Documentary about Britain's greatest satirist Peter Cook, with unprecedented access to his private recordings, diaries, letters, photographs and much more.
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This programme contains very strong language and adult humour.
I just read, er, in a magazine
the most incredible thing,
that apparently, er, marmalade, in large doses -
and when I say large doses, I mean, you know, small doses -
can be fatal, cos they, er, seize up the, er, cardiac system
and give influctions.
Yeah, well, there's a lot of truth in that
cos too much vitamin C can diminish your sexual potency
and I read that in the National Star.
And what I think the professor was making the point of was that, um...
Are you saying that food is dangerous?
Well, let's put it this way. Not all food is dangerous
but there are certain kinds of food that are dangerous.
Sugar, for example.
Especially combined with salt.
If you have a cup of sugar and salt, I mean,
you might as well kiss goodbye to tomorrow cos, um...
But the point that Dr Slazenger says is that...
Because anything you eat is deadly
and the best thing to eat is nothing.
And I think you have to reach a slight compromise.
I mean, that makes sense, doesn't it?
Peter Cook is widely regarded as the greatest figure
in modern British comedy.
Writer, performer, proprietor of Private Eye magazine
and The Establishment Club, he dominated British comedy for decades
on television, radio, theatre, print and film.
Few have had a glimpse at Peter Cook's private world
because, after his untimely death - he was just 57 -
Peter's grief-stricken wife, Lin, closed up his Hampstead house,
leaving it like a time capsule, full of comedic treasure.
This front door has remained firmly locked for two decades.
Lin has resisted all offers to allow the cameras in, until now.
And so it is that we go through the keyhole.
Past the wall with Peter's Derek and Clive graffiti on it.
Past the EL Wisty-inspired hat stand.
Through the dining room,
where Peter and Dudley recorded their improvisations
or stared blankly at the garden for inspiration.
Up the precarious stairs - well, occasionally precarious for Peter.
To his study and his bookshelves,
which reveal a very eclectic mind indeed.
And scattered around the study, as they have been since he died,
are such gems as home videos, diaries, family snapshots, letters,
rehearsal tapes and much, much more.
What follows isn't a biography of Peter Cook.
We've all seen plenty of those before.
Instead, we're offering a glimpse of Peter's private world
and clips from programmes that have not been broadcast
since their original transmission.
Many of our best and funniest finds were domestic audio recordings
made by Peter alone, or with Dudley
and, as you've already seen, we've animated some of these.
There's no stopping the man! He's doing ME now! This is...
The first thing that we almost literally stumbled on
was this suitcase which contains memories
of Peter's childhood and adolescence.
And most interesting is this ancient 16mm home movie, shot in the 1930s.
Peter was born on 17th November, 1937,
into a middle-class civil service family.
He never made any secret of his comfortable background,
but these never before broadcast pictures show that his origins were
very much at the upper end of the middle class.
I come from an upper middle class background
and I'm not ashamed of it.
A better start in life. I had a better start in life.
He was brought up in a big house with gardeners, nannies...
..and social functions
that would have impressed even Lord Peter Wimsey.
Peter was educated at public school, Radley College,
and in this rare interview with his mother,
we discover that the schoolboy Peter was a million miles
from the man who created Derek and Clive.
-Mrs Cook, Mrs Peter Cook.
As a little boy, you say your Peter was interested
-in snakes and reptiles.
-Yes, very much.
And you don't know whether he's still interested or not.
-Does that mean you don't see him at all?
-Yes, of course I do,
but I think he's still fond of them but more distantly.
We have a picture of him coming up there. He looks very innocent there.
He doesn't look like the little lad who later learnt to shock...
-I mean, he shocks a lot of people, your Pete, doesn't he?
He was rather shy and retiring when he was young.
-When did all this change and why?
-I don't know. I don't know at all.
You didn't drop, did you, or something like that?
-Of course not!
-Where did he live as a child?
Well, in Torquay and we were in West Africa half the time.
-What were you doing there?
-My husband was propping up the Empire.
-The bit that was left before it...?
-Did it fall over when he left?
No! Nearly, not quite.
No, he was a district officer there and we had to be away rather a lot.
-So he was with grannies.
Inside the same suitcase are school photos,
a school yearbook that reveals Peter the academic,
having won three scholarships in a single year,
even though he later claimed to have done no work at all.
I mean, my last year at Radley was incredible
cos I passed my exams to Cambridge.
I was just staying on there because there was nothing better to do.
I used to have breakfast in bed, brought to me, shoes polished,
study cleaned, everything like that.
And you were allowed certain privileges.
I used to go to the pictures a lot in Oxford.
There was nothing for me to do academically.
He then spent a year on the Continent,
books about Germany and France reflecting the time he spent abroad,
studying languages in preparation for Cambridge University.
We also found this rather dapper monogrammed grooming case,
revealing traces of Brylcreem stuck to letters to and from the BBC,
like this one, where Peter attempts to get work on BBC television.
"Dear Mr Titheradge, I wanted to know if it's possible
"for a spare-time scriptwriter to write occasional sketches
"for television comedy programmes.
"I enclose a short sketch about shirts and this time,
"I've carefully avoided writing with any particular comedian in mind."
Also in the case is a hit of 1957, a record of Peggy Sue,
a song Peter loved so much that some years later,
he recorded his own version.
We found two tapes of this - one with his vocal only...
# Ba, ba, ba, ba, ba. # That's a bit loud.
# If you...
# If you knew Peggy Sue
# Then you'd know why I feel blue about... #
And the other one with backtrack,
painstakingly restored here together for the first time.
# If you knew Peggy Sue
# Then you'd know why I feel blue
# About Peggy
# My Peggy Sue
# Well, I love you, girl
# Yes, I love you, Peggy Sue.. #
Frankly, we wondered why we bothered.
Ow, ooh, I'm out of breath. Christ!
PETER CLEARS HIS THROAT
Peter and particularly Dudley railed against the BBC
for having lost most of the episodes of Not Only... But Also.
There's a whole lot of people who haven't seen those programmes.
I think this is one thing Peter and I both feel badly about,
that I think the BBC erased all of our tapes.
-Thank you and goodnight!
-Have they really?
-Yeah, I think they erased the whole bloody lot.
I can't imagine... I mean, some idiot...
But we tracked down the audio from an obsessive fan
who hotwired his TV set,
electrocuting himself in the process,
and recorded them as they aired in the 1960s.
And we also tracked down some silent films from various sources,
including old film cans from the trails department
at ABC TV in Australia and we joined the bits together.
Now, is this the sort of suit one can smoke marijuana in?
You're planning to get...
You're planning to be stoned out your mind, are you, sir?
Well, Basil told me it was going to be a rave and I want something...
LAUGHTER DROWNS OUT SPEECH
Er, I wish you wouldn't do that.
-Er, I think that's rather nice, sir.
-I like it.
Er, the only thing that strikes me is that it is a trifle effeminate.
Effeminate? I wouldn't say it was effeminate.
-I would say it was effeminate, yes.
-I wouldn't say it was effeminate.
-I just said it IS effeminate.
It is effeminate.
Well, you know, sir, we had Max Schmeling, the boxer, in here
the other day, sir, and he went away with a replica of this very suit
and I wouldn't call HIM effeminate, would you, sir?
Max Schmeling. No, I wouldn't call him effeminate.
I wouldn't call Max Schmeling effeminate.
I wouldn't call him effeminate, no.
He's not effeminate. He's never been near a woman in his life.
He wouldn't touch one, you know.
It really worries me, this effeminate thing,
because my wife is extremely effeminate, you know.
A ghastly business. I don't know where she picks it up.
She sort of goes flim-flamming about the place. It's most frustrating.
Yes, well, we don't want people having difficulty
-trying to distinguish between the pair of you, do we?
-Would you like one bent at the back, sir?
-If you have one, yes.
-Do you fancy the thin one?
-Well, she can be yours in a matter of moments, Dud.
If you just play your cards right. The thin one?
All you have to do is go up to her,
say something ironic to establish your amazing masculinity, you see.
-Go up. She's fairly thin, isn't she?
Well, say something ironic, like, "Hello, fatty."
-Being an ironic comment on the fact she's thin.
Then say to her in a rough, brutal way, like James Cagney used to do,
go up to her and say, "How about a bit of passionate love with me?"
Do you think that will work?
Well, I should think so, yeah. Just be very masculine, aggressively so.
-I'll try, shall I?
Hello, fat face! How about... What?
A bit of passionate love with me.
How about a bit of passionate love with me then?
-What happened, Dud?
-She slapped my face, Pete.
-Well, you're away, aren't you?
Physical contact after such a brief meeting, yes.
That's the way to do it, Dud.
Now you've got to play it extremely cool.
Why don't we go upstairs and ignore them for about ten stops?
-Play it cool?
-Play it cool. That's the only way to do it, Dud.
All right then.
Do you find in any way that you've been affected adversely
by the credit squeeze?
I know that businessmen up and down the country
are being forced to take drastic slashes.
We also tracked down parts of this episode,
featuring Peter Sellers, not seen since 1965,
and was considered lost for 40 years,
until being rediscovered in the USA
in the Library of Congress's film stores
and then returned to the BBC.
It's never been rebroadcast on television.
Here in the studio tonight, we have Mr Danny Gough,
the boxer who has turned portrait painter,
and who is having his first show in London in Regent Street.
Mr Gough... Mr Gough...
Mr Gough, could I tear you away for a moment from your...
Would you like to sit down for a while?
-Thank you very much.
Er, Mr Gough, I am particularly interested to know
what led you to leave the ring
and enter the highly competitive world of portrait painting.
Well, it was about two years ago,
I was, er, fighting Killer Cain
and I'm afraid I wasn't altogether in trim, you see.
Oh, I had a few pints before the night, didn't I?
And he got in with a left in the third round.
Right on the button he got me, so I went down.
As I was sort of lying there, wasn't I?
-He was lying there.
I was lying there and I saw this,
this thin trickle of blood coming out of my left nostril
onto the canvas and suddenly I become aware of what I had in me.
-Er, blood, that is.
-No, I mean, no, no...
-No, not that.
No, it opened up a window in my mind.
-My vistas was enlarged.
-I didn't know that.
-Yes, very painful too.
And I saw a whole new world of creativity in front of me
-and I've been on the canvas ever since, ain't I?
Mr Gough, this is your first show here in London,
but I think I'm right in saying that you have had an exhibition
-in the provinces before this.
-Oh, yeah, yeah.
-You had an exhibition in the provinces?
-Yeah, I have, yeah.
I suppose you could say, you see,
-that this show is in the nature of a sort of comeback for me.
You don't agree, then, with critics of this kind of work,
who say that your kind of painting can damage the brain?
No, I don't, I don't.
-No, I definitely don't say that.
-You wouldn't agree with that.
I notice you're wearing these rather thick pebble glasses.
Is that in any way connected with your painting?
Well, that's because I've got myoprics of the eyes.
I've got myoprics in the eyes here
and they also help to...
They also help, you see, to stop the paint coming in the eye.
Of course, I believe a lot of painters have, in fact, suffered
from this similar disease, have they not?
-Tintoretto, wasn't it?
-I believe Tintoretto was astigmatic.
Well, we're going to look very shortly
at one of Mr Gough's latest paintings.
By the way, who is this person here you're painting?
-What are you talking about, "Who is it?"
-Who is this person?
The Archbishop of Canterbury! "Who is it?"
It's the Archbishop of Canterbury.
It's the Archbishop of Canterbury, is it? Yes.
-Of course it's the Archbishop of Canterbury.
-Yes, of course it is.
And this Late Night Line-Up from June, 1967,
where Peter discovered that the then controller of BBC2,
David Attenborough, was in the audience,
and Peter acted accordingly.
They must be out of their minds.
But we must proffer our heartfelt congratulations
-to Mr David Attenborough here...
-Bless his heart.
-Bless his heart.
-Bless his cotton socks.
..who moved on from the heady world
of making wonderful documentary films
about the mating habits of Armand and Michaela Denis...
And moving over here, we see David Attenborough.
Now, David, I feel kind of bashful being confronted
by a person who's surrounded by red tablecloths, like you are.
But one thing I'd like to ask you, because I'm on a sort of percentage,
is why you smoke Silk Cut Benson & Hedges cigarettes.
They're the only ones I could steal.
They're the only ones he could steal.
And that's a fact, ladies and gentlemen, and you can't deny it.
We always hoped to find some forgotten fragments
of Peter's comedy during our visit to the house,
but what we unearthed exceeded all expectations.
Once we'd reassembled the tapes in these boxes, dated New York, 1964,
and had painstakingly stuck the edited pieces back together again,
we realised that we'd struck gold.
This is an entire unknown album by Peter and Dudley,
the Dead Sea Tapes, recorded in New York in late 1963
and edited for release early in 1964, but long thought to be lost.
The recordings were mentioned in the American press
but Peter and Dudley were worried
that they might be prosecuted for blasphemy,
which was a serious criminal offence in those pre-Life Of Brian days.
So, they decided not to release the tapes.
Peter Cook later recalled them in this never before aired interview.
We once, in 1963, when we were in New York with Beyond The Fringe,
we went into Capitol Studios
and, on the very same basis as the Derek and Clive records,
we did an adlib session which - I suppose about five hours of it -
which I called the Dead Sea Tapes.
The Dead Sea Scrolls had just been discovered
and they are adlibbed things by people who knew Jesus.
-As doctors, we think...
-We think the whole thing...
-..was a little unfair...
-..on the general practitioner.
-To say the least, it was a little unorthodox.
-Yes, yes, yes.
-Blast! I'm sorry.
We were made to look absolute idiots.
I mean, it's all very well, these gratuitous miracles,
but it's all very well for the people who were cured, you see.
-But it left the doctors
with a considerable amount of scrambled eggs on their faces.
-Yes, yes, yes.
-You see, I went round, for instance,
-to see Lazarus's mother...
..and I explained to her, I said,
-"Your son, madam, is absolutely incurable."
And the next moment, this fellow was round,
cured the boy in a flash and left me looking absolutely ridiculous.
-I mean, I couldn't get another call for weeks, you see.
-And very soon after that,
I went down with an attack of the creeping habdabs,
through getting nothing to eat...
-..and, er, I...
I tried to get hold of this fellow
-and see if he could work one of his blasted miracles on me.
-And, er, you know what he said to me?
-He said, "Physician, heal thyself."
-Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.
I do wish you wouldn't keep on saying, "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes."
I'm sorry, it's an incurable disease I have.
Oh, I see. I'm sorry.
For an agnostic and a sceptic, if not downright atheist,
Peter's bookshelves are surprisingly peppered
with volumes on spirituality and religion,
a subject which perplexed him throughout his life.
Religion is at the very core of his most successful film, Bedazzled,
in which he plays an incarnation of the devil.
What a dreary thing to do. I hope you're proud of yourself.
It was pride that got me into this.
I used to be an angel, you know,
-up in heaven.
-You used to be God's favourite, didn't you?
"I love Lucifer", it was, in those days.
With me in the studio is the devil himself, alias Peter Cook.
-What sort of religious views do you have, if any?
I have very muddled religious views. I was brought up Church of England,
I went to a school where I went to a daily service in a surplice,
and so I was fairly inundated with religion early on.
And I'm very confused about it all.
Um, how is it that on every count, in the 20th century,
the devil is winning hands down?
Is this just the weakness of the human race?
And why are we created so ill-equipped
to deal with the situation we're thrust into without being asked?
And if there IS a God which I believe in or will believe in,
he's a forgiving and understanding God
and I shall be able to get away with what I do in this world.
Bedazzled in an hilarious retelling of the Faust myth,
with the devilish Peter trying to tempt Dudley
into selling his soul, while simultaneously playing
pathetic and malicious pranks on humanity.
THEY BOTH LAUGH
Here, that's terrible.
But, I mean, apart from the way he moves, what's God really like?
-I mean, what colour is he?
-He's all colours of the rainbow, many-hued.
-But he IS English, isn't he?
-Oh, yes, very upper-class.
Course his son had a lot of problems,
having such a famous father.
Yeah, I always feel sorry for Jesus having his birthday
on Christmas Day, you know, just one lot of presents.
This interview, recorded on the set of Bedazzled,
was only ever broadcast once, half a century ago,
and only in the London area,
so chances are you've never seen it before.
For the filmmaker,
heaven comes in all sorts of different shapes and sizes.
For producer-director Stanley Donen,
who is currently making his latest comedy, Bedazzled,
in various parts of London,
this is his idea of heaven - the gardens of Syon Park in Middlesex.
As I said, these are the gardens and somewhere back there,
for the purposes of the story, is God.
Well, now today, I've come to Stanley Donen's heaven
to meet what must surely be the most unlikely visitor
ever to come here and that is the devil himself.
Peter Cook, we've seen you playing the devil many times before
on television and the cinema, but this, surely,
is the first time you've ever PLAYED the devil, isn't it?
Yes, I've been longing for the opportunity.
My wife has always said that I AM the devil.
She thinks I'm an emissary of the devil.
At last I've got the opportunity to play myself. Very nice, too.
-What's the devil doing in heaven?
-Well, he always was in heaven.
Lucifer was God's favourite angel in the old days,
sat around, adoring God.
But after a while, he got fed up with it and wanted to be like God
and was cast out, I thought rather harshly, for the sin of pride,
which we all have, to a great extent - certainly I do.
And now, after thousands and thousands of years of tempting,
doing his job, making the world miserable,
he's fed up with it and he wants to go back to heaven again
and sit in the garden, have a nice time and praise the Lord again.
Who, specifically, do you tempt in this film?
Oh, in this film, my main tempting activities
are centred round Dudley Moore,
who is not a difficult figure to tempt, as you can well imagine.
Having already succumbed to every temptation
in the history of mankind, he's well at home doing this.
This sounds, to me, very much like the Faust theme.
I'd have thought that by now,
we'd had every conceivable variation on that particular theme.
It's your 20th-century Faust we're doing. Well, I don't know.
I think it's a fascinating theme. That's why it's been done so often.
Um, I've never seen it done funnily.
They're all sort of rather serious things about scholars,
you know, wishing to find the secret of life and so on.
This is very much a comedy version.
I don't think we've had a Faust theme
with Raquel Welch in it before, playing Lust.
I don't think we've had a Faust theme
with a cast of a thousand nuns.
And, in many ways, I think it's very different from any other.
-I certainly hope so.
-I'd like to ask you about this
because, in many of your TV sketches, heaven and, in fact, nuns,
seem to feature pretty prominently.
What is it about these two things that, you know,
to you, make them good comedy material?
Well, I'm hoping to get to heaven and find out as much about it.
I think, um, religion is,
for me, one of the most fascinating subjects. I explore it in...
I'm not a very religious person but I'm very interested in it
and I don't think it's ever been treated in a really funny way -
not a disrespectful way, but just exploring the funny things
that happen to people in a religious context...
-PLANE FLIES OVERHEAD
-..such as this bleeding plane
-going over now.
-Is that sent by the devil
or is it part of God's plan to drown out the interview? Nobody knows.
-Um, I think this sort of voice would be good, do you?
-God bless him.
-What the bloody hell do we say at this point?
-Improvise only is what you do.
Hello, this the Queen of England speaking.
I'd like you all to go and see the new film Bedazzled,
produced and directed by Stanley Donen,
starring Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Raquel Welch as Lust.
Pete, that didn't sound very much like the Queen of England, you know.
-I thought it was a very good imitation.
-No, very poor.
Go and see Bedazzled, there's good subjects.
Peter Cook and Dudley Moore can be blamed for everything else.
-Including this commercial.
-PETER BLOWS HIS NOSE
-Don't blow your nose on air.
But Peter's projects didn't always meet with universal success,
as this next tape we discovered in his desk drawer reminds us.
In February, 1971, Peter briefly hosted a chat show
for BBC television, entitled Where Do I Sit?
It was anarchic and unpredictable and, while some viewers loved it,
others hated it and BBC management soon became very nervous.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen,
and welcome to the most relaxed show on British television.
After three editions, the show was axed
and no tapes were thought to have survived,
but we tracked down Peter's audio cassettes
of some of the short-lived series.
Here is the opening of the second show,
with Peter happily reading out some of the no-nonsense abuse
he'd received after the first show.
Last week, we did the first show and we had
a record number of enquiries, as you could politely call it,
to the duty officer of the BBC, including my own enquiry.
I'd like to read a few of them.
"I like his programmes, but not him. He is hopeless."
"This is the biggest load of organised crap I have ever seen.
"Never mind my name."
Be in touch, never mind my name,
because I never knew the crap was organised!
And this is an especially good one. "I would love to get at him..."
-"I would love to get at him.
"It is so easy to mock and pick on people."
We also found this from the first show -
Peter's rendition of the Elvis Presley classic...
-# Well, bless my soul, what's wrong with me? #
-..All Shook Up.
# I'm itching like a man on a fuzzy tree
# My friends say I'm actin' wild as a bug
# I'm in love, I'm all shook up
# Yeah, yeah, yeah... #
-You hosted a chat show once, many moons ago.
-Yes, I did, yes.
I was wondering if you got any public reaction to it at all.
Yes, the public reaction was that I should desist...
..from hosting a chat show.
Um, one of the main problems I found, as an interviewer,
was an inability to hear what the other person was saying.
And if I did, no interest in it whatsoever either.
This extract of him phoning a viewer live,
who had complained about the show,
suggests that it was simply years ahead of its time,
with Peter's anarchic approach being far too dangerous and edgy
for the BBC in the early 1970s.
-You were watching last week, weren't you?
And you disliked it very much.
'Yeah, I thought you were a colossal bore.'
-'It's all right. I probably am myself.'
-You probably are yourself?
-'Yeah, oh, definitely.'
-It's nice to talk to you.
Somebody, in a letter to me the other week, said I was pissed.
-You sound a bit gone yourself.
-'You're right, I do.'
-OK, bye-bye. Nice to talk to you.
-'Yeah, nice to talk to you.'
-What a hypocrite!
Nice to talk to me?! Why does he say it's nice to talk to me?
-He hates me!
Two weeks after it began,
Peter's ground-breaking and anarchic show was unceremoniously axed
and was replaced in the schedules by...
MUSIC: Theme to Parkinson
Some say that Peter Cook's greatest creation is EL Wistey.
Some say it was Pete and Dud.
But for a generation of comedy writers and performers,
Derek and Clive was the equivalent of punk rock -
iconoclastic, deliberately offensive and very funny.
For those of you who are offended by very, very bad language,
you may wish to press the mute button
or leave the house for the next couple of minutes
or sing aloud an improving hymn.
I wrote to whatever the fucking name is of the head of the fucking BBC.
-Yeah, that's right.
-That's it, yeah.
I put, "Cunt, London" - I knew that would find him.
"Cunt, London. TV Centre."
Not even "TV Centre". I don't have to put TV...
"Cunt, London" and it reaches the Director General of the BBC,
-you can be certain of that.
-So, I said to him, "Dear Cunt..."
-"Your fucking crew came round my fucking place last night
"and tried to film me fucking masturbating
"and I did it perfectly well the first take
"and they said they'd got a fucking hair in the gate
"and I'm paying 25 quid a fucking year
"to have a fucking colour licence
"and this is the fucking service I get?"
And I said, "If we have any more Joyce Grenfell repeats,
"I'll come round to the TV Centre..."
-"Beat you to death with a horn!"
-"Beat you to death with my horn!"
I'll get my fucking horn out
and beat the whole fucking TV Centre down.
-I'll fucking raze it with my knob.
-And what reply did I get?
-So, I sent round, "Bear it in mind" - get the sarcasm of that.
-Yeah, what cunts.
-The subtle sarcasm of it. "Bear it in mind."
Bear it up your arse, mate.
One of the boxes we discovered
contained another cassette of a home recording made by Peter,
seemingly post Pete and Dud,
and more like a prototype version of Derek and Clive,
cranking up the bad language and markedly far beyond
what was acceptable by British broadcasters in the early '70s.
And even today, it's still pretty close to the bone.
Well, anyway, have you got anything in the pipeline
as regards a job at all?
Well, as I said, I've been down the labour exchange.
There's nothing much good going. I've had one offer.
-Yeah, what's that?
-One fucking offer. Eating shit.
How does that appeal to you?
-Well, you know, I think, at a pinch, I'll take it.
-At least it's regular.
-Yeah, yeah, you're right there.
After years of Pete and Dud being acceptable family entertainment,
they finally broke free of those restrictions,
revelling in their own transgressions.
Here is a never released extract from Derek and Clive.
Oh, I had a terrible time during the war, you know.
Hold on. Ah!
You all right there?
-I had a dreadful time during the war, you know.
-Yeah, I was in, I was in espionage.
-I was an undercover agent
-for the British government.
And I had to infiltrate behind the German lines
-and get into Hitler's household.
-DUDLEY CLEARS HIS THROAT
Yeah, oh, yeah. I had to get into his arsehole - that was worse!
No, cos that is amazing I never met you,
-cos my job was to pose as his toothbrush, you see.
-I was Hitler's toothbrush.
-You were Hitler's toothbrush?
Yes, throughout the war, you know, every morning, every night,
I used to be put inside his mouth and I sort of spied...
After these were filmed and the records released,
the Home Secretary himself received calls
for the pair to be prosecuted for obscenity.
The mighty combination of the West Yorkshire and Wolverhampton
obscene publication police squads
called for Peter and Dudley to be arrested.
Oh, and the BBC banned it too.
Oh, and so did Mary Whitehouse, in her own sweet way.
Not too long after the dust had settled over Derek and Clive,
Peter met the woman who would be his wife for the rest of his life.
Lin told us about her own background before she met Peter.
My dad was a professional gambler. Is that a good start?
-It's a good start.
Better than most interviews!
I've never heard of one of them.
I'd love to tell the story of how I met.
I happened to be a guest one weekend at a country house, Stocks in Tring.
At Stocks, there's a games room and late one evening,
I was playing backgammon with one of the other guests,
when Peter stumbled in...
..very drunk and came straight to where I was playing backgammon,
moved the pieces about,
asking at the same time, "Who's winning?"
I bought my first home in Hampstead in the '70s,
about four years before I met Peter.
I'm quite proud to say that that was my home,
that nobody can think that I was after Peter for his money.
And Peter was walking right past the entrance with an armful of books.
This time he talked to me as though I was an old friend,
invited me to see his house, which was close to mine,
and when I went in, I had such a shock.
I have never seen a house like his.
I went, "Oh, a terrible mess,"
And, er, I had such a shock because the kitchen sink was full,
the sideboards were all covered with things,
you could not get into the utility room
and upstairs, there were plates on the floor,
the books were all this way and that way
and when he showed me the upstairs, the cupboard doors were open,
the drawers were pulled out, there were clothes on the floor...
And I just said to him, "If a burglar broke in,
"he would think your house has already been done."
If he wanted a snack, he would just open a can of baked beans
with mash that he made - instant mash.
They tasted good. I'm eating that now. My daughter loves it too.
Our friendship gradually developed into a relationship
and, some years later, led to us getting married.
I never asked him to divorce his wife,
although I left him several times.
It was his choice when he decided that he loved me enough
and cared for me enough to want to be married.
We always kept our own houses.
Sometimes we lived at Peter's house, sometimes in mine
and that seemed to work for us,
because we were friends for a year and a half
before we were a relationship.
Previous biographies of Peter have characterised him
as a tortured genius
and the latter part of his life as a massive decline.
It's a cliche we all like to hear about comedians,
but the reality is, of course, more nuanced.
True, Peter was sometimes a distant and selfish drunk.
And out of the blue, I asked him, "Why do you drink so much?"
And his answer was the last thing I expected.
He just said, "Despair, really."
But what's not known is that he had long periods off the booze,
once up to seven months, and he attended the local AA in Hampstead.
During these bouts of sobriety,
he showed Lin his tender and romantic side,
as clearly demonstrated by these hand-written notes,
which he regularly left for her.
He was very romantic and tender,
different from the cynical and shocking person.
He used to leave notes for me all around the house, like these ones.
He drew a picture with a bubble, "I love you."
And below it, "Still courting you after all these years.
"Husband who feels so much better when you are home."
"Your loving husband." And then lots of crosses.
"Darling, I love you so much, sorry I'm so miserable."
And the other one which also means a lot to me was...
"When you smile, my heart leaps. Please don't ever leave me.
"I couldn't bear it."
And now he's left me, I'm finding it hard to bear as well.
And for a seemingly cynical man,
he was capable of making grand romantic gestures.
I was woken up by a call from Peter,
asking me to look out of the hotel room.
And, to my amazement, when I opened the window and looked out,
he had scribbled...
.."PC loves LC" in huge letters on the sand,
huge letters on the sand. I couldn't believe my eyes.
Unimaginable that Peter could do such a thing.
And of course, the rest of the day, all I had were comments
from the wives about how romantic Peter was and...
Nearly all the women were saying
they wished their husband was like that,
boldly expressing love for the wife in large letters on the sand.
John Cleese was one of Peter's closest friends. Probably...
John was probably the friend who loved Peter the most
out of all of Peter's friends, including Dudley.
And one year, John invited a group of people to his house...
..and surprised everybody by saying
that he was inviting 40 friends to join him on a trip down the Nile.
BACKGROUND HUBBUB AND CHATTER
This trip was called, by John Cleese,
the Fish Called Wanda royalties party cruise,
a 15-day journey down the Nile on the Royal Rhapsody,
given, amazingly generously, all expenses paid,
by Cleese to 40 of his closest friends,
many from the world of comedy, including, as seen here,
a 32-year-old Stephen Fry who, somewhat typically,
chose Billy Bunter On The Nile, which he read in daily instalments.
"Billy Bunter turned his big spectacles
"on the gesticulating Moustafa with an alarmed blink."
Interspersed with a Nile-inspired fashion show...
This is Peter as the Invisible Sphinx...
..followed by a mock BBC interview
that could never have made it to PM.
Excuse me, could I just have a few words for the benefit...?
We're from the BBC and we just wondered if you would...
Could you just outline the events leading up to the present situation?
Further Billy Bunter readings by Stephen Fry...
"Goading, mocking thief, I beat with a stick, yes..."
Some no-nonsense belly dancing, or in this case beer-belly dancing.
During the trip,
Peter invented a new ball game, which he took very seriously.
-No! 1 point.
The game is a game of skill, strength,
cunning and not, not decisions.
It's a question of making the balls - las balones or los bollocos -
los bollocos have to go flying between the aluminium hoops.
Should they traverse the aluminium hoops successfully,
without touching said hoops, 3 points the score.
Are you playing, John?
This is known as a strike, this is known as a nothing.
I am also known as a nothing, hence...
-IN AMERICAN ACCENT:
This broadcast has been brought to you
by the Pepsidon Pepsi Cola company,
in association with the Dallas Memorial Fund.
And a championship between the waiting staff
and the celebrity guests.
-Yes, yes, yes, yes!
More Billy Bunter readings by Stephen Fry...
"Hassan gave a cough."
HE CLEARS THROAT
Later, Peter found time to have some fun and games
with a loaded gun belonging to a security guard.
This, of course, was back in the day
when you could still joke about such things.
-Is it loaded?
-Yes, it IS loaded.
And, for a bribe, Peter persuaded the security guard to attempt
a half-hearted arrest on an unruffled John Cleese.
Earlier, we heard an interview
acclaiming that Peter had an obsession with nuns.
In many of your TV sketches, heaven and, in fact, nuns
seem to feature pretty prominently.
We were unsure if that were true,
but swayed when we explored the house.
From the garden can be seen the quasi-ecclesiastical windows
and when we went up to the rooftop,
we discovered that his house directly overlooks a convent.
Looking through the archive,
it's clear that Peter missed no opportunity
to stick Dudley into a wimple and a habit, and himself, come to that.
Well, it all began in the 14th or 15th century.
It had its origins there, you know, when St Beryl,
who was the daughter of St Vitus, the well-known dancer...
I'm not aware that he's obsessed with nuns.
-How can you ask me that question?
-Only in a comedic way.
-I don't know.
-# Leap, leap, leap, leap,
# Leap, leap
-# Leap in the morning... #
It could be that they inspired him, I don't know,
but it's not me to say.
Do you leap at all yourself, madam?
Well, I love to leap, as indeed who doesn't?
When was that sketch done?
He moved here in about 1970.
So that was before he moved here.
Yeah, but he may have moved here because he was obsessed by nuns.
Peter was obsessed by sport throughout his life.
He later codified the rules for that Nile trip ball game he invented,
which he called los bollocos, into a very formal detailed document
and on days when he didn't feel like walking to the golf course,
he invented his own version,
which he played outside his own front door,
roping in bemused neighbours, friends and passers-by,
and making use of any items in the street that came to hand.
Once again, our mystery camera operator - possibly a neighbour -
seemingly suffering from Meniere's disease,
was instructed to capture the vital moments
of this impromptu tournament.
There's the par 3,
18 Perrins Walk.
Winds left to right and right to left.
CAMERA OPERATOR LAUGHS
I told you a 2-putter.
CAMERA OPERATOR LAUGHS
-Did it go in?
Peter's early brilliance and youthful good looks
entranced even the most famous woman in the world
in that fateful year of 1963.
A note from Jackie Kennedy to Adlai Stevenson has been discovered,
thanking him for her Beyond The Fringe tickets.
In it, she praises the show, saying that it "ran the gamut - comedy,
"drama and, for me, abandoned delight.
"The gayest, happiest evening imaginable."
The story wasn't known at the time,
but Jackie Kennedy allegedly joined a long list of Peter's lovers
during his twenties.
When we weren't filming Lin, but running an audio recording,
we asked her if she could confirm if Peter had had the rumoured affair.
Our question reduced Lin to an uncharacteristic whisper.
I know they met when Peter was performing in New York with Dudley.
At one time when I went to listen to Alan Bennett at the Southbank,
I was amazed, as probably was the rest of the audience,
when Alan said he was sure there was something
between Jackie Kennedy and Peter
because he saw Jackie tenderly stroking Peter's hand
at some event or other.
And I remember being told that...
..President had wanted them to go to the White House to perform,
but the agent and the other three were very excited and happy
and went and told Peter that
"President wants us to go to the White House."
To their dismay, what Peter said was, "I'm not an effing cabaret,"
and he refused to go.
So the President had to go to the theatre
to see the show like everybody else.
Apart from that, Mrs President, how did you enjoy the show?
Throughout the decades, Peter's house was a regular drop-in
for a wide range of celebrities,
including the occasional Rolling Stone.
I know he was close to the Stones, I mean,
particularly Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards
and I think they were very fond of him too,
because I remember Keith telling me
that when they were fed up or unhappy on tour,
they would always play Derek and Clive.
We're doing reactions now, very close.
-Lovely map of Nigeria.
-Isn't that good?
-Some of it's very accurate, actually.
-I never knew that river.
Bizarrely, the Stones were particularly interested
in cartography, in particular Peter's map of Nigeria,
that's still on the wall to this day.
Use of my freeze-frame button even reveals Ian Dury,
who was a huge Peter Cook fan.
Send in the next auditioner, would you?
As this programme is called The Undiscovered Peter Cook,
we were reluctant to show Peter's most famous sketch,
written when he was still a student, about a one-legged man
auditioning for Tarzan, but here it is,
though as you've never seen it before.
HE SPEAKS IN HUNGARIAN
HE SPEAKS IN HUNGARIAN
As you can see from this tape sent to Peter
by a producer from Hungarian television
the actor wearing the wooden leg, seemingly taken from a table,
has missed the entire point of the sketch.
So, sadly, the famous line, "I've nothing against your right leg.
"Unfortunately, neither have you," makes no sense whatsoever.
But with typical generosity,
Peter encouraged his Hungarian proteges
and was personally presented with a video of the show,
autographed by the entire cast,
and he even took the producer out for lunch in London.
The comedian and satirist Peter Cook has died in hospital. He was 57.
Peter died early in the morning and when I left the hospital...
..the whole world seemed very strange.
I got a cab and I came home...
..pulled all the blinds down at his house and went back to my own home.
I was in such a state of shock. I probably was like a zombie.
You know, after Peter died, I just did not know what to do,
how to arrange a funeral or memorial services or anything.
A few months after his death,
Lin Cook arranged a memorial service for Peter
at his local church in Hampstead.
The BBC suggested a somewhat grander venue.
I did speak to the person - I forget his name - at the BBC,
who told me Peter could have the memorial service
at Westminster Abbey, and I said, "No, no, no,"
because that wouldn't be Peter,
because Hampstead was like his beloved territory.
So it was, that on May 1, 1995,
mostly everyone involved in British comedy at the time
turned up to show their respects.
And seemingly, everyone from British sport too.
Oh, and Dave Allen.
Lin insisted that only her stills photographer could cover the events
from inside the church but, thankfully for us,
the photographer failed to follow orders and so it is that we have
a somewhat nervously shot video of the memorial.
To my dismay and annoyance,
they later told me that they had also made a video of the guests,
so for years, I've kept both the recording and the video
put away somewhere in the house and this video has never been seen ever.
I don't think I've ever seen it myself too.
There were moving tributes from Eleanor Bron,
Richard Ingrams, John Cleese and, of course, Dudley.
Dudley was, of course, a central figure
and he told some very funny stories about Peter.
"I met my wife during the war.
"She blew in through the window on a piece of shrapnel and became..."
"..became buried in the sofa."
"One thing led to my mother..."
"..and we were married within the hour."
I laughed for a week when he spontaneously came out with that.
Peter Cook was tone deaf.
He didn't display an overt sympathy for things musical,
except for Elvis Presley...
..he might have mentioned, whom he would imitate at the drop of a hat.
I, therefore, agonised over what to play
until the mists were cleared by one of my confreres
who, during a phone call, mentioned the fact that I had to call it.
It seems as appropriate as anything,
since the title comes from one of Peter's concepts -
that of a blind man reading on the TV from Braille.
"Good evening" - one of his favourite utterances -
"I am blond."
"And I'm reading to you through the miracle of broil."
"I'm sorry, I'll feel that again."
Three Blond Mice.
Dudley didn't yet know it, but he was already in the early stages
of the progressive supranuclear palsy
that would eventually kill him.
DUDLEY PLAYS PIANO
I think this might be the last photograph
that was ever taken of Peter and Dudley together.
I took it. So much that's in the press is wrong.
People make assumptions about Peter, about me,
and Dudley too, of course, but they do not know us at all.
And it's totally untrue that Peter didn't get on.
They were good friends.
They always had a special friendship,
so they were close towards the end and they often met up.
He was always in touch with Peter.
Even Peter's memorial service was not free from religious controversy,
Lin wanted a choir from Radley
to sing Peter's favourite Elvis Presley hit, Love Me Tender,
but the vicar was having none of it.
I went to see the local vicar.
After I'd found out about how a memorial service should be
and what's what, and seen a couple of order of service,
I then had some idea.
So, off I went to the vicar and said,
"I would like the Radley boys choir
"to sing at Peter's memorial service
"and it's an Elvis song, Love Me tender."
Vicar said, "No, no, no, couldn't have that,
"and it has to be the church choir."
To which I promptly said, "Well, if I can't have that,
"I'll have to hold the memorial service elsewhere,
"because I've set my heart on that."
And the result? Lin Cook 1, the Church of England 0.
So, he then agreed.
# ..Belong, and we'll never...
And the boys sang it so beautifully.
# Love me tender
# Love me true
# All my dreams fulfilled...#
CHURCH ORGAN MUSIC
After the service, one of Peter's oldest friends, David Frost,
explained how important Lin had been to Peter's life
and further confirmed that there was never any enmity
between the two men.
-Who are we talking for?
-This is for Lin.
-This is for Lin?
Lin, that was a wonderful service you organised.
You were so wonderful for Peter
and we were celebrating today, weren't we, as well as grieving?
Celebrating... People talk about "His life's work" about people
and in Peter's case, it was his life's work and his life's play too,
cos of that laughter he brought to us all and...
He was the first time in my life
that I was conscious of meeting a genius. That was up at Cambridge.
And he stayed that way - of course he did.
Once you're a genius, always a genius. So original.
We'll miss his originality and...
..you'll miss so much more, of course,
but join us in the celebrations as well, if you can,
because all the people here today love him
and they love you and they love what you did for him.
One other thing, David. A last word to Peter, you know.
A last thing you would say to Peter.
-That's looking at me.
-What would be my last words to Peter?
Well, I guess, thank you for saving me from drowning.
-Why do you say that?
Well, it was part of the service today and it really did happen.
And, of course, you're grateful.
Grateful to him for a lot else too.
And Dame Edna turned up in drag.
Er, I've got lots of memories of Peter.
He was such a help to me in my early days
and though I saw little of him in the last years,
we always met as old friends.
And, um, his...
It's quite impossible for me to think of him as dead
because he's a perpetual spirit.
# Now's the time to say goodbye
# Now's the time to yield a sigh
# Now's the time to wend our wa-a-a-y
# Until we meet again
# Some sunny day
# Goodbye, goodbye... #
I do not think anyone can understand
what made Peter the comedy genius that he was.
For me, he was someone special, who I got to understand and love.
He turned my life upside down when he came into it...
..shattered it when he left.
I still miss his energy, his warmth, his company and his love.
# We're leaving you with goodbye
# We wish you all goodbye. #
Following the death of Britain's greatest satirist in 1995, Peter Cook's widow Lin locked the door of his house and refused all access to the media. Until this year, when she invited her friend Victor Lewis-Smith and a BBC crew inside to make a documentary about the man she knew and loved, with unprecedented access to Peter's private recordings, diaries, letters, photographs and much more.