Gala Poster


Terry-Thomas & Richard Hope-Hawkins



Jack Douglas and Richard Hope-Hawkins


Richard Hope-Hawkins & T-T bust


Thorley Walters


Richard Hope-Hawkins, Phil Collins & Jack Douglas


Gala Stage Pass


Richard Briers


The immortal T-T!


Jack Douglas




Richard Hope-Hawkins


The eternal bounder!


Richard Hope-Hawkins Tribute





Writer, broadcaster and Honorary President of The Terry-Thomas Fellowship, Richard Hope-Hawkins recalls the memories of his efforts to help actor and comedian Terry-Thomas face the final years of his life whilst battling the debilitating effects of Parkinson's Disease.


"On a winters evening in 1989 l and my late godfather, the character actor Thorley Walters, visited British born comedian Terry-Thomas, then living unremarkably in a charity flat situated in Barnes, London, he and his family were surviving on small chartable donations and the help of a few friends.


I wrote at that time – ‘Thorley and l were led into a large room, we stood behind an ominous high back chair. In the room were Terry’s sons Tiger and Cushion and his devoted wife Belinda. As we moved closer to say hello to Terry, the face that we saw was not of the man universally known but that of man wracked with pain, with two weeks of facial hair covering his drawn face.


Despite this, we both noticed that although he was in such dreadful pain and in such a pitiful condition, his familiar brown eyes still seemed to get over the feeling of love and warmth that we all knew him for. We were shocked and Thorley was really distressed seeing his old friend in pitiful conditions. After a while in his presence which was difficult and awkward we left, walking out into the crisp air and sunshine both Thorley and l burst into tears, we hugged each other and Thorley said ‘’My goodness me this is simply dreadful’ .


I said ‘Something has to be done to help Terry and his family’. I had an idea. Thorley and Terry  had acted together for the legendry Boulting brothers films ‘Privates Progress’ (1956) whose cast included Richard Attenborough, Ian Carmichael and Kenneth Griffiths, ‘Carlton Brown of the FO’ (1958) with Peter Sellers, Ian Bannen, John Le Mesurier and Nicholas  Parsons and  'Blue Murder at St Trinian’s' with George Cole, Joyce Grenfell  and Lionel Jeffries (1958).


Both had long and distinguished careers: Thorley as a character actor very much respected within the profession and Terry-Thomas who had become world famous with his upper crust accent, moustache, gap toothed grin, dapper clothes, garish waistcoats, ostentatious cigarette holders and catch- phrases spoken with an exasperated harangue - such as ‘What an absolute shower’ and ‘Good Show’.


Terry was a ‘silly ass’ - a relic from a genteel world. He had appeared topping the bill in theatres throughout England including the Bristol Hippodrome, for he had roots in the West Country. Terry-Thomas was known as an absolute ‘bounder’ both on screen on and off. He had starred both in Hollywood as well as here in the UK.


In America he appeared in ‘How to Murder your Wife’ with co star Jack Lemmon and ‘It’s a Mad Mad Mad World’ with a host of star names. In the UK films such as ‘Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines’,’ I’m Alright Jack, Monte Carlo’ or Bust’ and School for Scoundrels’ helped secure his place in cinematic history.


Terry once had magnificent  homes in Hollywood, Majorca, Ibiza and London, with numerous celebrity friends, who had all but forgotten or abandoned him; some unknowing of his sorry plight fighting Parkinson’s disease and living in poverty.


Terry-Thomas began his career as film extra, rapidly rising to star in his own radio and television shows. He starred in over 70 films. How could a man who in his career had starred alongside artistes such as Peter Sellers, Bing Crosby, Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Shirley Bassey, Roger Moore, Tony Curtis, Eric Sykes, Princess Grace of Monaco, Des O’Connor, Tom Jones, Rock Hudson and Vincent Price, headlined in TV, radio and films for over forty years. be reduced to poverty?


He had told his cousin, actor Richard Briers and his wife Anne in the 1970 's ‘I’ve got a million in the bank dear boy, but also a touch of Parkinson’s!.' Richard later commented he was living in ‘genteel poverty’. One of Briers first film roles was due to his ‘Uncle’ Terry - ‘A Matter of WHO’ (1961) which starred Terry-Thomas, Honor Blackman and Carol White. Roy Castle sang the title soundtrack song.


I know now personally how an illness can reduce earnings so easily, especially for an actor like Terry-Thomas who relies on his voice, diction, and physical ability that brought in such high fees both in films and television.



With a shocking and debilitating disease he could not disguise and with the obvious tell- tale ‘Parkinson ‘shake’ , Terry had to give up working. Terry had also tried many ‘quack cures’ for Parkinson’s but the cost of all his homes became to much and after a bitter wrangle with his bank and with his savings gone Terry-Thomas was reduced to living like a pauper.


After visiting Terry I had pre arranged that evening to go to see a show with my then girlfriend, actress Charmain Gradwell who was appearing in the TV series ‘Howard’s Way’. After the performance we went backstage to see Peggy Mount (who had worked with Terry), Ed (Stewpot) Stewart and ‘Carry On’ comedian Jack Douglas who was a close friend.


It became obvious to them that l was still traumatized from visiting Terry and Jack came right out with ‘what on earth is wrong with you Richard?’. We all sat down and l told my harrowing tale. Jack and l agreed to go and see Terry, which we did the very next day. Due to that visit Jack and l decided to stage a benefit Gala show to help Terry.


Back in Bristol l had alerted ITV and arranged that just one camera crew could visit T-T and his family. That filmed visit was televised all over the world and donations to help Terry and a national newspaper appeal too made sure that the family and Terry could at last be comfortable.


Jack and l in Bristol began to organize the event which went well beyond our expectations for it was to become bigger than a Royal Command Show! Most of the work was done in a Bristol advertising companies office (given free of charge by a superbly generous couple Sally and Derek Frise) and my home then in Kingsdown.


The Evening Post, Western Daily Press, BBC radio Bristol and HTV all covered the ensuing media and public interest , and soon Jack and l were giving interviews not only on National television but on radio and television stations worldwide, newspapers too for not only had we managed to hire free of charge the theatre Royal Drury Lane in London but actor Michael Caine gave the gala his blessing and agreed to become our chairman.


He said ‘l may not be able to attend but to help the cause just flaunt my name!’ He also wrote a splendid letter that was placed in the glossy Gala tribute programme.Suddenly the telephone calls were flooding into not only the Bristol office but my home too  - from Dudley Moore in the States, who organized for us tribute messages to be recorded at an event in Santa Monica for Terry. Artistes such as Julie Andrews, Mickey Rooney, Lynn Redgrave, Glynnis Jones, Ken Annakin and Milton Berle as well as Dudley told Terry that they loved and missed him.


Dudley had acted alongside Terry in three films. Jack Lemmon recorded a message too, for two Californian Radio Stations - remembering the happy times that they spent shooting Terry’s favorite film 'How to Murder your Wife!’.


One evening l received a phone call from Phil Collins' minder, Danny Gillard who said’ ’l am sitting next to Phil in Australia and we have both seen you on TV talking about Terry. I’m handing the phone over to Phil now  'Ah, Phil  Collins here, look l am a great fan of  Tony Hancock,  Alistair Sim and Terry-Thomas, l want to appear in the Gala, put me down for three songs!'.  (I was in fact told that Phil Collins was a massive fan and approached his company Hit and Run Music, they politely shunned my request).


With the worldwide publicity Jack and l seemed to be doing endless radio and television interviews. Jack and l knew that Terry was universally loved and admired and soon an amazing cast was on board along with a full orchestra - in just sixteen weeks!.


It all seemed like Annaka Rice’s ‘Challenge Annaka' TV series. Just the mention of Terry-Thomas and doors opened for us...people could not do enough to help, hardly any request was turned down.


Planning, media awareness and sheer hard work to bring it all together. A multitude of volunteer assistants and the Bristol business community rallied around at the mention of the gala and Terry’s name.


On the 9th April 1989 the curtain rose at 7.30pm and because of so many artistes wanting to support Terry and the Parkinson’s Disease Society; the curtain went down well after midnight. On the day of the Gala the BBC televised two of Terry’s films as their tribute to Terry, something quite unique.


Sadly my godfather had suffered a stroke just before the gala and was unable to attend the show but told me how proud he was of all that l and so many others had achieved in such a short space of time.That personally meant so much to me.


In Bristol l realized that the show must be taped for television as we had such a galaxy of artistes appearing also it would also produce extra funds and again with the help of HTV and the BBC and especially two friends, broadcaster and presenter Richard Wyatt and cameraman Nick Dance, a team was assembled of cameramen, a rigging and lighting crew, on line director: in fact a crew of professionals from both local stations as well as free transport and financial support from numerous Bristol businesses made sure that all the events backstage as well as the show were recorded with Richard Wyatt interviewing as many artistes as possible.


Badgerline in Bristol gave us a free coach to transport all of the crew to London and numerous companies supplied food for the theatre Green Room. The Bristol Evening Post, HTV news and Radio Bristol all came to London to exclusively cover the gala. During the day’s rehearsals on the 9th April  1989, and towards the early evening a crowd of over two thousand people were gathered outside. The atmosphere was similar to a star studded Hollywood film premiere. At one stage l was having my photograph taken outside the theatre with Michael Winner (who proved to be generous with his advice to me throughout the lead up to the gala as well as donating money personally to help Terry) with us was Jenny Seagrove, suddenly the press rushed away, mystified Winner said that it must be someone very important, it was. Frank Sinatra’s widow had flown in to attend the Gala as well as nearly two thousand members of the public and a glitter of celebrities.


Jack and l were joyful seeing the House Full sign outside in fact we could have sold the entire house twice over! Such was the demand as the cast was a true major line-up but also millions of people were moved not only for the regard for Terry-Thomas but with his plight suffering with Parkinson’s Disease.


Bristol artistes appeared too including Russ Conway, John Telfer then starring in Bergerac, newsreader Andrew Harvey, the Great Western Chorus, singer Cindy Stratton and Richard Wyatt. My friend chorographer Nicky Hinkley formed a dance team of over thirty dancers and all artistes appeared of course fee of charge.The famous Tiller Girls reformed especially for Terry and continued for many years to dance for charity.


Richard Briers who has now become a long standing friend helped a great deal too and he went on to become patron of the Parkinson’s Disease Society and continues his work for them to this day.


Space does not permit me to recount the endless acts of help given by so many people not only in showbusines, but in the Bristol business community and without that support the Terry-Thomas Gala could not have taken place.


My proudest moment was when l announced to the audience that the box office takings were £75,000. l remember Eartha Kitt leaving the stage at midnight and seeing from the wings Phil Collins walk across to his piano and stroking his face he said ‘’Blimey l’ve had to shave three times since arriving tonight’. He finished his act at 12.20 am with his composition that he dedicated to Terry and his wife Belinda saying ‘This is for you Tel and Belinda’, it was his classic song ‘A Groovy Kind of Love’.


Of course many of the artistes that appeared had worked with Terry. Terry-Thomas and his family benefited greatly from the show, so too did the Parkinson's Disease Society. He lived in a superb nursing home in Surrey until the 8th of January 1990, where he died aged 78 suffering at that time with pneumonia.


I remember going onto live link from HTV that day to ITV and saying that it was a blessed release for Terry had suffered terribly with a disease that his cousin Richard Briers calls ‘wretched’. l was asked to read a passage at  Terry’s funeral attended by a plethora of showbuisnes celebrities including Thorley Walters, Denholm Eliott, Jack Douglas and Jon Pertwee.


The service was covered by over fifty journalists and camera crewsr. Eric Sykes said on camera ‘l wish l was half the man Terry was’. As we walked out of the church the organist played the theme tune to ‘Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines’ rather badly and completely unrehearsed, Terry would have been mortified!


This sadly was to be  Thorley’s last appearance in public for he died soon afterwards in a nursing home. l was beside him with actress Siobhan Redmond who was not only a friend but had appeared in many TV programmes with him, we both held his hand as he passed away.It did not end there with Terry’s death as l realized that in Bristol was the master tapes of the Gala, so a quick phone call to Nick Dance of Serendipity films, a hastily written script by myself and Nick with narration by Phil Collins, free on line and edit studio facilities aided by George Panayiotou at Films at 59 in Cotham, kindly overseen by Nick, within 24 hours we had a film ready for transmission.


ITV paid £25.000 for ‘A Tribute to Terry-Thomas’ that was broadcast across the nation a few months after Terry’s death and 80% of that money went to the Parkinson’s Disease Society. ITV billed the tribute (using one of T-T’s catchphrases) ‘An absolute shower’ of stars turned up at the gala in aid of the gap toothed comic actor. Phil Collins introduces the fun. Dudley Moore wrote to me from his home in Market Street in Venice, California saying how he had very much enjoyed the VHS copy of the show that l sent to him, we kept in touch until his untimely death in 2002 ,Dudley coincidently was stricken down with a terminal degenerative brain disease that stopped him too from working.


It will remain a remarkable memory to many for all of the work was really done in Bristol my home town. On that Gala show bill was a Bristol composer and pianist who received a standing ovation - Russ Conway who had topped the charts and had achieved world wide record sales of his compositions that topped 65 million, quite an achievement for a Bedminster boy who had no constructive musical tuition!.


Remarkably, at one stage Russ was my godfather’s rehearsal pianist playing on Thorley’s piano that had been used by Noel Coward and Ivor Novello. Russ and l went on to form The Russ Conway Cancer Fund and a year after the T-T Gala in 1990 we hired the Bristol Hippodrome to begin twelve happy and successful years of charity fundraising through variety shows playing to packed theatres throughout the UK.


Last year l proudly received Bristol’s highest civic honor ‘The Bristol Lord Mayor’s Medal’ for services to charities all begun many years ago with Terry-Thomas.


Here are just some of the Artistes that appeared at the Terry-Thomas Gala Show (directed by Jack Douglas and Richard Hope-Hawkins):


John Altman, Avril Angers, Lionel Blair, Richard Briers, Frank Bough, Arthur Bostrum,Johnny Briggs, Janet Brown, Ian Carmichae,l Roy Castle, Phil Collins, Russ Conway, Ronnie Corbett, Jimmy Cricke,t Dana and the Enniskellen choir, Derek Dean of the Royal Ballet and partner Angela Douglas, Jack Douglas, Su Douglas, Russell Grant, Susan George, Peter Goodwright, Hannah Gordon, Andrew Harvey, Nigel Harvey, Melvyn Hayes, Frazer Hines, The Nicky Hinckley Dancers, Gordon Honeycombe, Hope and Keen, Kit and the Widow, Richard Hope-Hawkins, Lionel Jeffries, Eartha Kitt, Bonnie Langford, Julia McKenzie, Vicky Michelle, Pete Murray, Hilary O’Neil, Freddie Pine, Joan Regan, the Roly Polys, Sir Harry Secombe, Jenny Seagrove, Allan Stewart, Cindy Stratton, The Tiller Girls, Garry Wilmot, Barbara Windsor, Richard Wyatt, The Richard Holmes Orchestra, Guests from Allo’ Allo’, Coronation Street, East Enders and Emmerdale.


The Terry-Thomas Gala show should be in the Guinness Book of records for the biggest cast gala show ever to be held in a London Theatre! 



Richard Hope-Hawkins - Honorary President of

The Terry-Thomas Fellowship