Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)TH
TitleTony Hancock Collection
Extent12 boxes
Date[1960s]-[early 21st century]
Thumbnail (Click this image to open a larger image)


DescriptionMaterial collected, and curated, by Edward [Ed or Eddie] Joffe primarily relating to the 1968 Tony Hancock series in Australia. The series was directed by Joffe and became the last project Hancock worked on as production was cut short by Hancock's suicide partway through filming. Papers include production materials from the Tony Hancock series which were accrued during the production of the show; information about sets, design and costume; production stills; and Joffe's director's script of the TV movie 'The Tony Hancock Special' that had been cobbled together from existing recorded material made prior to Hancock's death.

The collection also includes surrogate copies of original artwork; newspaper reports of Hancock's death; and Hancock's two suicide notes, one sent to Joffe and the second sent to Hancock's mother via Joffe. The notes were written on torn pages from Hancock's last copy of the script for 28 and 29 June 1968 and which he was studying on the night he died. Taken as a whole, the material details the gestation of the terminated show.
Access ConditionsAccess to all registered researchers
Finding AidsA catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue.
Access StatusPartially closed
Creator NameJoffe, Edward, director
Administrative HistoryIn March 1968 Tony Hancock travelled to Australia to make a television series with the working title 'Hancock Down Under'. It was a project he hoped would revive his career. He had recently been divorced, his alcoholism was out of control, and by now he was irretrievably estranged from Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, the writers of 'Hancock's Half Hour', 'Hancock' and 'The Rebel', and the comedy geniuses who had shaped his career.

In 1968 Hancock's prospects in the UK had sunk to nothing. But the Australian series had serious problems of its own. The scripts were terrible: feebly structured, laughless, and with no understanding of what made Hancock, Hancock. The star would have struggled to make anything of them even in his pomp. But as if that wasn't enough, it was decided to shoot without a studio audience, a decision that was certainly the death of the show and which could only have intensified the depression of its star. Hancock's onscreen persona - hapless, loveless, forever on the receiving end - had always been kept afloat by the presence of supportive laughter from an audience willing their hero to dust himself down and try again. And the relationship was symbiotic: Hancock himself, Hancock the performer, had always been buoyed by the instant approval the live audience provided. The result is that in this last footage Hancock seems to have been deserted by his audience just when he needed them most. He cuts a lonely, tragic and desperately unfunny figure. Unable to remember his lines, his eyes are constantly looking for his cue cards. But he seems to be searching for friends who have deserted him.

Only three episodes of 'Hancock Down Under', as it was called at the time, had been completed when, on 25 June 1968, Hancock took his own life with an overdose of barbiturates. The show was cancelled, but in 1972 footage from the first three episodes was edited together to produce 'The Tony Hancock Show', a 90-minute special which, sadly, was anything but.

This extensive collection of material relating to the ill-fated production comes from the estate of the late Edward Joffe, the director of the series, and author of 'Hancock's Last Stand: The Series That Never Was' [Book Guild Ltd, 1998]. The material has been kept together since 1968 and, more than fifty years later, was transferred to its permanent home in Birmingham, the birthplace of Tony Hancock.

Source: information supplied by Neil Pearson
Custodial HistoryMaterial collected and curated by Edward Joffe from 1968 until his death. Following Joffe's death, material passed to his Estate and was subsequently stored with Forum Auctions prior to purchase by the University of Birmingham via Neil Pearson, Neil Pearson Rare Books.


    Some of our most significant collections