Having previously appeared together in Our House, Charles Hawtrey and Hylda Baker were teamed up again (by the same production team) for a series of 13 half-hour sitcoms. Hawtrey played a bumbling clerk in a family run insurance business, much to the displeasure of his uncle, who, as owner of the company wanted nothing more than dispense with his nephew’s services, but due to family loyalty, could not. Baker was the owner of the café next door the insurance office and accompanied the wimpish and effete Charles (both characters had the same first name of the actors playing them) on his insurance assignments or whenever he felt put upon by Uncle Sidney (Henry Longhurst).
Whilst Baker would go on to become a stalwart of the British sitcom, Hawtrey didn’t appear in any further primetime TV comedies aside from a Carry On special (Carry On Christmas) and a brief appearance in Eric Sykes’ The Plank. But by the time he appeared in Best of Friends he already had a reputation as a heavy drinker (the following year, he allegedly passed out drunk whilst filming a scene for Carry On Spying). In 1965, Hawtrey’s mother passed away and, stricken by grief, he began drinking more heavily which eventually led to him being dropped from the Carry On series of films. After this Hawtrey mainly appeared in pantomime and radio although he did turn up in some TV productions, the last of which was the children’s series Super Gran (1987). Charles Hawtrey passed away the following year.
No episodes of Best of Friends survive in the archives, which may be a blessing in disguise. One critic, summing up the television year in 1963 remarked ‘ABC had saddled up a positively frightening thing called Best of Friends.’
Published on July 10th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.