HARRY H CORBETT ROSE FROM THE SLUMS OF MANCHESTER TO BECOME ONE OF THE BIGGEST TELEVISION STARS OF THE 20TH CENTURY.
Harry H Corbett rose from the slums of Manchester to become one of the biggest television stars of the 20th Century.
Widely respected as a classical stage actor, he became the leading light of Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop, but his life was changed forever by the series ‘Steptoe and Son’. Overnight he became a household name as the series drew unbeaten viewing figures of more than 28 million. Fans ranged from the working classes to the Royal Family.
Naturally shy and a committed socialist, fame and fortune didn’t sit easily on his shoulders and for the next twenty years, until his untimely death at the age of only 57, he had to learn how to be ”Arold’.
Prologue: Any Chance? “He should have been dead when you woke up.” So said the doctor with a well-practised knack of combining optimism with arse covering. “If he can survive 48 hours he’s got a good chance.” Harry H Corbett had suffered his second heart attack, so massive that doctors were astounded his wife Maureen had not woken in their rural farmhouse to find him cold at her side. But Harry was made of strong stuff. He had managed to rouse her in the dead of the night. She in turn woke their children, Jonathan and me. Leaving me with instructions to warn the hospital they were coming, Maureen helped Harry to the car and they disappeared into the night. She drove like Fangio though the dark, quiet, twisting lanes of East Sussex to get him there in time. Well, this could be it; this could be the big one. He masked his fear by joking with the staff. He had them in stitches – he’d had a lifetime of practice. During a quiet moment, he had the foresight to apologise to Maureen in case he croaked. Raising their two young teenagers alone would be tough. The minutes stretched into hours, creeping towards the magic 48. Alerted family paced the corridors, teasing life back into legs numbed by hard chairs. The unnerving fluorescent lights creating a twilight zone where drawn faces betrayed inner thoughts. If he didn’t make it, would they say the right thing? Would they be any use? They hoped they wouldn’t have to find out. Trapped in this half-life limbo world, Harry surveyed the view from the bed. The scuttling nurses, the steady drip, drip, drip in the tubes, and the web of wires leading to the machines that reassuringly continued to go bing. He turned his large, soulful blue eyes to Maureen, and with a wistful smile softly curling around his mouth asked, “I suppose a shag’s out of the question?” As ever his timing was superb.