British comedian. Born in Birmingham, Hancock began his acting career in the Royal Air Force (1942–46), when he appeared with ENSA and Ralph Reader's Gang Show. After the war he worked in pantomime, summer shows, and at the Windmill Theatre before appearing in such BBC radio shows as Workers' Playtime and Educating Archie (1951–53). Success came in 1954 with his highly popular radio series Hancock's Half Hour, scripted by Alan Simpson and Ray Galton, in which he played opposite Sid James (1913–76). The sardonic wit of the apparently materialistic, yet essentially lonely, misfit he portrayed, ‘Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock’ of 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, found a ready audience in the fifties. The series readily adapted to television – the image of the pretentiously grand black homburg and fur-collared overcoat became his hallmark and the Hancock catch phrase, ‘Stone me’, became part of the language. In the early sixties he made a couple of films, The Rebel (1961) and The Punch and Judy Man (1963), and had cameo parts in The Wrong Box (1966) and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965).
A deeply unhappy man, both of whose marriages ended in divorce, he gradually succumbed to alcohol and depression. In 1968 he took his own life in Sydney, New South Wales, where he had gone to make an Australian TV series.
From Who's Who in the Twentieth Century in Oxford Reference.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).