THE CHEEKY CHAPPIE
Stage, Radio & TV
Miller's The Name, Lady!
Max’s act on a variety bill usually lasted between 20 and 30 minutes. It would begin with the orchestra playing his signature tune, Mary from the Dairy. A spotlight aimed on the curtain by the wings would anticipate his entrance. . There would be excitement throughout the auditorium. Max would sometimes wait for up to 10 seconds until he appeared leading to resounding applause, walk to the microphone and just stand there in his costume, a gloriously colourful suit with plus-fours, a kipper tie, trilby and co-respondent shoes and wait for the laughter to begin. He knew then that he had the audience in the palm of his hand.
Although Max's material was risqué, Max never swore on stage and disapproved of those who did. He used double entendre and, when telling a joke, would often leave out the last word or words for the audience to complete. His act would be punctuated by songs, sentimental songs like My Old Mum or comic songs such as Twin Sisters. Sometimes he would accompany himself on guitar or entertain with a soft shoe shuffle. He wrote and co-wrote a number of songs.
He was very much a Southern English comedian. He preferred being booked in theatres in London or the south, so he could return to his beloved Brighton after a show. But in 1932 he embarked on his only overseas tour, when he sailed to Cape Town to appear in Johannesburg and Pretoria, South Africa.
Notable Stage Appearances
1922 Shorditch Hall
First London appearance in variety.
1926 Holborn Empire
In variety where Tom Arnold spotted him, the impresario who booked him for the starring role in a touring revue called Piccadilly.
1931 (11-May) London Palladium
First Royal Command Performance.
1932 (Apr) Orpheum in Johannesburg, South Africa
Big 50/50 Show (on the stage 5 Star Acts; on the screen Bride of the Regiment)
1937 (15-Nov) London Palladium
Second Royal Command Performance.
1939 (Dec to Jul-40) Holborn Empire
Starred in Haw Haw! billed as George Black's new laughter show and also featuring Syd Seymour and his Mad Hatter Band, Bebe Daniels & Ben Lyon.
1940 (Aug to Nov) Holborn Empire & 1941 (Mar to Dec) London Palladium
Starred in Apple Sauce, a review that opened at the Holborn Empire and ran there until the theatre was bombed. It returned to continue its run at the London Palladium. Also appearing were Florence Desmond, Jack Stanford and Vera Lynn.
1943 Coventry Hippodrome
Highest paid music hall entertainer earning £1,025 per week.
1944 London Palladium
20 weeks of variety, the longest run at that time for a variety artist.
1950 (13-Nov) London Palladium
Third and last Royal Command Performance.
1958 (Mar) London Palladium
Last variety season.
1959 (Apr) Palace Theatre
Last West End season.
1960 (Dec) Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone
Last stage appearance in variety.
Max had to tone down his material for the BBC. Broadcasts were, in those days, usually live, and on one, in 1940 he slipped in an unscripted gag. In 1944 he began a gag which the producer judged too risqué so he was faded out. The BBC took him off the air and the ban lasted for five years.
Notable radio appearances were:
1936 Radio Luxembourg
Starred as Charlie Merrimer in Horlick's Sea-Time Hour.
5-Jun-53 BBC Light Programme
Appeared in a special Coronation Show Let's All Go Down the Thames.
Jul-62 BBC Light Programme
Last radio broadcast recorded at the Playhouse Theatre, London
Max's recording career began in October 1932 with the gramophone record Confessions of a Cheeky Chappie, parts 1 & 2 for the Broadcast Twelve label. He recorded regularly until 1963 when he made The Market Song and Tit Bits with Lonnie Donegan for the Pye label.
Recorded the LP Max at the Met on 30 November, 1957; considered his best recording. Now available on CD.
A complete Discography can be found in the Appendix to John M East's biography, Max Miller - The Cheeky Chappie.
(Almost all of Max's earlier 78s, EPs and LPs have been digitally re-mastered and transferred to CDs)
Newspapers & Magazines
Sunday Dispatch, provided a page of gags each Sunday from December 1939 to July, 1940. Film Fun Weekly and Film Fun Annual, featured as a cartoon strip character from 1935 to 1948 (click on image to enlarge).
Max's appearances took place when TV was still in its infancy. He feared that TV appearances would eat up his material too fast.
5-Jan- to 26-Apr-56 ITV
Appeared with Nat Gonella in five 60 minute shows called You'd Never Believe It! Jack Hylton Production.
1-Oct-56 BBC TV
Appeared with Terry Thomas in a 60 minute show Around the Town.
6-Jan-, 13-Feb-and 13-Mar-58 ITV
Shared top-billing with Tessie O'Shea in Jack Hylton's variety series called See You, Soho!
Max would say, "You can't help liking him!"