One day I gave a walker a lift in the car on the way to Killarney, and you could have knocked me over with a very small leprechaun when he recognised me from What's My Line? It seemed like magic!

That was the first of many different impacts this programme was to have on my personal life. Is it any wonder I became attached to it? Yes, I do have a real affection for What's My Line? for it brought me luck. I could never of my own volition want to give it up.

Oddly enough, appearing in This Is Your Life is a direct consequence of the long life of What's My Line? Nobody, including the BBC itself, can be sure how long What's My Line? will run. Year after year it has been taken off, only to return in the autumn because of its steady popularity. But, of course, we have never been certain that it would return.

It was therefore advisable to be on the lookout for another and newer TV show. And it was because of this that I said I would like to do This Is Your Life. In fact, the BBC wanted this series to run weekly, not fortnightly as it does. I was very lucky when they met my wishes and it ran every two weeks, because I would have been unable to fit it in weekly.

The BBC, like myself, saw This Is Your Life as a good possible replacement for What's My Line? and, in effect, it is only because the public has continued to want What's My Line? that I have been appearing in both shows concurrently. But I must say, too, that This Is Your Life appealed to me and still does as the best television idea I have yet seen, as distinct from radio, stage or film ideas adapted for television.

Perhaps I should make clear here why I should be anxious to keep in tow with continuing TV programmes, ever riding the wave of TV fashion, as it were. Many people think that we who appear in television are on the BBC staff, with a regular pay packet whatever we do, much or little. Actually, few of us are, and I, like others, am a freelance, engaged as and when the BBC wishes for one programme or another.

Television Annual: Eamonn Andrews article

Eamonn Andrews says he welcomed an invitation to play a leading role in children's television, seeing this as a challenge. In his Playbox programme trophies were awarded for young quiz victors

We are self-employed tradesmen as much as the grocer who keeps the corner shop. If you, the public, tire of our goods, we must have new lines to sell, if we are to live. Show business is fickle, and television no exception; programmes which may be good business this month may lose favour and be thrown out within a few months. And this is the position all the time.

Here, then, is the basic, bread-and-butter reason why I have to try out working in the newer TV shows. At any time, the old ones may dry up and put me out of business.

Television Annual: Eamonn Andrews article

This Is Your Life has given Eamonn Andrews unexpected reactions from people faced with evidence of their past. In the outstanding Diana Dors programme, the star's father Mr Peter Fluck, showed Eamonn a snap of Diana as a child

But there is another, and I think more important – even more worthy – a reason. Television is developing rapidly, and it wears thin rapidly. What you were doing on that screen, so freshly and with such apparent success, six months ago, may start to look dull and worn today. It therefore seems essential to me that any person working in television must always be willing to try new programmes, keeping in the forefront of the continual search for new ideas.

This, I must say, partly decided me to take the leap into my Saturday variety series, The Eamonn Andrews Show. But I was a long time deciding, in fact, the producer of the series, Ernest Maxin, told me he wanted me in a variety series quite a year before you saw me in the first Saturday show.

It was Maxin's enthusiasm for the idea which finally pushed me into thinking that I should try to develop my work in this new field. I was helped a little by the fact that I was not as new to variety work as most people thought. Years before I ever saw a TV camera, I was working in variety. Indeed, my first engagement in British show business was on a tour of variety theatres with the famous band leader, Joe Loss.

Television Annual: Eamonn Andrews article

Partnered in this caper by Petula Clark, Eamonn whips up the fun in his children's show, Crackerjack. With him as well are Eddie Mendoza, Bert Hayes, Vikki Hammond, Jack Douglas, Joe Baker and Mr Grumble

The remaining part of my TV work is in children's programmes. This came about before This Is Your Life had arrived. At the time I was doing What's My Line? only, and the then head of BBC Children's Television suggested that I might like to appear in a series for the junior audience.

In this way Crackerjack and Playbox began their runs, as experiments and by no means intended for long runs. That they enjoyed long runs is my good luck.

Again I was challenged to develop my craft as a broadcaster in a new field, meeting the requirements of a different kind of audience. I felt that this was the kind of exercise I ought to attempt. In fact, children's television turned out to be one of the most exciting and stimulating fields I had worked in. We created a Children's Television Theatre for lighthearted entertainment, and we balanced it by producing slightly more serious material from the Playbox.

We paid our young viewers the compliment of presenting the shows on an adult level, and they were quick to respond. Children are as quick as adults to spot a mistake or point out what is shoddy, but quicker still to display warmth and generosity when you give them something they like. I won't pretend I wasn't tickled pink when toddlers who found my name unpronounceable addressed laborious but warming messages to Mister Crackerjack.

That's the way it turned out. But it began as an extension of my work, as a new line to stock on the shelves.

Television Annual: Eamonn Andrews article

There was much comment when Eamonn Andrews went into spectacular variety on television. In the first of his big Saturday shows, he had an amusing and charming song scene with Jill Day and Yana

So perhaps you see now how TV broadcasters (or most of us) are in exactly the same precarious position as the shopkeeper or the ice-cream man or the circus barker, all of whom depend on the public for their living. We – perhaps I should say "I" – do not grouse about it. Maybe the insecurity in itself provides some of the joy of the game. We love the business, but we try to be wise in selling our wares so that the business will not drop us.

Television Annual: Eamonn Andrews article

It was as chairman of What's My Line? that Eamonn Andrews became famous. This back-stage view shows the panel most viewers remember best: David Nixon, Isobel Barnett, Barbara Kelly and Gilbert Harding

The fact that while one is able to attract trade, the money may appear "big" (when it is correctly publicised, which it rarely is!), has nothing to do with the principles of the thing – the freelance, one-man business risking all on keeping himself before the public as a saleable commodity.

It has been said to me, "Why worry? A TV personality's fee can buy him a nice fat insurance policy on which he can live in wealth later on." This happy notion overlooks the pertinent truth that a TV personality may fall out of programmes and become unemployed within six months from the date of taking out his insurance policy. How then will he keep up the heavy premiums?

Television is developing and changing with the same sort of speed we have seen in aeronautics and atomic science. All I hope is that what I am learning about it through working in these various programmes is fitting me all the time for some programme of the future, when What's My Line?, This Is Your Life, Crackerjack and Playbox have all passed away.

It may well have to be the sort of programme I could do from a bathchair!