Jimmy Clitheroe was a star of Variety, films, radio and television. Born in 1921, his career spanned five decades, from the 1930s to the 1970s, and he made his mark in every medium of show business.
Click here for details of Jimmy's films From small but humorous beginnings in Variety, as a boy in an all-girl juvenile troupe, he moved into films, firstly with Arthur Lucan (Old Mother Riley) and subsequently with George Formby, Jewel & Warriss and Frank Randle. The two films he made with Randle were for Film Studios (Manchester) Ltd, and are featured in a recent book.
In the 1940s he worked in Variety with comedians Albert Whelan and Albert Burdon, principally in the North of England, and most often in shows presented by John D Roberton or by Jack Taylor. He began working in Blackpool.
Jimmy as a young man He built an impressive reputation in Variety, and in Blackpool set a record for the number of appearances in summer season shows. He worked there with Frank Randle, Jimmy James and Ken Dodd, amongst others.
He also played in Pantomime. His first panto appearance was alongside Two Ton Tessie O’Shea in 1938. His final panto was in 1971.
In the mid-1950s, Jimmy Clitheroe moved into radio. His first appearance was on the Home Service, in comedian Jimmy James’s show ‘The Mayor’s Parlour’. He soon had his own series, ‘Call Boy’ - a Variety show.
Then came his biggest hit, ‘The Clitheroe Kid’. It ran for 15 years from 1957 on the Light Programme and Radio 2. It was the BBC’s longest-running situation comedy.
In the 1960s he broke into television, starring on ITV in ‘That’s My Boy’ and ‘Just Jimmy’ for 5 years from 1963 to 1968. Both shows were made by ABC Television. In the 1960s he also made his best remembered film, Rocket to the Moon, which he made in 1967 with Burl Ives and Terry-Thomas.
Coming from a background in the Variety theatre, his humour was broadly in the style of the St Trinians films and early Carry On pictures. His most famous catchphrase was “Don’t some mothers ’ave ’em” - though when referring to Alfie, it was often amended to “Don’t some twits mothers ’ave ’em”.
Another of his catchphrases was “I’m all there with me cough drops” (a Lancashire expression for someone quick-witted). When he got into a scrape - as he frequently did - his catchphrase was “Ooh, flippin’ ’eck”.
Blacko village He was born in Clitheroe, but his childhood was spent in the village of Blacko near Nelson, Lancs. His first stage appearances were in the local Methodist Chapel, performing in Sunday School concerts.
At the age of 14 he joined a professional juvenile troupe and began touring in Variety with them, under the stage name “Little Jimmie”.
He was the eternal schoolboy. He never grew taller than 4ft 3ins, and for most of his life he could easily pass for an 11-year-old boy, a role he played to the hilt.
He never told people his age, in case it spoiled the illusion, and always performed in schoolboy cap and blazer (even at radio recordings, for the benefit of the studio audience). He fostered the illusion by appearing in publicity stunts for his local Boy Scout troop (dressed as a wolf cub), by living with his mother after his father's death, and by seemingly never having a girlfriend.
It all helped to maintain his show business career, which was dependent on that illusion, as he almost always played a schoolboy - in the Variety theatres, in his films, on the wireless, on television, and on record.
He maintained the illusion successfully until his death. To the newspapers he always remained ‘the Peter Pan of Showbusiness’ - the little boy who never grew up.
Only in Pantomime, and his 1967 film, did he step out of the cheeky schoolboy role. Even then it was only to play Tom Thumb - another part for which he was eminently suited. But his most frequent Panto role was in “Aladdin”, where he reverted to the cheeky boy, playing Widow Twankey’s son Wishee Washee.
as quite a big name, he was very popular for public events. He opened a model village in Manchester, charity events and many fetes. He was also a racehorse owner along with a hotel and betting shops. His hotel was managed by of old friend, Tommy Trafford who was in the show business.
He was known to be careful with money which is beleived to come from growing up within the Great Depression. Ha has a quite private live living with his mother in a bungalow in Blackpool.
Jimmy died in 1973 just after the Spring Bank Holiday from an accidental sleeping pill overdose.