Barbara Windsor's Funny Girls

Barbara Windsor presents a series celebrating three British comedy icons.

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0101Hylda Baker20110705

Barbara Windsor looks back at the life and career of Hylda Baker.

Most famous as a North Country gossip with a silent, sullen companion named Cynthia, she was a comedy favourite for over forty years.

Baker trod the boards for virtually all her life, and she scored successes in film, on TV, on the radio and in variety theatres across the land.

Nowadays, she's seen as a cult figure and is often quoted by today's female comedians as an influence and a trailblazer.

As Barbara learns, Hylda was a complex character.

From the backstreets of Bolton, to the Music Hall, to TV sit-coms and beyond, she battled to the top of the tree, and remained there as long as her health allowed her.

Years of touring in variety paid off when Hylda and Cynthia made an appearance on BBC TV's The Good Old Days back in 1955.

From then on there was no stopping her.

In private however, she was lonely and often difficult to get on with, and the programme looks at the two sides of her character - the public face of the comedy great and the often troubled lonely life of a single woman in her later years.

It also examines the eccentricities of a four foot ten woman who had to have the peddles extended on the American cars she drove - cars which had her catchphrases stencilled along the side and which often contained her pet monkeys.

The programme also covers the legendary show business feud between Hylda and her Nearest and Dearest co-star Jimmy Jewell and the incident which almost ended her career some years after that.

There's archive of Hylda and new interviews with actors Jean Fergusson, Sue Nicholls, Madge Hindle and Matthew Kelly (who played her last Cynthia) as well as Victoria Wood and TV writer John Stevenson.

0101Hylda Baker20110705

Barbara Windsor looks back at the life and career of Hylda Baker.

Most famous as a North Country gossip with a silent, sullen companion named Cynthia, she was a comedy favourite for over forty years.

Baker trod the boards for virtually all her life, and she scored successes in film, on TV, on the radio and in variety theatres across the land.

Nowadays, she's seen as a cult figure and is often quoted by today's female comedians as an influence and a trailblazer.

As Barbara learns, Hylda was a complex character.

From the backstreets of Bolton, to the Music Hall, to TV sit-coms and beyond, she battled to the top of the tree, and remained there as long as her health allowed her.

Years of touring in variety paid off when Hylda and Cynthia made an appearance on BBC TV's The Good Old Days back in 1955.

From then on there was no stopping her.

In private however, she was lonely and often difficult to get on with, and the programme looks at the two sides of her character - the public face of the comedy great and the often troubled lonely life of a single woman in her later years.

It also examines the eccentricities of a four foot ten woman who had to have the peddles extended on the American cars she drove - cars which had her catchphrases stencilled along the side and which often contained her pet monkeys.

The programme also covers the legendary show business feud between Hylda and her Nearest and Dearest co-star Jimmy Jewell and the incident which almost ended her career some years after that.

There's archive of Hylda and new interviews with actors Jean Fergusson, Sue Nicholls, Madge Hindle and Matthew Kelly (who played her last Cynthia) as well as Victoria Wood and TV writer John Stevenson.

0102Hattie Jacques2011071220120703

Barbara Windsor looks back at the life and career of her old Carry On mate, Hattie Jacques.

Born Josephine Edwina Jacques, Hattie served as a nurse during the Second World War and worked as a welder as well. She made her theatrical debut at London's Player's Theatre, where she gained her nickname "Hattie" and was spotted by producer Ted Kavanagh. He invited her to join the cast of the radio comedy series It's That Man Again, playing greedy schoolgirl Sophie Tuckshop. Before long she was a regular in Educating Archie and then Hancock's Half Hour.

The programme covers Hattie's time in the Carry On films. Hattie appeared in 14 films in the long-running series and became famous as the no-nonsense Matron in four of them. She was known by the team as a warm, kind and endearing lady and became close friends with many of her co-stars including Kenneth Williams and Joan Sims. In the 60s and 70s she was inexorably linked with Eric Sykes, playing his twin sister Hattie in sitcom.

Barbara helps us understand Hattie's turbulent private life and her fruitless search for lasting happiness. Her weight problems are discussed too - and Barbara reminds us that, at the time, this was often seen as an acceptable subject for comedy - something which Hattie went along with but never enjoyed.

Among those remembering this consummate professional will be her son Robin Le Mesurier, long-time friend and husband John Le Mesurier's third wife - Joan Le Mesurier, her official biographer Andy Merriman and Carry On co-star Anita Harris.

Born Josephine Edwina Jacques, Hattie served as a nurse during the Second World War and worked as a welder as well.

She made her theatrical debut at London's Player's Theatre, where she gained her nickname "Hattie" and was spotted by producer Ted Kavanagh.

He invited her to join the cast of the radio comedy series It's That Man Again, playing greedy schoolgirl Sophie Tuckshop.

Before long she was a regular in Educating Archie and then Hancock's Half Hour.

The programme covers Hattie's time in the Carry On films.

Hattie appeared in 14 films in the long-running series and became famous as the no-nonsense Matron in four of them.

She was known by the team as a warm, kind and endearing lady and became close friends with many of her co-stars including Kenneth Wiliams and Joan Sims.

In the 60s and 70s she was inexorably linked with Eric Sykes, playing his twin sister Hattie in sitcom.

Barbara helps us understand Hattie's turbulent private life and her fruitless search for lasting happiness.

Her weight problems are discussed too - and Barbara reminds us that, at the time, this was often seen as an acceptable subject for comedy - something which Hattie went along with but never enjoyed.

0102Hattie Jacques2011071220120703

Barbara Windsor looks back at the life and career of her old Carry On mate, Hattie Jacques.

Born Josephine Edwina Jacques, Hattie served as a nurse during the Second World War and worked as a welder as well. She made her theatrical debut at London's Player's Theatre, where she gained her nickname "Hattie" and was spotted by producer Ted Kavanagh. He invited her to join the cast of the radio comedy series It's That Man Again, playing greedy schoolgirl Sophie Tuckshop. Before long she was a regular in Educating Archie and then Hancock's Half Hour.

The programme covers Hattie's time in the Carry On films. Hattie appeared in 14 films in the long-running series and became famous as the no-nonsense Matron in four of them. She was known by the team as a warm, kind and endearing lady and became close friends with many of her co-stars including Kenneth Williams and Joan Sims. In the 60s and 70s she was inexorably linked with Eric Sykes, playing his twin sister Hattie in sitcom.

Barbara helps us understand Hattie's turbulent private life and her fruitless search for lasting happiness. Her weight problems are discussed too - and Barbara reminds us that, at the time, this was often seen as an acceptable subject for comedy - something which Hattie went along with but never enjoyed.

Among those remembering this consummate professional will be her son Robin Le Mesurier, long-time friend and husband John Le Mesurier's third wife - Joan Le Mesurier, her official biographer Andy Merriman and Carry On co-star Anita Harris.

Born Josephine Edwina Jacques, Hattie served as a nurse during the Second World War and worked as a welder as well.

She made her theatrical debut at London's Player's Theatre, where she gained her nickname "Hattie" and was spotted by producer Ted Kavanagh.

He invited her to join the cast of the radio comedy series It's That Man Again, playing greedy schoolgirl Sophie Tuckshop.

Before long she was a regular in Educating Archie and then Hancock's Half Hour.

The programme covers Hattie's time in the Carry On films.

Hattie appeared in 14 films in the long-running series and became famous as the no-nonsense Matron in four of them.

She was known by the team as a warm, kind and endearing lady and became close friends with many of her co-stars including Kenneth Wiliams and Joan Sims.

In the 60s and 70s she was inexorably linked with Eric Sykes, playing his twin sister Hattie in sitcom.

Barbara helps us understand Hattie's turbulent private life and her fruitless search for lasting happiness.

Her weight problems are discussed too - and Barbara reminds us that, at the time, this was often seen as an acceptable subject for comedy - something which Hattie went along with but never enjoyed.

0103 LASTBeryl Reid20110719

Barbara Windsor celebrates the colourful life of Beryl Reid, OBE, a uniquely gifted comedienne, powerful dramatic actress, bon viveur and a national treasure, whose career spanned 60 years.

As an ambitious youngster, Beryl landed a summer show in Bridlington and made a very brief appearance in the 1940 George Formby film Spare a Copper.

A breakthrough came with the radio series Educating Archie (1952-56), in which memorable comic creations included the posh schoolgirl Monica and the Brummie teddy girl Marlene, with her outrageous earrings.

Beryl worked her way up from supporting roles and by the 60s, as new ideas about "straight acting" were emerging, she appeared in radio, theatre and television productions including Twelfth Night, The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Rivals.

The Killing of Sister George toured the provinces to dismal houses but opened in London as an overnight success before transferring to New York and the big screen in 1968, with Beryl in the title role.

One of her finest stage and screen roles was in Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloane as the louche Kath.

Beryl also starred in musicals, her own TV series, and made numerous appearances on chat shows and panel games.

Later television roles included The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole and Smiley's People, for which she won the BAFTA for Best Actress.

It emerged that Beryl was dyslexic but she worked very hard to learn lines and built every character, from the shoes up!

Eventually, the need to slow down forced Beryl to withdraw to her home of many years, the delightful "Honeypot Cottage" on the Thames (a location for this programme).

When she finally left it was for hospital where she passed away in 1996.

Her ashes are scattered in the grounds.

The programme includes fond memories from friends including Sian Phillips, Dame Eileen Atkins, Maureen Lipman, Nicky Henson, Amanda Waring and Paul Strike...

and there's a wealth of Beryl Reid to enjoy from the archives.

0103 LASTBeryl Reid20110719

Barbara Windsor celebrates the colourful life of Beryl Reid, OBE, a uniquely gifted comedienne, powerful dramatic actress, bon viveur and a national treasure, whose career spanned 60 years.

As an ambitious youngster, Beryl landed a summer show in Bridlington and made a very brief appearance in the 1940 George Formby film Spare a Copper.

A breakthrough came with the radio series Educating Archie (1952-56), in which memorable comic creations included the posh schoolgirl Monica and the Brummie teddy girl Marlene, with her outrageous earrings.

Beryl worked her way up from supporting roles and by the 60s, as new ideas about "straight acting" were emerging, she appeared in radio, theatre and television productions including Twelfth Night, The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Rivals.

The Killing of Sister George toured the provinces to dismal houses but opened in London as an overnight success before transferring to New York and the big screen in 1968, with Beryl in the title role.

One of her finest stage and screen roles was in Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloane as the louche Kath.

Beryl also starred in musicals, her own TV series, and made numerous appearances on chat shows and panel games.

Later television roles included The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole and Smiley's People, for which she won the BAFTA for Best Actress.

It emerged that Beryl was dyslexic but she worked very hard to learn lines and built every character, from the shoes up!

Eventually, the need to slow down forced Beryl to withdraw to her home of many years, the delightful "Honeypot Cottage" on the Thames (a location for this programme).

When she finally left it was for hospital where she passed away in 1996.

Her ashes are scattered in the grounds.

The programme includes fond memories from friends including Sian Phillips, Dame Eileen Atkins, Maureen Lipman, Nicky Henson, Amanda Waring and Paul Strike...

and there's a wealth of Beryl Reid to enjoy from the archives.

0201Lucille Ball20111004

Following her celebration of British comediennes, Barbara Windsor returns to celebrate three funny icons from across the pond, beginning with Lucille Ball.

She pays tribute to Lucy - not just as a great performer, but as a woman who rose to be a powerful television studio boss.

At 19 Lucille was sent home from drama school because they said she had no talent.

It was typical of her that she then found her way to Hollywood, played in scores of movies, before taking a starring role in an early radio sitcom which became I Love Lucy - and one of the most popular television programmes of all time.

The programme travels to Jamestown, New York, where Lucy was born, and where Lucyfest celebrated what would have been her 100th birthday.

It's packed with clips, recollections, and music from her first husband and co-star Desi.

We also hear from Lynda Bellingham and Ruby Wax, two fans who owe a debt to Lucille Ball.

Barbara returns to celebrate three funny American icons and begins with Lucille Ball.

0201Lucille Ball20111004

Following her celebration of British comediennes, Barbara Windsor returns to celebrate three funny icons from across the pond, beginning with Lucille Ball.

She pays tribute to Lucy - not just as a great performer, but as a woman who rose to be a powerful television studio boss.

At 19 Lucille was sent home from drama school because they said she had no talent.

It was typical of her that she then found her way to Hollywood, played in scores of movies, before taking a starring role in an early radio sitcom which became I Love Lucy - and one of the most popular television programmes of all time.

The programme travels to Jamestown, New York, where Lucy was born, and where Lucyfest celebrated what would have been her 100th birthday.

It's packed with clips, recollections, and music from her first husband and co-star Desi.

We also hear from Lynda Bellingham and Ruby Wax, two fans who owe a debt to Lucille Ball.

Barbara returns to celebrate three funny American icons and begins with Lucille Ball.

0202Betty Hutton20111011

Barbara Windsor celebrates the colourful life and career of Betty Hutton, whose dynamic performances on stage, screen, radio and records earned her the nickname "The Blonde Bombshell".

Starting out as a band singer (her sister Marion sang with Glenn Miller), Betty's irrepressible personality took her to Broadway and Hollywood, where movies included The Fleet's In, Incendiary Blonde, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek and (replacing a sick Judy Garland) Annie Get Your Gun.

Betty always gave 110%, and for the Cecil B Demille blockbuster The Greatest Show On Earth, she even taught herself to perform on the trapeze.

She was a prolific recording artiste and turned out some great sides including 1950's It's Oh So Quiet, which was later a massive hit for Bjork.

In the 50s Betty fought with Paramount, walked out on her contract, and the doors of Hollywood banged shut behind her.

She turned to stage shows and TV but never again attained the real stardom she had once enjoyed.

Four marriages later, she was lost, bankrupt and addicted to prescription drugs.

When she met Father Peter McGuire, a Roman Catholic Priest, Betty managed to turn her life around.

She went to live and work as his housekeeper and cook, and studied, before going on to teach drama at Boston's Emerson College.

When Father Peter died, Betty moved to Palm Springs, living comfortably with friends until she died on 12 March 2007.

This tribute features new interviews and archive material with friends and colleagues who knew Betty personally.

There's also a previously unheard recording of Betty reflecting on her exciting life.

Barbara Windsor celebrates the colourful life and career of Betty Hutton.

0202Betty Hutton20111011

Barbara Windsor celebrates the colourful life and career of Betty Hutton, whose dynamic performances on stage, screen, radio and records earned her the nickname "The Blonde Bombshell".

Starting out as a band singer (her sister Marion sang with Glenn Miller), Betty's irrepressible personality took her to Broadway and Hollywood, where movies included The Fleet's In, Incendiary Blonde, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek and (replacing a sick Judy Garland) Annie Get Your Gun.

Betty always gave 110%, and for the Cecil B Demille blockbuster The Greatest Show On Earth, she even taught herself to perform on the trapeze.

She was a prolific recording artiste and turned out some great sides including 1950's It's Oh So Quiet, which was later a massive hit for Bjork.

In the 50s Betty fought with Paramount, walked out on her contract, and the doors of Hollywood banged shut behind her.

She turned to stage shows and TV but never again attained the real stardom she had once enjoyed.

Four marriages later, she was lost, bankrupt and addicted to prescription drugs.

When she met Father Peter McGuire, a Roman Catholic Priest, Betty managed to turn her life around.

She went to live and work as his housekeeper and cook, and studied, before going on to teach drama at Boston's Emerson College.

When Father Peter died, Betty moved to Palm Springs, living comfortably with friends until she died on 12 March 2007.

This tribute features new interviews and archive material with friends and colleagues who knew Betty personally.

There's also a previously unheard recording of Betty reflecting on her exciting life.

Barbara Windsor celebrates the colourful life and career of Betty Hutton.

0203 LASTPhyllis Diller2011101820121008

To mark the life of the irrepressible Phyllis Diller, the first female stand up comedian, who died on August 20th this year, BBC Radio 2 returns to a recent documentary, recorded with Diller in her glamorous Brentwood Home in LA, when she was still going strong aged 94.

The programme features interviews with Roseanne Barr, David Sedaris and Roby Wax, and Barbara Windsor takes you back to the early days when Diller was flat broke, working as a copywriter in San Francisco. She had a natural talent for making people laugh and urged by her out of work husband, Diller decided to pursue a career as the first female standup comedian. This was no mean feat in the early 1950s - her role models were all men, in particular Bob Hope who she would later befriend and regularly perform with. She had a small army of children to feed and the lure of big money dazzled her - leading standups on the circuit, touring the Cocoabana and Playboy Clubs and the borscht belt resorts could be earning $40,000 dollars a week - then! Her determination and her ability to make people laugh, would bring her fame in the early 1960s when she appeared on the Jack Paar show and she never looked back.

Mixed in with archive recordings of Diller's great live performances, the remarkable achievement of this extraordinary woman becomes clear, along with her contagious humour and love of life. She was a major influence on all female stand up comedians, in particular, Joan Rivers.

Barbara Windsor continues her celebration of American comedy icons with this week's subject - Phyllis Diller - talking from her glamorous Brentwood Home in LA.

Still going strong aged 94, Phyllis takes listeners back to the early days when she was flat broke, working as a copywriter in San Francisco.

She had a natural talent for making people laugh and, urged by her out-of-work husband, Diller decided to pursue a career as the first female stand-up.

This was no mean feat in the early 1950s.

Her role models were all men, in particular Bob Hope, who she would later befriend and perform with.

But she had a small army of children to feed and leading stand-ups on the circuit, touring the Cocoabana and Playboy Clubs and the borscht belt resorts, could be earning up to $40,000 dollars a week.

Her determination and her ability to make people laugh brought her fame by the early 1960s, when she appeared on The Jack Paar Show, and she never looked back.

Interspersed with some of Phyllis' great performances, the remarkable achievements of this extraordinary woman become clear, along with her irrepressible humour and love of life.

A major influence on female stand-ups, above all Joan Rivers, contributors to the documentary include Roseanne Barr, David Sedaris and Ruby Wax.

Barbara Windsor continues her celebration of American comedy icons with Phyllis Diller.

0203 LASTPhyllis Diller2011101820121008

To mark the life of the irrepressible Phyllis Diller, the first female stand up comedian, who died on August 20th this year, BBC Radio 2 returns to a recent documentary, recorded with Diller in her glamorous Brentwood Home in LA, when she was still going strong aged 94.

The programme features interviews with Roseanne Barr, David Sedaris and Roby Wax, and Barbara Windsor takes you back to the early days when Diller was flat broke, working as a copywriter in San Francisco. She had a natural talent for making people laugh and urged by her out of work husband, Diller decided to pursue a career as the first female standup comedian. This was no mean feat in the early 1950s - her role models were all men, in particular Bob Hope who she would later befriend and regularly perform with. She had a small army of children to feed and the lure of big money dazzled her - leading standups on the circuit, touring the Cocoabana and Playboy Clubs and the borscht belt resorts could be earning $40,000 dollars a week - then! Her determination and her ability to make people laugh, would bring her fame in the early 1960s when she appeared on the Jack Paar show and she never looked back.

Mixed in with archive recordings of Diller's great live performances, the remarkable achievement of this extraordinary woman becomes clear, along with her contagious humour and love of life. She was a major influence on all female stand up comedians, in particular, Joan Rivers.

Barbara Windsor continues her celebration of American comedy icons with this week's subject - Phyllis Diller - talking from her glamorous Brentwood Home in LA.

Still going strong aged 94, Phyllis takes listeners back to the early days when she was flat broke, working as a copywriter in San Francisco.

She had a natural talent for making people laugh and, urged by her out-of-work husband, Diller decided to pursue a career as the first female stand-up.

This was no mean feat in the early 1950s.

Her role models were all men, in particular Bob Hope, who she would later befriend and perform with.

But she had a small army of children to feed and leading stand-ups on the circuit, touring the Cocoabana and Playboy Clubs and the borscht belt resorts, could be earning up to $40,000 dollars a week.

Her determination and her ability to make people laugh brought her fame by the early 1960s, when she appeared on The Jack Paar Show, and she never looked back.

Interspersed with some of Phyllis' great performances, the remarkable achievements of this extraordinary woman become clear, along with her irrepressible humour and love of life.

A major influence on female stand-ups, above all Joan Rivers, contributors to the documentary include Roseanne Barr, David Sedaris and Ruby Wax.

Barbara Windsor continues her celebration of American comedy icons with Phyllis Diller.