Whimsy: August 2014 Archives

Bill Kerr, RIP

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Bill Kerr, veteran of radio, stage, and screen in Britain and Australia, died on August 28, 2014, at his home in Perth, at the ripe old age of 92.

His son Wilton Kerr told ABC (Australia) News: "He said he wasn't feeling too well quite recently and he was just quietly watching television in his room. Mum ... said she could hear him laughing to Seinfeld, and that was one of his favourite shows."

Kerr debuted as a babe-in-arms on a vaudeville stage in South Africa, grew up in Wagga Wagga, Australia, where he enjoyed what he described as a "Huckleberry Finn" childhood. Starting at the age of 7, he appeared in several movies and radio. After serving in World War II, he left for London in 1947. His stand-up act as a bleak Australian pessimist got him into British radio, where he won fame as Tony Hancock's sidekick on all six seasons of Hancock's Half Hour, from 1954 to 1959. At the same time, he branched out to movies and the West End stage.

In the late '70s, he returned to Australia and continued to perform:

When Kerr returned to Australia he built a reputation as one of our finest character actors, most notably appearing in Peter Weir's Gallipoli (1981) and The Year of Living Dangerously (1982).

When he settled in Western Australia he became a stalwart of the local industry, doing sterling work in TV series such as Ship to Shore (1993-94), Minty (1998), The Shark Net (2003) and the feature film Let's Get Skase (2001).

Associates described his later career to WAtoday.com:

Storyteller Digital managing director Mike Searle said Kerr continued to appear on screen in his later years and described Kerr as "the Frank Sinatra of voice over artists".

"Frank Sinatra could deliver a song like no one else with the right feeling and Bill would do the same when he was voicing a documentary - an amazing talent," he said.

"I was working with him up until last year. We were working on a project recording a series in which he recited from memory classic poems.

"Bill is arguably the only actor that has been in every medium, from music hall or vaudeville through to YouTube."...

Perth film producer Paul Barron worked with Kerr on a number of children's television series, including Clowning Around and Ship to Shore.

"He was a true gentleman, and was very gracious and good to the kids on these shows. He had no pretentions but he was truly an actor of world standard," Mr Barron said.

"He did his homework, arrived on set on time, all of that kind of thing, but equally gracious and forgiving of mistakes others may make and meanwhile would turn in an excellent performance."

Here's a YouTube playlist featuring Kerr. It begins with a series of five classic poems recited by Kerr last year for Storyteller Media, then an early stand-up routine, three Hancock's Half Hour episodes that spotlighted Kerr in a variety of roles, Kerr singing "Modern Major General" in The Pirate Movie, and, finally, Kerr's radio interview with Ed Doolan.

Read more:

Bill Kerr obituary in the Daily Mail (photos of Bill with the Hancock's Half Hour cast)
Bill Kerr obituary in the Telegraph
Bill Kerr obituary in BBC News
Bill Kerr obituary in the Mirror (more photos)
Bill Kerr obituary in the West Australian
Bill Kerr obituary in WAtoday.com

Bill Kerr obituary in the Guardian

In a television interview years after Hancock's death, it was Kerr who pointed out the similarity between the great comedian and Mr Toad: "The bluster, the pomp, the dignity, the frailty."...

The comic chemistry, with Moira Lister, Andrée Melly and then Hattie Jacques added to the mix, was potent and the generosity of the ensemble playing impeccable. Recordings were joyous occasions; Kerr and James can sometimes be detected laughing helplessly along with the audience during Hancock's diatribes. According to Kerr, the producer regularly had to halt the recording because the cast was laughing so much.

Kerr was second-billed for the first couple of series, but in later episodes the role of James as the star's shady sidekick was expanded and he took lower billing. His character also changed, becoming more blatantly dim-witted, the constant butt of Hancock's derision. When the show moved to television, it did so without him. Kerr, a down-to-earth professional not given to temperament, took it all in his stride, and found plenty of other work in stage and television, and in films.

UPDATE 2015/11/04: Larry Latham's recovery was all too brief. He succumbed to cancer on November 2, 2014, at the age of 61. Before his passing, Latham wrote that he had plotted out the remainder of the story and was working with other artists to . Upon announcing his death, his widow wrote, "He was so appreciative of his readers and did not want to leave the story unfinished. I ask for your patience as I attempt to carry out his wishes and resume posting new issues in the near future with the help of many talented friends." So far, nothing has happened to that end. The lovecraftismissing.com domain has expired, so I have updated links to point to the Internet Archive, which seems to have captured the entire site.

Lovecraft is Missing, a page-a-week webcomic by Oklahoma artist and writer Larry Latham, is back in production after a hiatus due to Latham's treatment for cancer. (Latham reports that signs are encouraging, pending further tests.)

Born and raised in Oklahoma City and educated at OU, Latham spent the last quarter of the 20th century in Hollywood, producing, directing, and storyboarding Saturday morning cartoons for Hanna Barbera and Disney. His credits include Talespin, Duck Tales, Smurfs, and Super Friends. He returned to Oklahoma in 2001.

Lovecraft Is Missing tells the story of Win Battler, an aspiring young writer from a small town in 1920s Oklahoma, who goes to Providence to meet his pen pal and fellow writer of strange tales only to find that, yes, H. P. Lovecraft is missing. The search takes Battler and his companions -- tough-as-nails, resourceful Father Munsford Jackey and skeptical, cynical archivist Nan Mercy -- into a demi-monde populated by the noxious characters and eldritch horrors of Lovecraft's stories. The pages are beautifully drawn, and the plot is intriguing, as it takes the protagonists through a world where Lovecraft's writing is closer to journalism than fiction.


The story is in the middle of the fifth book of a planned six. Unanswered questions are starting to head to a resolution. This is an excellent time to start at the beginning of the story and catch up.

The accompanying blog -- Noxious Fragments from the Pnakotic Manuscripts -- features links about Lovecraft's stories, other works of the same vintage and genre, and the cultural milieu from which they arose.

Latham, a longtime Lovecraft fan, was involved in fundraising efforts for a memorial plaque and grave marker for the author. Latham had been kicking the idea for Lovecraft Is Missing around for a long-time, first pursuing it as a CD-ROM game mystery, then optioning it for a development deal, and finally launching it as a webcomic in 2008, after he realized there was no other way to get it made in line with his creative vision.

Earlier this year, Latham wrote a series of articles on How to Create a Webcomic?. His thoughts on plot and character development would be useful to any aspiring author who wants to create a fictional world; other advice is more specific to the challenge of telling a story with pictures as well as words and the work of building an audience for a website and bringing them back on a regular basis.


In 2009, Matthew Price of the Oklahoman interviewed Latham about his career in animation and the origins of Lovecraft Is Missing.

In 2011, Latham was interviewed by All Pulp. Would that more people in entertainment agreed with his definition of "adult":

I originally conceived it as an animated project, and it was in development for a year or so at Film Roman in L.A. My first notion was that I wanted to try and make a truly 'adult' animated series, meaning complex story and characterization rather than T and A and profanity. I wanted to do a horror show, and I am a big Lovecraft fan, but I've never much cared for Lovecraft adaptations, be they film or comic book. I wanted to express what I got out of those stories, but I really didn't want to adapt any of Lovecraft's actual stories, so I came up with my own. There were a few clichés I really wanted to stomp on, like everybody in the universe having a copy of the Necronomicon. In my story, no one, at least of the good guys, have ever even heard of it. Same with Cthulhu. The magic and mystery of these things is that they are very, very obscure.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Whimsy category from August 2014.

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