This third series to run under the title of The Dickie Henderson Show aired on November 14 1960 and continued until March 1968 by which time Henderson had established himself as one of Britain's top all-round entertainers.
Similar in style to many US sitcoms of the time, the show was built around the star, who appeared as himself in a domestic comedy surrounded by (fictional) wife and child as well as many showbiz friends. The show could be likened in style to The Dick Van Dyke Show, but predated that particular series by almost a year. June Laverick appeared as the comedian's wife and they had a ten-year old son, John (John Parsons from series 1 to 5) and later Richard Jr (Danny Grover series 6 to 8). Apart from constantly being called on by his musical manager, Jack, the star also found time to entertain a host of guest artistes who appeared with episode-by-episode regularity and more often than not in character (as in the case of Raymond Francis of No Hiding Place).
Pint-sized Dickie Henderson was born in London in 1922 with show biz in his blood. His father, Dickie Henderson (Senior) was a Yorkshire born variety entertainer who had carved out a very successful career for his self. Henderson Junior made his own show business debut at the age of ten when he appeared in the Hollywood version of Noel Coward's 'Cavalcade.' In 1937 he was working for famous bandleader Jack Hylton and by 1938 he had joined forces with his sisters appearing on stage in Scotland in a music and dance act in which Dickie told jokes, danced, sang and performed acrobatics. The following years saw the Henderson Twins and Dickie performing in pantomimes and reviews around the country. However, the act broke up when the twins, Triss and Wyn, got married and Dickie decided to go it alone.
In 1951 he was invited to star at the London Palladium on a variety bill and won critical acclaim. Two years later he made his TV debut on the BBC's Face the Music before appearing on Arthur Askey's show Before Your Very Eyes. In 1955 Dickie added another string to his bow by playing the lead in the heart of London's West End theatre land in 'Teahouse of the August Moon', which ran for twelve months. He followed that with a three month cabaret date in America and in March 1956 appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. That same year Dickie Henderson Junior made his debut on the Royal Variety Performance, exactly 30 years after Dickie Henderson Senior had appeared before royalty. After becoming one of the regular comperes of 'Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium, Dickie was given his own series by ITV (although the first of these were broadcast as part of Val Parnell's Saturday Spectacular) and a follow-up series starred him alongside Anthea Askey (daughter of Arthur) and former boxing champ Freddie Mills, with scripts previously used by Sid Caesar in Your Show of Shows. With the next series scripted (mainly) by Jimmy Grafton things were going well for Dickie when tragedy struck. Dickie's wife, Dixie, died in 1963 just as the star was reaching the peak of his popularity and many felt as thought it may have ended his happy, family orientated series. However, Dickie continued ("It's always been a family show," he said "and one has to keep private and professional fronts separate.") until 1965.
It was three years before the series returned, by which time June Laverick had retired from show business and so Dickie was given a new wife, this time played by Isla Blair. The series was revived in 1970 as A Present for Dickie, 6 thirty-minute shows for which June Laverick came out of retirement to appear in the last episode only. Dickie Henderson died on 22 September 1985 just short of his 63rd birthday. His fellow professionals paid tribute to him the following year in a special two-hour show recorded at the Royal Theatre in London and broadcast on May 5 1986 as The Stars Entertain: A Tribute to Dickie Henderson OBE. A versatile all-round entertainer loved by his fellow professionals and the British public alike, Henderson's appeal spanned three decades and his life was perhaps best summed up by the title of his last stand-up show...'I'm Dickie - That's Showbusiness.'
Published on December 7th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.