Larry GRAYSON (1923-1995)

Larry Grayson This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 341
  • Subject No: 342
  • Broadcast date: Wed 27 Dec 1972
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Sat 9 Dec 1972
  • Repeated: Wed 30 May 1973 7.00pm
  • Venue: ATV Studios, Borehamwood
  • Series: 13
  • Edition: 7

on the guest list...

  • Mike Winters
  • Bernie Winters
  • Noele Gordon
  • Lionel Blair
  • Heathmore
  • Rod Hull
  • Florence Hammonds - foster sister
  • May Roberts - foster sister
  • Charlie Roberts
  • Alf Freeman
  • Nellie Freeman
  • Leslie Crowther
  • Joyce Malyon
  • Reg Malyon
  • Ellen Turner
  • Carol Cox
  • Dora Bryan
  • John Hanson
  • Danny La Rue
  • Harry Leslie

production team...

  • Researchers: Martin Robertson, Sarah Manwaring-White
  • Writer: Martin Robertson
  • Director: Margery Baker
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

Larry Grayson recalls his experience of This Is Your Life in an interview with Glyn Worsnip on BBC One (Midlands) On The Box programme, broadcast in June 1985

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Screenshots of Larry Grayson This Is Your Life

Larry Grayson's biography

Mike Malyon recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, Seems Like a Nice Boy...

Meanwhile, a magical year swung to a close with a record-breaking week at Caesar's Palace in Luton and Larry took out a two-page ad in The Stage, wishing everyone 'A Very Merry Xmas and 365 Gay Days for 1973'.

But there was still one more spectacular event to round off an amazing, whirlwind twelve months when, on 17 December, Eamonn Andrews uttered those immortal words: "Larry Grayson – tonight, this is your life."

The announcement – regarded as a televisual rubber-stamp for personal achievement – came as a complete surprise to Larry, who admitted: "I thought the roof had fallen in." He had just finished recording a Christmas Special and was thanking the Thames Studio audience when Eamonn crept up behind him, clutching the famous red book, and tapped him on the shoulder.

The This Is Your Life programme makers had decided, almost three months previously, to make Larry a 'victim' and had then launched into one of their usual top-secret missions. My mum, Joyce, was contacted and enrolled into helping the researchers put together the Larry Grayson story. She was sworn not to tell a soul and was told: "If Larry gets wind of what we're doing, even at the last minute, the show will be scrapped."

The instructions and the secrecy caused Mum more than a few problems. Phone calls from the production crew to her home had to be quickly curtailed if anyone else walked into the room. "I'm sure my husband Reg thought I was having an affair," she said later. "He kept saying, 'who was that you were talking to?' and I just had to reply 'oh, just someone about work.' I also had to have meetings, without anyone knowing, with some of the researchers and this also led to some odd looks from people who knew me and were obviously wondering why I was sitting in a café in my midwife's uniform whispering to a couple of strangers."

Gradually, as D-Day approached, various family members and friends, who were going to be asked to take part in the show, were let in on the secret but still things had to be kept strictly hush-hush. Even code words were used in what became like something from a James Bond movie.

Flo was kept completely in the dark – until the day that Larry had left to go to the studios to rehearse his Christmas Special. She was then told by my mum what was happening and was helped to hurriedly pack her clothes for the exciting trip to London and to appear on television.

This Is Your Life was scheduled to be recorded the following day. The friends and family cast included my mum and dad, Flo, her sister, May, and husband, Charlie, Alf and Nell Freeman and Harry Leslie. Along with other family members, including myself, we all travelled first class, at Thames Television's expense, on the train from Trent Valley Station to Euston. From there we were picked up in chauffeur-driven cars to be taken to a four-star hotel in Hampstead Heath, to stay and prepare for the show.

Scripts were produced, read-throughs took place, food and drink was laid on and then everyone departed for the studios, where, in a cloak-and-dagger operation, we were smuggled into locked rooms behind the scenes.

Before setting off, I had confided to my Tribune editor, Eric Myatt, about what was being planned. I then wrote a story, revealing the town's best-kept secret – ready to be published as soon as the TV embargo was lifted.

After Larry had been 'captured' by Eamonn he was taken, in a daze, back to his dressing room, while preparations were made to record This Is Your Life. The Christmas Special set was changed and the audience stayed in their seats, waiting with bated anticipation for the proceedings to begin.

As a breathless Larry settled into his chair for the telling of his life story, Eamonn opened the programme by saying, "Less than twelve months ago few knew your name, but now millions know it and your famous catchphrase 'Shut That Door'."

The Christmas Show guests, who had all been in on the secret, were introduced. Mike and Bernie Winters, John Hanson, Lionel Blair and Heathmore were followed onto the set by Rod Hull – whose Emu then proceeded to attack Larry, leaving him to gasp: "I'll kill that bird."

In any interviews, charting his rise to fame, whenever Larry had spoken about Flo, he gave her the affectionate nickname 'Fan'. And it was "Florence, known as Fan," who Eamonn next called to come from behind the curtain. Clearly emotional, Larry greeted 'the person closest to him' as she limped across the stage, carrying her handbag.

"You all right, love?" Larry whispered, as he clasped her hand.

Pointing towards Larry, Eamonn asked: "Is he very fussy to look after?"

Flo quietly replied: "He's not too bad."

Larry chipped in: "She wouldn't tell you anyway. She would never give away a secret."

Flo's sister, May and her husband, Charlie, missed their cue before making their bow, to be followed by Alf and Nell Freeman, dressed to the nines in evening wear. My mum and dad, Joyce and Reg Malyon, told how they had taken Larry to a club in Warwick and had mistaken a private house for the stage door. "We walked in and realised our mistake when we saw this old lady getting ready for bed," recalled Joyce. "Larry said: 'It looks like we're in the wrong place.' And the woman replied 'I should think you are.' We quickly turned round and made our way out, suitcase first."

Dora Bryan talked about her friendship with Larry, before 'Student Prince' John Hanson demonstrated the proper way to swirl a cape. This came about because, as part of his act, Larry used to pretend he had performed in musicals: "I've been very busy. I've done The Maid of the Mountains, The Quaker Girl and Rose Marie – but I refused The Chocolate Soldier."

The show ended with an eighty-year-old Harry Leslie recalling the bitterly cold 1947 tour to Devon. As the closing credits rolled, to the sound of the 'Your Life' signature tune, Larry walked towards the camera, with Flo by his side and tears in his eyes, and said "I love you all."

With the programme in the can – and due to be screened ten days later – everyone involved, including the production crew, enjoyed a backstage party, along with other relatives and friends of Larry who had been in the audience. The celebrations continued when we returned to the Hampstead hotel, with Larry getting tipsy and looking forward to 'the best Christmas ever'

The Daily Mail article: Larry Grayson This Is Your Life

Daily Mail 22 December 1972


THE Noele Gordon in Larry's Christmas Party (ITV, 7.30) has a different image from her familiar portrayal of Meg Richardson in Crossroads (ITV, times vary).

For a start, Noele is a trim 8st, 6lb. "I've shed two stone in the last few months," she said. And in the show hosted by comedian Larry Grayson there's a touch of glamour for her too. Instead of the homely image of her Mum role in Crossroads Noele wears a £250 gown.

Tonight for the first time in years you'll be seeing Noele, who swept to stardom in the lead in such stage musicals as Brigadoon and Call Me Madam, in a theatrical mood.

Call Me Madam in fact provides the peg for a song routine with Larry. "We sing 'Hostess with the Mostess'." said Noele.

Noele, whose birthday is on Christmas Day, has just sold her Georgian house at Ross on Wye. She will now live permanently in Birmingham to be nearer the Crossroads studios. Look for a surprise ending to the show involving Larry. It's something that has never been done before. [Larry was surprised by Eamonn Andrews for a This Is Your Life tribute].

Series 13 subjects

Pat Phoenix | Bill Griffiths | Shirley Bassey | Warren Mitchell | Dudley Moore | Phyllis Calvert | Larry Grayson | Clive Sullivan
Bill Shankly | Willie Carson | Jack Smethurst | Mary Peters | Noele Gordon | James Corrigan | Pat Reid | Diana Coupland
Dulcie Gray | Janet Adams | Rita Hunter | Leslie Crowther | Jimmy Logan | Spike Milligan | Jackie Pallo
John Gregson | Jackie Charlton | Francis O'Leary