Veteran actor, comedian and scriptwriter John Junkin worked with stars such as Morecambe and Wise, Marty Feldman, Ronnie Barker and Spike Milligan and acted in many television dramas, including Penmarric, Out and All Creatures Great and Small. He also starred in EastEnders, playing Ernie, a mysterious stranger who suddenly appeared at the Queen Vic. His own television comedy series Junkin ran for four seasons and his cult radio show, 'Hello Cheeky,' also transferred to television. In 1969 he hosted the panel game Give Me Your Word.
An influential figure in the world of comedy during the sixties and seventies, he wrote scripts for shows such as The Army Game, The World of Beachcomber, Queenie’s Castle, plus scripts for many top comedians, including Ted Ray, Jim Davidson, Bob Monkhouse and Mike Yarwood.
John Junkin was born in Ealing, West London on January 29, 1930. Educated locally, he worked as a teacher in the East End of London but said he hated the job. In 1960 he joined Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop at Stratford East and was in the original cast of Littlewood’s production of Sparrers Can’t Sing with Barbara Windsor.
Throughout the sixties and seventies, he was one of the busiest men on television, both as performer and scriptwriter. He appeared in Till Death Us Do Part (1966-75), Sam and Janet (1967/8), On the House (1970/1) and together, with writing partner Tim Brooke-Taylor, wrote and appeared in the BBC series The Rough and the Smooth. The comedian Marty Feldman won the Golden Rose of Montreux Award with a Junkin script in 1972 and with Barry Cryer and others, Junkin contributed to many of the Morecambe and Wise specials for ITV. He also wrote, with Bill Tidy, The Fosdyke Saga, and The Grumbleweeds for radio.
For many years he voiced ‘Mr Shifter’, one of the Brooke Bond PG Tips chimps, which gained an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest running television commercial. He had a prolific career in the cinema playing a variety of straight and comic roles and described himself as easy to cast: “I look like the bloke next door,” he said. “I always seem to be wearing one of those sheepskin coats.” His many film credits included 'Doctor in Love' (1960), 'Heavens Above!' (1963), with Peter Sellers, 'The Knack' (1965), 'A Handful of Dust' (1988) and 'Chicago Joe and the Showgirl' (1990). But his most famous appearance was as one of the Beatles' tour managers in the 1964 hit 'A Hard Day's Night'.
In the latter part of his career, Junkin became disillusioned with showbusiness, particularly television. He spoke out publicly against ‘alternative’ comedy He said: “The new generation running television today has forgotten how to make people laugh.” He fell out with a producer - he never revealed which one - over the writing of a game show for which he had devised the format. Litigation cost him £70,000 and he was also in debt to the taxman to the tune of £120,000. He did, however, return to scriptwriting and contributed to The Crazy World of Joe Pasquale (1998) and The Impressionable Jon Culshaw (2004) and he was much in demand as an after dinner speaker.
Junkin had been suffering from lung cancer, emphysema and asthma and died at the Florence Nightingale House in Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Close friend, former Radio 1 disc jockey Dave Lee Travis, said: “If you were in conversation with John, you were always in a state of hilarity. He had no airs and graces.” John Junkin died on March 7, 2006, aged 76.
Published on March 13th, 2020. Written by Noel Onely for Television Heaven.