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THM/407 - Ronnie Barker Collection
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Ronnie Barker Collection

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This material is held at V&A Department of Theatre and Performance
Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407
Dates of Creation 1929-2005
Name of Creator Ronnie Barker
Language of Material English
Physical Description 15 boxes and 6 volumes

Scope and Content

The collection consists of memorabilia material collected by Ronnie Barker to document his career. Materials include scrapbooks compiled by Ronnie Barker with press cuttings, reviews, memorabilia and photographs of his theatre, television and film work, photographs, manuscript material, scripts, correspondence, certificates and awards, press and marketing materials, audio recordings, audio visual recordings and material relating to special events and honours in his career.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ronnie Barker a British actor, comedian, writer, critic, collector, broadcaster and businessman was born in 1929.

His first role on stage was A Murder has Been Arranged by Emlyn Williams in Oxford, 1946, where he was very active in amateur dramatics. Despite failing to get in to the Young Vic School, he began his career in theatre in the Manchester Repertory Theatre, his first professional role being that of Lieutenant Spicer in Quality Street by Sir J.M. Barrie in 1948. In 1951 he joined the Oxford Playhouse Theatre Players. Peter Hall worked with him in Oxford and brought him to London's West End.

Following his first radio appearance in 1956 he went on to feature in The Navy Lark (1959-1977). He soon began working in television and film, from 1962 appearing in various roles in the comedy series The Seven Faces of Jim. He also appeared in A Tale of Two Cities (1965) and the films Kill or Cure (1962), Father Came Too! (1963) and A Home of Your Own (1965).

His break came in the 1966 satirical sketch series The Frost Report which starred David Frost, John Cleese and his future comedy partner Ronnie Corbett. In 1968 he was given his own show The Ronnie Barker Playhouse. David Frost moved to ITV and hosted Frost on Sunday, which featured Barker and Corbett more prominently. It was also during this period that Barker began writing sketches under the pseudonym Gerald Wiley. In 1969 Barker produced, wrote and performed in the comedy film Futtock's End which featured no dialogue, only grunts. The series Hark at Barker (1969-1970) featured the bumbling aristocratic character Lord Rustless who originally appeared in The Ronnie Barker Playhouse. Barker wrote for the show under the pseudonym Jonathan Cobbald. As Wiley he wrote the 1971 series Six Dates with Barker.

Barker and Corbett were signed up to do a show together at the BBC after impressing the BBC's Head of Light Entertainment Bill Cotton at the 1971 BAFTAs where they successfully kept the audience entertained for several minutes when the show was stopped due to technical difficulties. That show was The Two Ronnies which was an immediate and long running success, with twelve series running from 1971-1986. They filmed on location in the West Country for much of the series. Barker wrote much of the show's material as Gerald Wiley. Barker also reprised his character Lord Rustless in the sitcom His Lordship Entertains in 1972, written by Barker under the name Jonathon Cobbald.

Barker played Friar Tuck in the 1976 film Robin and Marian. Barker and Corbett also starred in the short, mostly silent films The Picnic (1975) and By the Sea (1982). By the Sea was Barker's tribute to the seaside postcard humour of Donald McGill. Barker had a special interest in collecting postcards and amassed a collection of over 53,000. He produced several compilation books of them including Ronnie Barker's Book of Bathing Beauties, A Pennyworth of Art, Ronnie Barker's Book of Boudoir Beauties, Ooh-La-La: The Ladies Of Paris, Gentleman's Relish: A Saucy Look at the Fairer Sex and Pebbles On The Beach: A Tribute To The Seaside Girl. He was also a collector of antiques, books and posters.

The great success of The Two Ronnies meant that Barker was given more creative freedom which led to some sitcom pilots shown as part of Seven of One (1973). Two of these pilots became series; Prisoner and Escort (written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais) became Porridge (1974-1997) and Open All Hours (written by Roy Clarke) became the series of the same name. Barker won the BAFTA for Best Light Entertainment Performance in 1975 and 1979 for his performance of prisoner Norman Fletcher. Open All Hours aired one series in 1976 on BBC Two, although a second and further series were not commissioned until 1981 when repeats of the show on BBC One gained high ratings. As a result of the initial low ratings for Open All Hours, Barker produced a third series of Porridge (1977) and a 1979 film adaptation. Next came the spin-off sitcom Going Straight (1978-9) which focused on Fletcher after his release from prison.

In 1978 Harold Fielding's stage version of The Two Ronnies premiered at the Bristol Hippodrome before opening at the London Palladium and touring to Southampton. Barker and Corbett moved with their families to Sydney, Australia for tax reasons in 1979. They toured their stage show in Melbourne and Sydney and went on to produce two series of The Two Ronnies in Australia.

The next sitcom Barker produced, The Magnificent Evans (1984), was not hugely successful. He wrote his final sitcom, Clarence (1988), using the pseudonym Bob Ferris.

In 1987, in an interview with Terry Wogan, Barker announced his retirement from show business. Following his retirement he opened and ran an antiques shop called The Emporium in Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire. After ten years the shop was sold, due to its unprofitability, and a few years later Barker began to make occasional television appearances again.

Barker wrote his autobiography Dancing in the Moonlight: My Early Years on Stage in 1993 and published his complete scripts All I Ever Wrote in 1999. He wrote the play Mum for his daughter Charlotte Barker in 1998, that was performed at the King's Head Theatre.

In 1997 Barker and Corbett drove on stage in a motorcycle as the Two Fat Ladies at the Royal Command Performance. In 1999 they reunited for the Two Ronnies Night on BBC One, and the following year for A Tribute to the Two Ronnies. In 2002 Barker was persuaded by director Richard Loncraine to play Winston Churchill's butler David Inches in the BBC-HBO drama The Gathering Storm, and in 2003 was also cast in the TV film My House in Umbria. Barker briefly reprised his role as Norman Stanley Fletcher in the spoof documentary Life Beyond the Box (2003).

Barker received several awards throughout his career, including the Royal Television Society's award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in 1975. He was presented by Sir Alec Guinness with a lifetime achievement honour at the inaugural British Comedy Awards (1990) and received the same again at the BBC Centenary Programme (1996). He was given a special BAFTA lifetime achievement award, at Ronnie Barker: A BAFTA Tribute, a televised celebratory tribute evening in 2003. Alongside Corbett, Barker was one of the first 100 people given stars on London's Avenue of Stars in 2005. Earlier awards include the Variety Club of Great Britain Award in 1969, 1974 and 1980, the Radio Industry Club Award in 1973, 1974, 1977 and 1981. In 1978 Barker received an OBE.

Barker's health declined rapidly after the filming of The Two Ronnies Christmas Sketchbook and he died in October 2005.

Arrangement

Arranged in to the following series:

  • THM/407/1 - Scrapbooks
  • THM/407/2 - Photographs
  • THM/407/3 - Scripts, writings and research by Ronnie Barker
  • THM/407/4 - Correspondence
  • THM/407/5 - Business papers and contracts
  • THM/407/6 - Events, awards and certificates
  • THM/407/7 - Press and Marketing
  • THM/407/8 - Audio Recordings
  • THM/407/9 - Audio Visual Recordings
  • THM/407/10 - Artworks
  • THM/407/11 - Objects, Trophies and awards
  • THM/407/12 - Posters

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for consultation in the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance's Reading Room, which is located at Blythe House, 23 Blythe Rd, Olympia, London, W14 0QX. The Reading Room is open Tuesday to Friday between 10.15 am and 4.30 pm. Access is by appointment only. To request an appointment please email tmenquiries@vam.ac.uk or telephone 020 7942 2698.

Access to some of these files may be restricted. These are identified at file level.

Conditions Governing Use

Archive material may not be photocopied. Arrangements can be made to photograph material in the reading room using non-flash photography.

Appraisal Information

This collection has been appraised according to departmental policy. Programmes have been incorporated in to the Theatre and Department core collections. Cuttings from copies of Radio Times and TV Times were added to the Ronnie Barker Biographical File.

Custodial History

This collection was created and maintained by Ronnie Barker, until his death when his daughter Charlotte Barker took over care of the collection.

Accruals

No further accruals expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Theatre and Performance Department. Material relating to Ronnie Barker may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions, company and photographs files.

Please ask for details.

Bibliography

  • Barker, Ronnie (1988). It's Hello From Him. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0450488713.
  • Barker, Ronnie (1994). Dancing in the Moonlight: My Early Years (Paperback ed.). Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-59104-8.
  • Barker, Ronnie (2001). All I Ever Wrote: The Complete Works of Ronnie Barker (Paperback ed.). Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 0-283-07334-9.
  • Corbett, Ronnie; Nobbs, David (2007) [2006]. And It's Goodnight From Him... The Autobiography of the Two Ronnies (Paperback ed.). Penguin. ISBN 978-0-141-02804-0.
  • McCabe, Bob (2005) [1998]. The Authorized Biography of Ronnie Barker (4th ed.). BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-53346-1.
  • Webber, Richard (2010). Remembering Ronnie Barker. Century. ISBN 1846057124.

Subjects

Television comedy
Radio comedy
Musical comedy

Personal Names

Barker, Ronald William George. ( 1929-2005)
Corbett, Ronnie. ( 1930-)

Corporate Names

British Broadcasting Corporation
Oxford Playhouse Company

Cataloguing Info

Title Ronnie Barker Collection
Creation Created by Joanna Norledge using the cheshire for archives ead creation tool 2011-10-07

Scrapbooks

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407/1
Dates of Creation 1968-1985
Physical Description 3 boxes and 4 volumes

Scope and Content

This series consists of scrapbooks made by Ronnie Barker to document his career. These include a set of notebooks containing memorabilia relating to specific television shows and films. Also included are scrapbooks that document stages of Ronnie Barker's career. Materials included in the scrapbooks are press cuttings, programmes, photographs, letters, telegrams, postcards, invitations to events and premieres, scripts, call sheets, tickets and other memorabilia.

Arrangement

This series is divided by format and consists of scrapbooks in ring binder notebooks containing information relating to particular television shows or films and large scrapbook volumes which document stages of Ronnie Barker's career.


Programme and Film Scrapbooks

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407/1/1
Dates of Creation 1968-1986
Physical Description 3 boxes, 18 scrapbooks

Scope and Content

Scrapbooks in ring binder notebooks for each television show, series or film. These all contain press cuttings and photographs, among other materials such as letters, invitations, programmes, scripts, call sheets and other items of memorabilia.

Arrangement

These scrapbooks are arranged alphabetically by the title of television show or film.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

NB. The glue has dried out in many of these scrapbooks, resulting in items coming loose.


Frost on Sunday (Series), scrapbook

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407/1/1/1
Dates of Creation 1969-1970
Physical Description 1 scrapbook

Scope and Content

Contains press cuttings and photographs.

Administrative / Biographical History

Contains press cuttings and photographs.


Futtock's End Volume 1 (TV Film), scrapbook

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407/1/1/2
Dates of Creation 1968-1969
Physical Description 1 scrapbook

Scope and Content

Contains call sheet, script and photographs.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Label sticker has come off cover.


Futtock's End Volume 2 (TV Film), scrapbook

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407/1/1/3
Dates of Creation 1968-1974
Physical Description 1 scrapbook

Scope and Content

Contains photographs, script, press cuttings, correspondence from fans, and ephemera relating to the film screening.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Label sticker is coming loose on cover.


Hark at Barker (Series 1), scrapbook

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407/1/1/4
Dates of Creation 1969
Physical Description 1 scrapbook

Scope and Content

Contains press cuttings, photographs, invitation to premiere screening, telegrams, correspondence from fans and negative images.


Hark at Barker (Series 2), scrapbook

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407/1/1/5
Dates of Creation 1970
Physical Description 1 scrapbook

Scope and Content

Contains press cuttings, photographs, invitations to the premiere, correspondence from the producer, and a drawing of Lord Rustless.


His Lordship Entertains (Series), scrapbook

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407/1/1/6
Dates of Creation 1972
Physical Description 1 scrapbook

Scope and Content

Contains press cuttings, photographs, correspondence from fans and an invitation.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

The label sticker has come off the cover. Photographs have also come loose.


The Magnificent Evans (Series), scrapbook

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407/1/1/7
Dates of Creation 1984
Physical Description 1 scrapbook

Scope and Content

Contains photographs, press cuttings, invitations and correspondence wishing Ronnie Barker luck.


The Picnic (TV Film), Robin and Marion (Film), Open All Hours (Series), scrapbook

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407/1/1/8
Dates of Creation 1975-1985
Physical Description 1 scrapbook

Scope and Content

Contains flyers, invitations, mementos from venues, photographs, postcards, correspondence, negative images, publicity about a recording of a poem, statistics report on the reception of Open All Hours and a photograph of Ronnie Barker's father in front of a shop, possibly his grandfather's shop.


Porridge (Series), scrapbook

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407/1/1/9
Dates of Creation 1974-1984
Physical Description 1 scrapbook

Scope and Content

Contains photographs, press cuttings, correspondence from fans, negative images, statistics report on audience reception and Radio Times cover plate.


Seven of One (Series), scrapbook

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407/1/1/10
Dates of Creation 1973
Physical Description 1 scrapbook

Scope and Content

Contains invitations, press cuttings, photographs and correspondence from fans.


Six Dates with Barker (Series), scrapbook

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407/1/1/11
Dates of Creation 1971
Physical Description 1 scrapbook

Scope and Content

Contains press cuttings, invitations, correspondence regarding transmission times, photographs, a painting of character from a sketch and an invitation to a tribute luncheon for Harry Secombe at the Dorchester Hotel.


The Two Ronnies (Series 1), scrapbook

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407/1/1/12
Dates of Creation 1971-1972
Physical Description 1 scrapbook

Scope and Content

Contains press cuttings, negative images, photographs, correspondence from fans and invitations to events.


The Two Ronnies (Series 2), scrapbook

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407/1/1/13
Dates of Creation 1972
Physical Description 1 scrapbook

Scope and Content

Contains invitations, press cuttings, contact sheet cut outs, photographs, a map of Gidleigh Castle in Chagford, and postcards.


The Two Ronnies (Series 3, 4 & 5), scrapbook

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407/1/1/14
Dates of Creation 1973-1976
Physical Description 1 scrapbook

Scope and Content

Contains invitations, press cuttings, photographs, a sewing kit and writing paper from a Woodstock hotel, correspondence from fans, autographed travel tag, negative images and postcards.


The Two Ronnies (Series 6, 7 & 8), scrapbook

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/407/1/1/15
Dates of Creation 1977-1980
Physical Description 1 scrapbook

Scope and Content

Contains photographs, cuttings, correspondence from acquaintances and fans, a leaflet advertising the Shaftesbury hotel, and invitations.