Watchwords

VALE HUGH STUCKEY, renaissance man, prolific scriptwriter, funny bugger, sports nut, opera lover, founding member and Vice President for many years of The Australian Writers’ Guild – and subsequently a life member. (Breathe) Lecturer at the Film and Television School and RMIT, mentor to the next generation of writers and, at the AWGIE Awards in 2005, recipient of the Fred Parsons Award for his lifetime contribution to Australian comedy. Blimey! Hugh is survived by his ex-wife Shirley and their two daughters, Leigh-Anne and Claire, and ex-wife Barbara and their daughter Annika and son Tim. We’d extend our condolences, but Hugh would much rather we tell them a joke. (Photo courtesy of the AWG: modified by L.J. May)

Watchwords

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Greetings and welcome to WatchwordsThis site is about writers, readers, artists, filmmakers and our beautiful City of Brisbane.

 

BIG SCREEN/LITTLE SCREEN/THEATRE

VALE HUGH STUCKEY

1928 – 2018

There were a lot of heavy hearts around the country when people learned that HUGH STUCKEY had died. There was also a sense of shock, because we thought he’d never go.

So, what can you say about Hugh Stuckey. Quite a lot actually, but no one has said it better than PATRICK EDGEWORTH in his fond and witty tribute. We reproduce it here in part because it says it all. Thank you Patrick.

 

A TRIBUTE TO HUGH STUCKEY BY PATRICK EDGEWORTH

‘Everyone loved renaissance man Hugh Stuckey; even his two ex-wives. He led a life unburdened by religion, finding joy in such passions as baseball and opera. Baseball he played from childhood until he was in his fifties, after which he watched every televised match he could featuring his beloved team, the LA Dodgers. 

‘For years he had permanent seats at the opera until declining health made it impossible to attend. He also delighted in the haunting melodies and sophisticated lyrics of the Great American Songbook.

‘Comedy was his love and his life's work. He found laughs, not in vicious put-downs, but in the quirks and shortcomings of human nature. His heroes were Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton and Jacky Benny. He adored the wit and word play of English radio comedy: The Goon ShowRound the Horne and Hancock's Half Hour. In later years he convulsed over Seinfeld, Frasier and Two and a Half Men.

‘He liked comedies with funny situations and funny lines that made people laugh out loud. He had little time for the recent development of The Comedy of Social Embarrassment. He took no pleasure in the fact that he lived long enough to hear an ABC TV producer pronounce that a comedy doesn’t need laughs. Things have changed since Hugh started.

‘In 1942, at the age of 14, he was tap dancing champion of Victoria, a skill he included in his youthful comedy act to entertain the troops stationed in Melbourne. He also secured his first radio spot as a comedian on a weekly variety show called Kiddies Kapers

‘At the age of 15, and under pressure from his father, Hugh left school and started working at Australian Paper Manufacturers. It had been chosen for Hugh as the company had survived the Great Depression and could offer him a secure job for life. But he found little interest in it, focusing his attention on performing live on stage and radio after hours.

‘During World War II, he gave 350 comedy performances for the Australian troops. In 1946, he received his first writing credit for a five-minute sketch for ABC Radio. In 1947, Hugh wrote several gags for Radio 3DB's show Happy Gang. While still working full-time at APM he also wrote for the Macquarie Radio Network's 3AW’s weekly sitcom, Monty's Caberet. 

‘In 1954, much to his father's disappointment, Hugh quit his job to write radio scripts for The Cadbury Show in Sydney; it ran for over 300 episodes. His career developed as he began writing for well known radio personalities of the time, such as Jack Davey, George Wallace Snr and Willie Fennell. 

‘In 1957, he became one of Australia's first television comedy writers when he was hired for In Sydney Tonight. In 1958, he was appointed head writer for the highly successful In Melbourne Tonight, which was hosted by Graham Kennedy on Melbourne’s GTV9 (now part of the Nine Network.) 

‘In 1962, Hugh moved on to write for The Delo & Daly Show, a comedy variety show hosted by Americans Ken Delo and Jonathan Daly. Hugh wrote 46 one-hour episodes, which appeared on HSV7 (now The Seven Network).

‘With the support of Daly, he was granted a leave of absence by HSV7 to pursue writing and to gain experience in Hollywood. He was hired by Desilu Productions who gave him the experience of learning directly from the writers of The Dick Van Dyke ShowThe Danny Thomas Show and The Andy Griffith Show.

‘After returning to Australia in 1963, Hugh moved to HSV7 (Now Seven Network) to devise and produce a daytime series Time for Terry, which was hosted by English comedian Terry O’Neill and ran five one-hour episodes per week. In 1966, Hugh was contracted by Melbourne television station ATV0 (now part of Network Ten) as a writer and producer of The Jimmy Hannan Show, hosted by 1965 Gold Logie Award-winner, Jimmy Hannan.

‘After comedian Tony Hancock’s UK career went into decline, he was flown to Australia to star in a television series called Terra Australis for the Seven Network. Hugh was to be head writer on a 13-episode series. He referred to his work on this show as being less of a writer and more of a minder for the deeply depressed and alcoholic Hancock. On 24 June 1968, after only three episodes were produced, Hancock was found dead in his Sydney flat. The Seven Network later showed this work as The Tony Hancock Special, which aired on 25 January 1972. 

‘Determined to try his luck further afield, Hugh moved to the US. Based in Los Angeles, he found work with the sitcoms Bewitched, The Flying Nun, and I Dream of Jeannie. He also wrote sketch comedy material for Rowan & Martin's Laugh In, which Hollywood stars like John Wayne, Danny Kaye and Red Skelton lined up to appear for just one gag.

‘Returning to Australia, Hugh began writing for Neighbours, and as story and script editor for The Restless Years. In 1975, he signed his first contract in the UK with BBC London, where he wrote for The Two Ronnies, Dave Allen at Large, The Dick Emery Show and the comedy star Frankie Howerd. 

‘Returning to Australia, Hugh wrote for numerous In Melbourne Tonight shows, which were hosted by Stuart Wagstaff, Noel Ferrier, Tommy Leonetti, Bert Newton and others. He then became the story editor and episode writer for 45 one-hour episodes of the hit Channel 7 television drama, and Logie Award-winning A Country Practice.

‘In 1992, after finishing with A Country Practice, Hugh moved back to England to write for the police drama The Bill, Moon and Son and Frankie's On, starring English comedian Frankie Howerd. By 1993, Hugh found himself back in Australia writing for the animation The Adventures of Blinky Bill and Blue Heelers. He then returned to Neighbours as writer and story editor.

‘A founding member of THE AUSTRALIAN WRITERS’ GUILD, Hugh was Vice President for many years and, subsequently, a life member. At the AWGIE Awards in 2005, Hugh was honoured by receiving the Fred Parsons Award for his lifetime contribution to Australian comedy.’

 

WATCHWORDS HOME

In 1958, HUGH STUCKEY was appointed head writer for the highly successful In Melbourne Tonight, which was hosted by Graham Kennedy on Melbourne’s GTV9 (now part of the Nine Network). In 1975, Hugh signed his first contract in the UK with BBC London, where he wrote for The Two Ronnies, Dave Allen at Large, The Dick Emery Show and the comedy star, Frankie Howerd (please yourselves!). After returning to Australia once again, Hugh wrote for numerous In Melbourne Tonight shows, which were hosted by Stuart Wagstaff, Noel Ferrier, Tommy Leonetti, Bert Newton and others. At the 2018 Logies on the Gold Coast, Bert reminisced. Rather too well, apparently. A couple of politically incorrect but pretty harmless snide remarks Bert made on that occasion, which would have elicited chuckles a mere two decades ago, were met with a chorus of disapproval. Bert, an absolute gentlemen in real life, apologised if he had offended anyone – but really, give the bloke a break – he’s nearly 80! And over some sixty years Bert has given the Australian public more joy and laughter than all the current comics combined, some of whom seem to be obsessed with foul language, explicit sex, and drug routines. Even relatively seasoned veterans like Logies host Dave Hughes can stuff it up, as we saw after he took a swipe at Don Burke and then retreated, saying he loved Don Burke... ah well, actually, no, not everything about Don Burke, obviously... Ah... So, give Bert the respect he deserves. There’s no need to get mad at him. His wife, Patti, will do that for you. (Photo by L.J. May S/S)