WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2007-10 > 1193660961
From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [WORLD-OBITS] GIFFORD: Denis Gifford
Date: Mon, 29 Oct 2007 12:29:21 -0000
Last Updated: 10:28pm BST 23/08/2001
DENIS GIFFORD, who has died aged 72, was Britain's foremost collector and
historian of comics.
Gifford wrote more than 50 books from The Best of Eagle (1989) to the
comprehensive British Film Catalogue 1895-1985 (1986). He also created
several popular programmes for radio and television including Looks
Familiar. But it was his collection of more than 20,000 comics that
dominated his life. The collection eventually took over his whole house
until he could not even open the oven.
After a bad experience with a comic in which the chewing gum given free with
it melted, he took to storing edible memorabilia such as Desperate Dan
nougat in the refrigerator.
Gifford himself drew for comics in the 1940s and 1950s. One of his strips
was Our Ernie, Mrs Entwistle's Lad, which always ended with Ernie saying
"What's for tea, Ma?" and Ernie's Dad observing "Daft, I call it." He also
drew Simon the Simple Sleuth.
He was a connoisseur of the visual conventions of comics: tramps with their
toes sticking out of their boots, or plutocrats wearing spats and lighting
cigars with pieces of paper marked "Fiver".
The British Film Catalogue took Gifford 20 years to compile, and listed
every film made in Britain for public entertainment, along with the stars
and directors. Some of the outline plots sound ludicrous enough: "Girl takes
sister's place when she deserts blinded scientist."
In order to compile the entries, Gifford pored through back copies of trade
newspapers, looking at every advertisement. He tracked down and interviewed
directors who had retired years before, such as the long-forgotten Lewin
Fitzhamon who made more than 600 films between 1904 and 1912. "He loved
children and animals," recalled Gifford, "and usually had dogs or ponies
rescuing babies from gypsies. He didn't like gypsies."
Denis Gifford was born in London on December 26 1927. As a boy, his parents
restricted him to two comics a week, but he started saving his bus fares to
buy his own, and would come home with them under his sweater.
They included the first issue of Dandy, from December 1937, with a free tin
whistle, but this was later lost when he was evacuated to Tonbridge, Kent.
On his return home, he was distraught to find his comic cupboard empty. His
mother pleaded innocence but she remained his prime suspect.
As a 14-year-old at Dulwich College, Gifford began drawing for Dandy, after
sending a comic strip to its publisher D C Thomson of Dundee. Each evening
after prep he would draw such characters as "Pansy Potter the Strong Man's
Daughter". His efforts caught the imagination of a boy in the year below
named Bob Monkhouse, who started to try his own hand at cartoons, leaving
them in Gifford's desk for his approval.
At first, Gifford greeted Monkhouse's approach coolly, but the two quickly
became friends and collaborators and produced their own comic. During the
final year of the war, Gifford served in the RAF, which at least allowed him
go to the cinema every night. He and Monkhouse went on tour in the South
East with the West Bees Concert Party, giving charity performances. He was
the comedian, Monkhouse the straight man.
After the war, Gifford drew cartoons for the London Evening News, Empire
State News and Sunday Despatch. He remained a freelance artist until the
1960s, when he began devising panel games for the wireless.
His greatest hit was Sounds Familiar, in which panellists had to guess the
origins of songs and soundtracks. In 1972, the programme crossed to
television as Looks Familiar, with clips now from video and film.
Gifford wrote the script for the comedian Derek Roy on the opening night of
ITV in 1955, and co-wrote the first comedy show to be screened by BBC2 in
1964, featuring the musical comedy group the Alberts in a 30-minute show. He
also devised stunts for the popular game show The Generation Game.
He collaborated with the film editor Dennis Drinkwater on several films for
Associated British/Path, including Highlight, a compilation of clips from
British musicals and Channel 99, set in a fictional television station.
Meanwhile his comic collection continued to grow. He was particularly fond
of Christmas numbers. "I loved the way the snow used to hang over the title
on the front page and the last page was always a Christmas party," he
recalled. "And there were bunches of holly in the corners of the pictures."
In 1976, he organised the first British Comics Convention, attended by some
250 dealers and comic artists. There were gaps in his collection, however,
such as the 12-issue comic that the shoe shop Lilley & Skinner gave away
free to customers (he recalled his mother telling him as a boy how senseless
it would be to buy a pair of shoes simply to get a free comic).
His books included such titles as Laughter in the Air (1979) Run, Adolf, Run
(1975, a compilation of cartoons from the war), The Best of Girl Annual
(1952-1959), Monsters of the Movies (1977), The Great Cartoon Stars (1979),
The Complete Catalogue of British Comics (1985) and many more. He was an
invaluable source of information for social historians.
Last year, Gifford and Bob Monkhouse collaborated on a two-part radio show A
Hundred Laughs for a Ha'penny, a history of comic papers. Denis Gifford was
briefly married during the 1970s, and had a daughter.
|[WORLD-OBITS] GIFFORD: Denis Gifford by "Peter McCrae" <>|