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Ronald Frankau

Birthplace: London, United Kingdom
Death: Died in Eastbourne, East Sussex, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of Arthur Frankau and Julia Frankau
Husband of Renee Roberts
Father of Rosemary Frankau; Joy Angela Frankau; John Frankau and Roberta Frankau
Brother of Gilbert Frankau; Joan Bennett and Paul Ewart Frankau

Managed by: Simon Goodman
Last Updated:

About Ronald Frankau

Ronald Hugh Wyndham Frankau (22 February 1894 - 11 September 1951) was an English comedian who started in cabaret and made his way to radio and films.


   1 Family
   2 Career
   3 Books
       3.1 Filmography
   4 External links
   5 References


Frankau was born in London, the third child of Arthur Frankau, son of Joseph Frankau, a German Jew who came to London from Frankfurt in the late 1830s and started a cigar trading business.[1] His mother was Julia Davis Frankau, who would later become a celebrated writer of satirical novels.[2] His mother's siblings included Henry Irving's mistress Eliza Aria[3][4][5] and theatre critic and librettist Owen Hall,[6] whilst their sister Florette was married to architect Marcus Collins, a brother of Drury Lane Theatre manager Arthur Collins.[7][8] His brother Gilbert Frankau, in his memoirs, states that it was "obscure" why their mother "tacked the stage-famous 'Wyndham' onto the 'Ronald Hugh'" in Frankau's name.[9]

Frankau's siblings were Gilbert, Jack and Joan. Gilbert went into the family cigar business (living and working in Germany throughout 1902 to learn something of the trade)[10] until the Great War, was a war poet and subsequently a novelist, while his daughter Pamela Frankau would also become a novelist. Jack was killed leading his platoon in the Third Battle of Gaza in November 1917. Joan married the historian Henry Stanley Bennett[11] and, as a Cambridge don in her own right, Joan Bennett was one of the defence witnesses in the Lady Chatterley trial of 1960.

Ronald Frankau had several children including TV producer John Frankau, father of Nicholas Frankau. He had two children with the actress Renée Roberts – Roberta and Rosemary. Rosemary Frankau pursued a career in acting, appearing in many series of the TV sitcom Terry and June as June's best friend Beattie. Rosemary's son, Sam Bain, became a comedy writer and co-created the Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show.

The Frankau family monument in Hampstead Cemetery was Grade II listed by English Heritage in 1999; it commemorates Arthur and Julia Frankau and their three sons.[12] Career

Frankau worked as a chorus boy at Daly's Theatre in London in 1911 and joined the army in 1914 to fight in the Great War. During that time he continued his music and comedy ambitions, organizing his own concerts in Africa and the United Kingdom.

After the war he worked in night clubs and hotel lounges as an entertainer with both comical song and dance. It was then that he met performer Montë Crick, who was to be his pianist in many subsequent performances and recordings. Ronald Frankau formed various concert parties in the early 1920s, of which the most successful was The Cabaret Kittens.[13]

In 1925, he started broadcasting saucy jokes on the radio in an Etonian tone for the BBC, but is actually better known these days for what he was never allowed to broadcast. Frankau recorded a number of songs and skits on Parlophone, some of which, like "Winnie the Worm" and "Everyone's Got Sex Appeal For Someone" (October 1933), were banned altogether. Despite, or because of, this flavour in his songs, Frankau sold over 100,000 records in 1932. In 1934, Frankau began a comedy duo with Tommy Handley that they called 'Murgatroyd and Winterbottom'. The two had originally met performing in Liverpool before the Great War.[14]

Like most comedians, he often commented on the current events of the time, often in satire. A heavily ironic recording of March 1939 was There's Absolutely Nothing Wrong At All. Among his many Second World War recordings were "Heil Hitler! Ja! Ja! Ja!" (October 1939), "Fanny's Been Evacuated Now" (October 1940) and "The Jap and the Wop and the Hun" (April 1942). Despite his dangerously naughty tones off the air, he was able to keep his jokes clean enough for some of the toughest censors of British broadcasting at the time, including Baron Reith.

In 1994 Jeremy Nicholas presented a programme on BBC Radio 2 to commemorate the centenary of Ronald Frankau's birth, featuring – amongst others – an original July 1940 gramophone record of "Uncle Bill Has Much Improved", still bearing a BBC label marked "NOT TO BE BROADCAST UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES". On 7 November 2006, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a review of one of his acts – "Mr Murgatroyd and Mr Winterbottom" – 'The story of Tommy Handley and Ronald Frankau, a comedy partnership which had its heyday in the 1930s world of radio. There was no straight man, so the partnership was a rare one. Tommy was a fast talking Liverpudlian, while Ronald in contrast was upper class and Eton-educated. Presented by Nicholas Frankau, actor and grandson of Ronald.'

Ronald Frankau died at Eastbourne on the Sussex coast – as had his father half a century before. Books

Frankau published a children's book, Oh, Dear, Dear (Frederick Warne & Co., 1929), poems from which were also set to music by his pianist Montë Crick and released on Parlophone.

"If you'd like to hear a story of many years ago, Then gather round, good children, and I'll tell you all I know. It's all about a princess who couldn't quite behave, And how a naughty ogre took that princess to his cave, And how the little princess was rescued by a prince, And how they've been so very very happy ever since.

Extraordinary! Wonderful! Fascinating! Queer! Marvellous! Incredible! Oh dear, dear!"

His other publications include Crazy Omnibus (Grayson & Grayson, 1933) and two Wartime books of morale-boosting humorous verse, both illustrated by Laurie Tayler and published in the early 1940s by Raphael Tuck & Sons: Diversion and He's a Perfect Little Gentleman, the Swine. Filmography

   (1947) Dual Alibi
   (1947) The Ghosts of Berkeley Square
   (1945) What Do We Do Now?
   (1942) Much Too Shy (credited as screenwriter)
   (1939) His Brother's Keeper
   (1935) Radio Follies a.k.a. Radio Parade of 1935
   (1932) Bridegroom for Two
   (1932) The Other Mrs. Phipps
   (1931) Potiphar's Wife
   (1931) The Skin Game
   (1931) Let's Love and Laugh

External links

   Ronald Frankau at the Internet Movie Database
   Ronald Frankau at Find a Grave


Todd M. Endelman, "The Frankaus of London: A Study in Radical Assimilation, 1837-1967", Jewish History Vol. 8 Nos 1-2, 1994 Aryeh Newman, "From Exile to Exit: the Frankau Jewish Connection", Jewish Quarterly Vol. 34 no. 4 (128) 1987 Richards, Jeffrey, Sir Henry Irving: A Victorian Actor and his World, Hambledon & London 2005 pp41,158 Gilbert Frankau, Self-Portrait, Hutchinson 1940 pp33-34 Mrs Aria, My Sentimental Self, Chapman & Hall 1922 Chh. VII-XI passim Gilbert Frankau, Self-Portrait, Hutchinson 1940 pp. 112-113 Mrs Aria, My Sentimental Self, Chapman & Hall 1922 pp15-22 Gilbert Frankau, Self-Portrait, Hutchinson 1940 p41 Gilbert Frankau, Self-Portrait, Hutchinson 1940 p. 33 Gilbert Frankau, Self-Portrait, Hutchinson 1940 pp. 66-75 Gilbert Frankau, Self-Portrait, Hutchinson 1940 p234 Marianne Colloms and Dick Weindling, The Good Grave Guide to Hampstead Cemetery, Fortune Green, Camden History Society 2000 pp. 17-19 Geoff J. Mellor, They Made Us Laugh, George Kelsall 1982 p35 Geoff J. Mellor, They Made Us Laugh, George Kelsall 1982 p34

<The Times, September 13, 1951>



Mr. Ronald Frankau, who for many years entertained large audiences in musical comedy, revue, and over the air, died suddenly at Eastbourne on Tuesday at the age of 57.

Dealing as he did in humour rather than wit, he seemed to take his audience into his confidence; talking as though to his neighbour at the dinner table and keeping the mood bubblingly gay rather than uproarious. It was a method peculiarly apt for the microphone and his success as a broadcaster was on the whole greater than when he appeared on the stage. His sallies, with their subtle allusions to current events and people "in the news", with a background of cheerful guying of the old school tie, undoubtedly had a wide popularity; how much or how little to read into them depended rather on the subtlety of the listener than the cunning of the originator.

Ronald Hugh Wyndham Frankau was the younger son of Mr. Arthur Frankau. His mother was a popular novelist in Edwardian days, writing under the pseudonym of "Frank Danby". He was educated at Eton and studied for a short time at the Guildhall School of Music.

After spending some time in Canada he returned to this country in 1914 and joined the chorus at Daly's under an assumed name. Later he went into the Army, and on demobilization joined the Howitt Phillips repertory company in India in 1919. In the course of the next year he returned to England and joined a concert party at Eastbourne.

Later he formed his own parties and toured with them, alternating these activities with intermittent appearances in the London theatres. His first broadcast in 1927 was the forerunner of many others, the script of which he usually wrote himself. He was thr author of several revues, and, having retired from the entertainment world on account of a heart condition, he planned to devote himself to authorship. He had, in fact, published earlier a number of books, including "Oh! Dear! Dear!, " a book for children.


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Ronald Frankau's Timeline

February 22, 1894
London, United Kingdom
June 19, 1920
Age 26
Eastbourne, East Sussex, England, United Kingdom
Age 38
London, UK
September 11, 1951
Age 57
Eastbourne, East Sussex, England, United Kingdom