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Benny Hill
Benny Hill Smiling.jpg
Birth name Alfred Hawthorne Hill
Born (1924-01-21)21 January 1924
Southampton, Hampshire, England
Died 20 April 1992(1992-04-20) (aged 68)
Teddington, Greater London, England
  • Film
  • recording
  • television
Years active 1947–1992

Alfred Hawthorne "Benny" Hill (21 January 1924 – 20 April 1992) was an English comedian, actor, singer and writer. He is remembered for his television programme The Benny Hill Show.

Hill was a prominent figure in British television for several decades. His show was among the most-watched programmes in the UK, with the audience peaking at more than 21 million in 1971. The Benny Hill Show was also exported to many countries around the world. He received a BAFTA Television Award for Best Writer and a Rose d'Or, and was nominated for the BAFTA for Best Entertainment Performance and two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Variety. In 2006, Hill was voted by the British public number 17 in ITV's poll of TV's 50 Greatest Stars.

Outside television, Hill starred in films including the Ealing comedy Who Done It? (1956), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and The Italian Job (1969). His comedy song "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)" was 1971's Christmas number one on the UK Singles Chart and earned Hill an Ivor Novello Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors in 1972.

Early life

Alfred Hawthorne Hill was born on 21 January 1924 in Southampton, Hampshire. His father, Alfred Hill (1893–1972), later manager of a surgical appliance shop, and grandfather, Henry Hill (born 1871), had both been circus clowns. His mother was Helen (née Cave; 1894–1976).

After leaving Taunton's School in Southampton, Hill worked at Woolworths and as a milkman, a bridge operator, a driver and a drummer before becoming assistant stage manager with a touring revue. He was called up in 1942 and trained as a mechanic in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, British Army. He served as a mechanic, truck driver and searchlight operator in Normandy after September 1944 and later transferred to the Combined Services Entertainment division before the end of the war.

Inspired by the "star comedians" of British music hall shows, Hill set out to make his mark in show business. He took on the nickname of "Benny" in homage to his favourite comedian, Jack Benny.


After the Second World War, Hill worked as a performer on radio, making his debut on Variety Bandbox on 5 October 1947. His first appearance on television was in 1950. In addition, he attempted a sitcom anthology, Benny Hill, which ran from 1962 to 1963, in which he played a different character in each episode. In 1964, he played Nick Bottom in an all-star TV film production of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. He also had a radio programme lasting for three series called Benny Hill Time on BBC Radio's Light Programme, from 1964 to 1966. It was a topical show; for example, a March 1964 episode featured James Pond, 0017, in "From Moscow with Love" and his version of The Beatles. He played a number of characters in the series, such as Harry Hill and Fred Scuttle.

Films and recordings

Hill appeared in five full-length feature films—Who Done It? (1956), Light Up the Sky! (1960), Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and The Italian Job (1969). He also made two short-subject films—The Waiters (1969) and Eddie in August (1970)—the latter being a TV production. Finally, a clip-show film spin-off of his early Thames Television shows (1969–1973), called The Best of Benny Hill (1974), was a theatrically released compilation of Benny Hill Show episodes.

Hill's audio recordings include "Gather in the Mushrooms" (1961), "Pepys' Diary" (1961), "Transistor Radio" (1961), "Harvest of Love" (1963) and "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)", which was the UK Singles Chart Christmas number-one single in 1971. He received an Ivor Novello Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors in 1972.

The Benny Hill Show

Benny Hill
Waxwork of Hill in character as Fred Scuttle on The Benny Hill Show

Hill had struggled on stage and had uneven success in radio, but in television he found a medium that played to his strengths. The Benny Hill Show had a music hall-derived format combining live on-stage comedy and filmed segments, and its humour relied on slapstick, innuendo and parody.

Hill remained mostly with the BBC through to 1968, except for a few sojourns with ITV and ATV stations between 1957 and 1960 and again in 1967. In 1969, his show moved from the BBC to Thames Television, where it remained until its cancellation in 1989, with an erratic schedule of one-hour specials. The series showcased Hill's talents as an imaginative writer, comic performer and impressionist.

In late May 1989, Hill announced that after 21 years with Thames Television he was quitting and taking a year off. His shows had earned Thames £26 million, with a large percentage due to the success of his shows in the United States.

In 1991, Hill started work on a new television series called Benny Hill's World Tour which would see Hill performing his sketches in various places around the world where his show had become popular. However, Hill only managed to record one special called Greetings from New York (with regular cast members such as Henry McGee, Bob Todd and Sue Upton), with the show becoming billed as "his final TV appearance" when released onto DVD.

In February 1992, Thames Television, which received a steady stream of requests from viewers for The Benny Hill Show repeats, finally gave in and put together a number of re-edited shows. Hill died on the same day that a new contract arrived in the post from Central Independent Television, for which he was to have made a series of specials. He had turned down competing offers from Carlton and Thames.

Personal life

Benny Hill 1924-1992 Comedian lived here 1960-1986
Blue plaque commemorating Benny Hill, at his former residence in Kensington, London

Hill never owned his own home in London and instead preferred to rent a flat rather than buy one. He rented a double-room apartment on London's Queen's Gate for 26 years until around 1986 when he moved to Fairwater House in Teddington. While looking for somewhere to live, he stayed at 22 Westrow Gardens in Southampton.

Despite being a millionaire, he continued with the frugal habits that he picked up from his parents, such as buying cheap food at supermarkets, walking for miles rather than paying for a taxi unless someone picked up the tab for a limousine, and regularly patching and mending the same clothes.

Hill never married and he had no children.

Hill was a Francophile and enjoyed visits to France. He spoke French fluently and also knew basic German, Spanish, Dutch and Italian. Foreign travel was the only luxury that he permitted himself, and even then, he would stay in modest accommodation.


Benny Hill Tombstone
Hill's grave at Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton

Hill's health declined in the late 1980s and after working for Thames Television. After a mild heart attack on 24 February 1992, doctors recommended him a heart bypass. He declined, and a week later was found to have kidney failure. Hill died at his flat in Teddington on 20 April 1992, at the age of 68. The cause of death was recorded as coronary thrombosis. Hill was buried at Hollybrook Cemetery, near his birthplace in Southampton, on 28 April 1992.


Benny Hill (Madame Tussauds)
Wax figure of Hill at Madame Tussauds, London

In 1998, Channel 4 featured Hill in one of its Heroes of Comedy programmes. In 2002, D. J. Taylor of The Independent ranked him the third greatest British comedian of the 20th century after Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel.

On 28 December 2006, Channel 4 broadcast the documentary Is Benny Hill Still Funny? The programme featured an audience that comprised a cross-section of young adults who had little or no knowledge of Hill, to discover whether his comedy was valid to a generation that enjoyed the likes of Little Britain, The Catherine Tate Show and Borat. The participants favourably rated a 30-minute compilation that included examples of Hill's humour from his BBC and ITV shows.

In November 2021, That's TV announced that The Benny Hill Show would feature in its Christmas schedule alongside other ITV programmes like Beadle's About and Kenny Everett's New Year Specials. In addition to operating a number of local television channels on Freeview, That's TV has another national slot on channel 65, meaning that Hill's show would be seen in full, nationwide on British television for the first time in nearly 20 years.

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