Billy Bennett (comedian)
Bennett's father, John Bennett, and his performing partner, Robert Martell, both appeared in a music hall slapstick comedy act. Billy Bennett was initially reluctant to follow his father onto the stage, instead enlisting in the army. Bennett briefly left the army to become a comedian but soon re-enlisted at the start of World War I, where he enjoyed a distinguished career in the 16th Lancers and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the Military Medal and the Belgian Croix de guerre.
In 1919, he began his stage career, appearing with Mark Lupino and in Fred Karno's army. Bennett's favourite act was to mock and parody the dramatic monologues of the turn of the century. Perhaps best known is The Green Tie on the Little Yellow Dog, his take on The Green Eye of the Yellow God. In 1928, he appeared in a short film Almost a Gentleman, filmed in the DeForest Phonofilm sound-on-film system.
As of 1930, he adapted his act to radio, appearing with James Carew and Albert Whelan. He appeared with Whelan on stage as the black-faced cross-talkers Alexander and Mose. Bennett gave his final performance in Blackpool, just a few weeks before his death.
James Agate wrote of Bennett:
Nobody who saw him is ever likely to forget that rubicund, unaesthetic countenance, that black, plastered quiff, that sergeant-major's moustache, that dreadfull dinner-jacket, that well-used dickey and seedy collar, the too-short trousers, the hob-nailed boots, the red silk handkerchief tucked into the waistcoat, the continual perspiration which was the outward and visible sign of a mind struggling for expression - these things will not be forgotten.
Off-stage, Agate noted that his manner was quiet almost to shyness, keeping with his gentle and wholly nice mind.
- Midwinter (2004)
- Agate, James; Ego 5. Again More of the Autobiography of James Agate., London, George G. Harrap and Co. Ltd (page 241, Appreciation of Billy Bennet, dtd 1 July 1942) 1942.
- Busby, R. (1976). British Music Hall: An Illustrated Who's Who from 1850 to the Present Day. Elek. ISBN 0-236-40053-3.
- Fisher, J (1973). Funny Way to be a Hero. Paladin. ISBN 0-586-08240-9.
- Midwinter, E.C. (1979). Make 'em Laugh: Famous Comedians and their Worlds. Allen & U. ISBN 0-04-792011-4.
- — (2004) "Bennett, William Robertson Russell (1887–1942)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, accessed 14 March 2006 (subscription or UK public library membership required)
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