In today’s transient television culture, longevity is a sort after concept which not many “performers” achieve. But for more than sixty-five years Melvyn Hayes has been delighting audiences on a multiple of mediums: film, television and theatre. Starting his career in 1950 as a supporting actor in a range of British films before starring in a trilogy of Cliff Richard films throughout the sixties. On the 1963 Classic Summer Holiday it was Hayes who was tasked with driving the iconic bus to the edge of the cliff (one tiny mistake could have robbed the world of hearing Wired For Sound!).
Press Play, below, to listen to the full interview
Being an actor in a hugely successful sitcom can have huge ramifications on the rest of your career. No matter how hard some fight it, they may never succeed in shaking off their sitcom alter-ego. In 1972 Melvyn Hayes was cast as Gloria in the second hit comedy in the David Croft and Jimmy Perry franchise, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum alongside Windsor Davies and Don Estelle. This is the role which has probably defined Hayes’ career but that hasn’t stopped his love for the character of Gloria and his fellow actors in the show. In light of the recent tragic passing of Jimmy Perry, this brought an added emotional dimension to Hayes’s responses as it was obvious that Perry’s death remained extremely raw for him and the affection that he still holds for the late comedy writer was almost palpable.
Besides It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Melvyn has built up a substantial career in the art of pantomime and live performance. From Mother Goose to Widow Twankie, the Dame has forever been the linchpin of panto and the great and the good of British television have all taken their turn at playing a cartoon version of the opposite sex. Over the years, it could be argued that the art of panto has in some way been trivialised by the influx of in vogue reality television stars. As one of the ‘elder statesman’ of entertainment, it must prove increasingly frustrating when you get cast opposite a new reality star who can’t sing, dance or be funny. This may be further evidence to suggest that the traditional pantomime could be in decline.
We briefly then returned to the subject of his repertoire of classic films as I had the desire to ask him about the 1985 festive blockbuster Santa Claus: The Movie alongside Dudley Moore and John Lithgoe. To my utter amazement he confessed to have never watched the film himself. I didn’t have the heart to reveal that in my family Santa Claus: The Movie is a Christmas institution. Yet it seems a little ironic that I might just like the film more than he ever did!
The conversation then took us to the latter part of his career. Most notably the 2003 cult sketch show Revolver in which a gallery of famous faces from British sitcom came together to star in a series of bizarre skits. As a fan of this show, I was interested to find out just how it was made and what it was like being reunited with former colleagues over thirty years on from the sitcom boom of the 1970’s. It was clear that Melvyn shared my love for the show and was merely bewildered as to why there haven’t been more.
Outside show business, Melvyn Hayes enjoys a quiet life here on the Isle of Wight with his wife and children. Over the last twenty years many local children have benefited from his support and loving nature through he and his wife being foster carers. You can almost see the joy in his heart when he talks about their many fostering success stories. Even at the age of 85 with a triple heart bypass just eighteen months ago, you can see that his love for his family gets him through all life’s problems.
I thoroughly enjoyed my morning with the legendary Melvyn Hayes and only hope you get as much enjoyment listening to it as I did conducting it.