Telling the story of Michael Crawford, who became a household name on television before taking the lead role in the most succesful musical of all time - The Phantom of the Opera.
Browse content similar to Michael Crawford. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
He's a legend of British television comedy.
What's extraordinary about Michael Crawford
is people pigeonhole him into the Phantom or Frank Spencer
and Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, but it's a career that goes back eons.
A star of Hollywood musicals.
You stamped, Mr Vandergelder.
I think the sign "danger" draws Michael right to it
with such enthusiasm when most people would turn and run.
An icon of West End and Broadway stages.
He is probably the biggest musical theatre star in the world.
He's just got something - there's just that pinch of magic
that just comes in with Michael and I love it.
Betty, I can see my slippers!
Michael has been responsible for giving me a very weak bladder.
Who will take on the most extreme stunts.
He's barking to have done that on the bus off the bus on the roller skates.
Hello, Frank. What are you going to do with that?
-But it's him!
-May I rub your ball, sir! It gives me great pleasure.
"You sure you're all right doing this, Michael?"
And you're going, "Yep, fine. Thank you." Whoo hoo!
These are the many faces of Michael Crawford.
Michael Crawford started life as Michael Patrick Dumbell-Smith.
At age nine, this hyperactively busy and creative young man
was involved in the London Choir School -
a school that provided choirs for some of the city's grandest churches and oratories.
I didn't have as good a voice as the other choristers.
But I looked quite good.
And so you had this little, round, blond-haired face
and I was always given a cross to hold, which was staggeringly heavy
but I would not be able to sing the passion,
I would have to...
I would mime to it. And I thought, no-one's going to know.
So, I was one of the earliest mimers, especially in St Paul's Cathedral.
He hated it and left after a year
but his talent for entertaining was noted at his new school
and the sound of applause became an addiction.
I got reaction from people. People were laughing at me
and I was supposed to have them laughing at me.
It wasn't like making them laugh in a classroom
and suddenly authority walks in
and you haven't got a friend in the place.
But you were actually being applauded for doing certain things
so that really appealed to me.
Benjamin Britten spotted his talent and adapted part
of his amateur opera, Noye's Fludde, to suit young Michael.
My voice was beginning to slide.
It didn't break, it was beginning to slide.
So, he said, "Well, I'm sure we can adapt, I'm sure we can adapt this."
And he changed the notes. He started to change the part of Jaffett,
so that it would accommodate me
as I couldn't get the higher notes any more.
# Mother, we pray you altogether
# We are here, your own children
# Come into the ship for fear of the weather
# For his not that you bought... #
It was the beginning of... I really wanted was, the next step.
I wanted to be on stage.
If you are a choirboy, you go to a choir school, then that sets you up,
doesn't it, for some kind of a career of musical activity?
I wonder whether it didn't have some other sort of influence on him too.
I think throughout his career,
he's maintained a kind of awkward boyishness
that I think somehow must have been formed in those years.
Michael's career was off. He was able to leave school at age 14
with some radio acting credits and an agent.
A biscuit van gave Michael Dumbell-Smith
the inspiration for a name change.
And Michael Crawford - the multi-talented child actor -
rolled from one part to another.
I mean, it's a child's dream to do this sort of stuff.
They're saying, "Are you sure you're all right doing this, Michael?"
And you're going, "Yep, fine, thank you."
And you were just like a pig in a farm yard. It was brilliant fun.
Aged just 14, Michael Crawford had parts in two movies
for the Children's Film Foundation.
Soap Box Derby and Blow Your Own Trumpet.
He could sing, he could act
and now, for the first time, we saw what would be a trademark.
Michael loved to do stunts.
One of the things was you had to dive into the Thames
at Battersea Power Station.
They said, "Well, you can't do this bit." I'd love to.
"I can do it because I'm a really good swimmer."
So, they let me do it and I dived in.
Everybody's going, "Oh, that was amazing!"
So, again, it's getting... It's having acceptance, I think.
As a youngster. Suddenly in the world, and I loved adventure.
Most boys do.
Michael Crawford enjoyed a perfect start to his career.
He had a proven singing voice, he had a knack for comedy
and he enjoyed physical action.
From thereon, I loved the physical side.
I hadn't used it comedically yet but, for dramatic effect,
I felt sort of early Steve McQueen.
As the 1950s came to a close, he made his first appearances
on television in the long-running series Billy Bunter.
-You stole that tin from Coker.
-Just going to scoff it!
No, I didn't. I got this in a pub yesterday.
-Oh, you fat chump. We saw you pick it up and make off with it.
-Oh, did you?
He was in every single British soap around,
from Emergency Ward 10 to Dixon Of Dock Green.
So, he was a real working lad in his teens.
In 1962, he met his idol
and featured alongside Steve McQueen in the film, The War Lover.
Often these days, you get actors who come from nowhere.
Who leave drama school, who find, wow, bang, the movie, the play
that puts them right in the forefront.
But you don't often find actors who've been around from a kid -
almost a child actor.
20-year-old Michael timed his entrance to the '60s perfectly.
He was an opinionated Mod for a David Frost TV show.
The reason I'm here is, I wouldn't be here at all if someone had a spanner.
I'd be off like a spit from a bugler if I had a spanner
only nobody round here knows how to fasten a fly button
let alone do up a nut.
So, I'm waiting for my brother to give me a lift home.
Michael had grown up. The singing voice was sidelined.
He was a face of a new generation with a boy next door charm.
When the Beatles made their first film, Hard Day's Night,
they chose the radical American director, Richard Lester,
the father of the music video.
He next turned his zany talents to a highly-stylised story of boys,
girls and coming of age - The Knack And How To Get It.
It was black and white. I think Lester was a zany director.
It was kind of bizarre in a way - very bizarre.
White rooms and girls everywhere outside the Albert Hall.
Thousands of girls, you know.
It was a strange film. It only took four weeks to shoot -
mostly in Shepherd's Bush.
It was that world of pure, cool Kings Road, Biba,
all this stuff, you know?
And Jean Shrimpton, and all this Twiggy.
All the world of...
Everything was beautiful people.
Michael plays a shy, young schoolteacher
obsessed with getting a girl.
But, first, he needs a bigger bed.
The three boys in it were, you know,
Mr Cool, Mr Grey, um...
And me in the middle - this innocent - which was me really.
As an actor, you have to recognise what are those things.
You don't act it, you have to be it.
So, now I'm playing the role, so the frustration
was sort of coming through the eyes.
But I was looking at all these models.
I mean, there was Charlotte Rampling and Jane Birken.
They were all parading up the stairs -
these very well known young actresses and models then were in this film.
How can I get a woman?
-You want advice?
-Oh, the right food is important...
-It's not that. Listen.
If I should see this girl, listen. Should I come across...?
Would you show me?
You mean how I get women, hm?
Yes. Working with Richard Lester
was so golden. It was so special.
The Knack was the best. You learn.
To do that as sort of really my first major film
When it was shown, everyone stood up and applauded. It was extraordinary.
Suddenly, we found that this tiny little film -
that was shot for £125,000 - in Shepherd's Bush,
was suddenly a bonanza.
The success of The Knack projected Michael Crawford
into one of London's coolest film circles.
One of the things that I think he was quite fortunate about
was coming along at the right time.
He would never have been a film star in the early-1950s,
he just wasn't physically right for it.
But, at the beginning of the '60s, the studio system is collapsing.
All of those film stars are being pensioned off really.
Audiences are looking for a new kind of actor.
Actually, his awkwardness and his gangliness suited that moment.
-Sir, you're in need of a soothsayer.
-How do you know?
I'd be a fine soothsayer if I didn't.
Richard Lester's next project was a more mainstream movie
and he cast Michael Crawford as a lead
alongside legends of film comedy
Zero Mostel, Buster Keaton and Phil Silvers.
It's the musical farce A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To The Forum.
-To the garden and break the news.
-That you're going to run away to marry her.
-Won't I catch the plague?
There is no plague. We made it up so as to get her out of there.
Ah, that was clever.
Wasn't it? I'll high myself to the harbour to hire a boat. Hoe you to the garden.
You high...and I'll hoe.
When we weren't shooting, we'd all gravitate towards Zero's caravan
and the three of... I mean Phil Silvers and he,
it was a battle of these comics, and stories from the old days.
Again, you just eat them up.
You don't interrupt. You don't...
You just listen.
And you learn. And their timing...
The timing was superb.
We did a big stunt sequence in Forum,
which Dick Lester let me go out
with the Second Unit and that was it.
He just gave me a camera and we went out and did stunts
on the back of this horseless chariot.
And they were really quite dangerous.
But, you just wanted to be more daring every single day.
It was the best.
It's 1965 and Michael's daredevil stunts are getting more extreme.
Michael gallops off with the girl but his next film
with Richard Lester, has an altogether darker tone.
It's How I Won The War with Beatle
and iconic anti-war campaigner John Lennon.
Er, Musketeer Gripweed, without whose help
these memoirs would never have been written.
My faithful batman.
May I rub your ball, sir? It gives me great pleasure.
Very black anti-war comedy,
as much as one can find humour in war.
Rally to me the troop.
If it is humanly possible,
I shouldn't be left on my own.
I can't win a war on my own.
I'm rather too young.
Aged just 25, Michael Crawford could hardly have had
a better start to a career in film.
He had ten years as a child actor,
with numerous appearances on television.
He'd starred in an award-winning cult hit.
He'd shared screens with big time Hollywood talent
and one of the world's biggest recording artists.
But Michael had kept working in theatre
and his next massive move was away from cinema altogether.
Broadway's neon lights drew young Michael to America
in a very unusual and physically demanding show - Black Comedy.
It was a very, very physical role.
I most probably hurt my neck a bit
and used to spend days in a neck brace
and then go in to the theatre and do these stunts - live stunts -
but I mean the reaction from the audience was just amazing.
It's a brilliant play.
Broadway was a shop window of new talent
and Michael's performances were attracting good reviews.
That brought a knock on the door from a surprising fan,
a Hollywood song and dance legend - now turned director - Gene Kelly.
I opened the door. He said, "Hi! I'm Gene Kelly."
I said, "I know!" And he walked down the corridor into the main room
and he walked just like he does on film.
I mean, the shoulders were going
and it's like he turned round and said, "Now!"
And all I could do was giggle about it.
And he said... He asked me a few questions.
"Do you sing?" I said, "Well, I do a little.
"I've been to choir schools and I sing in the bath.
"I sing in the bath." And he didn't laugh.
And then he said, "Can you dance?"
I said, "I've got a bit of jet lag at the moment.
"I wouldn't be at my best right now
"but I CAN dance."
So, he said... He kept looking at me,
and then he said, "Listen, what we're looking for
"is an attractive idiot."
My wife thinks you're attractive and I think you're an idiot.
# Yes, New York, it's really us
# Barnaby and Cornelius... #
# Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down... #
In Hello, Dolly, Michael Crawford is a Hollywood movie star
with a superstar lead actress.
# Before the parade
# Passes by... #
It's a full-on musical spectacular.
A love story in which Gene Kelly fought for Michael
to sing an emotional solo.
It Only Takes A Moment is his perfect confession of love.
I'm talking about none other than love.
It makes me tear to think of that.
Because it's beautiful.
# It only
# Takes a moment
# For your eyes to meet
# And then
# Your heart knows... #
So, at the end, I was indeed crying slightly.
And he came over, and he just says, "You little mother."
And he hugged me so tightly.
The truth pays off so much.
Some people won't like that.
They want to say, # It only
# Takes a moment
# To be loved... #
I didn't sing it really well - I know that.
I sang it sincerely.
There was a thing I didn't know until about three months ago.
But the producers didn't actually want to use my voice.
And I only found this out three months ago in my life.
Thank God I didn't find out earlier.
I'd have had depression for years.
But they didn't want to use my voice for singing, It Only Takes A Moment.
And, um, Gene insisted -
absolutely insisted - that they did.
Hello, Dolly was a critical success.
But Hollywood was in decline.
Hello, Dolly cost 25 million to make
but took just 9 million at American box offices.
Michael finished a three-film deal with two minor films - The Games
and Hello Goodbye.
And with that, cheerio to Hollywood.
Michael was back in Britain in the doldrums.
Hello Goodbye, which really summed up my contract there
because it's the least favourite thing I've ever done in my career.
And, when I'd finished that, I was embarrassed about what I'd done.
I didn't work for...
..a year and a half, two years. I just couldn't.
I was completely demoralised by it.
Within my own life, someone had gone off with the money I'd earned -
a business adviser had gone off with everything I'd earned
from the films that I'd done.
And, from driving rather a snazzy car, the next day I was in a van.
My wife and I, we started a business, selling floor cushions.
And so I used to go and stuff cushions every day
in this factory at the back of Chelsea football ground.
He'd tumbled from Hollywood to stuffing cushions
and eventually found a part in a West End farce.
No Sex, Please We're British gathered great reviews
and cash-strapped Michael was even able
to do a spot of moonlighting in disguise.
# I'll zoom like a rocket as fast as I can
# Now that I have my gloves and my fan... #
-If you please, sir.
I think we'd been going for quite some time shooting the movie
before Michael actually arrived on the set.
Um, and he was my white rabbit.
I'll have to wear these in case I'm recognised.
He had the white face, the white hair, facial hair,
and the teeth and everything. So, apart from his eyes,
it was difficult to get to know him.
-Rather a nice day, isn't it?
The whole thing takes about an hour and a quarter.
The eyes again taking the longest, I would say.
The only thing left for the actor to work with when you're finished,
are your eyes, which is what one uses mostly anyway.
We would finish filming at Shepperton Studios
at about, I don't know, 5:30pm,
which meant that, for him, to get to the West End, it was quite tight.
So he would actually get into the car, minus his costume,
but with all his facial prosthetics on.
And would have to remove that makeup in the car.
He had a driver who would take him back, straight into the West End,
where he could get ready for the show every night.
Every night, I used to say, "Bye!" And he'd be peeling off all these layers of latex.
Well, it has no business in there! Go and take it away.
Sure, I don't like it, your honour, at all, at all!
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was hardly a star vehicle for Michael.
But No Sex Please, We're British was a different matter.
A BBC producer saw something in Michael's character
that would become a television legend.
I wonder what they'll do next.
Norman Wisdom had already turned it down.
Er, Ronnie Barker had already turned it down.
So, I was third in line for this.
That's happened to me a great deal.
I've not often been first choice.
And then, I started to read it,
and saw the possibilities of the humour
and bringing stunts in -
marrying in -
and they said,
"Yeah, we could do that."
And Raymond Allen adapted his thoughts as the writer.
And we started to get that.
And I used the characterisation vaguely
from what I'd done in No Sex Please, We're British
to use it in Some Mothers...
The sitcom Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em
was a perfect vehicle for Michael -
comic innocence combined with his love of physical comedy.
Frank, I keep telling you.
You don't have to keep jumping through the doors like that.
They're perfectly safe.
From the moment I walked in the door, we didn't stop laughing.
And, in fact, if I recall, I don't think we even read the script.
We just laughed a lot
and that continued throughout the whole series as well.
Well, this is ridiculous.
I want... I'll jam it.
It's... But I haven't even...
I'll leave it.
Some Mothers showed off Michael's exceptional comic timing.
-It was jammed when you put your foot on the pedal.
Just needs a few final adjustments.
Well, I'm glad you're making a few improvements about the house.
Well, it all adds to the value, doesn't it?
I just wish it was a bit bigger, that's all.
Oh, it's quite big enough, Frank.
There's plenty of room for the two of us.
Plenty of room for three really.
-Could you come and sit down a minute, Frank?
There's going to be a little addition to our family.
We played it for real and, in the absurdity of course -
the nonsense that went on. But we played it for real.
And, I think, most of all, the key was that she loved him -
she really loved him -
and so, consequently, er, put up with the nightmare that he was,
um, because of that.
We're going to hear the patter of tiny little feet.
No, no, no... Don't be silly.
I'm not having another cat in this house.
I've had enough trouble with Cleopatra.
Last week I caught her scratching the wallpaper over there,
and when I told her to stop, she did a whoopsie in my beret.
He was truly an innocent abroad
who would annoy the heck out of you.
But he was honest to himself.
He was honest, and she adored him.
And without having married, which he wasn't in the first place,
we had him married and he found Michelle,
who was such a gift to the show.
Because we got on so well and there was such a rapport.
And she loved Frank, just loved him.
You're going to be a father.
One of the keys to the success of that programme
is how impersonatable Frank Spencer was.
Frank Spencer was in the repertoire of every impressionist
in the country, from New Faces down to my school playground.
There was nobody in the country in the '70s,
who couldn't be persuaded to at least attempt
a Frank Spencer impersonation.
If you have a character who is really impersonatable,
then you're inside the head of the nation.
And that's the brilliance of that performance.
Some Mothers was also popular for its stunts.
Stunts that Michael had the experience to design and perform.
I'll get it back for you.
There's a lorry!
When you come to a point,
where somebody has in the script
that this car goes over the edge of a cliff
and is teetering with your leading man on the bonnet to hold up there,
and a dog in the back seat
and your wife on the roof, that's about as dangerous as you can get.
Just hold on to my legs!
Hold my feet!
And then I talked Michelle into... She was very eager to do it,
I might say, cos she's a real good sport.
And she was on the roof of the car, and she wouldn't have a double.
There was this guy dressed up in the skirt and hat ready to do it
and she said, "No, I'm going to do it!" So, she did it.
The Morris Minor, where I was involved, was terrifying!
We actually were up on top of that Morris Minor,
which was doing all of that,
and I said to somebody, "Do I have a harness?"
And I'm wearing quite a strappy summer dress and a hat -
why am I wearing a hat? I don't know.
Anyway, I'm up on there and I said to somebody,
"Should I have some sort of safety equipment?"
And they said, "Oh, yes, we've got this cotton thread
"which goes round your ankle and somebody will be holding onto it."
"Oh, good, that's very encouraging. Thank you."
And that was it, literally -
tiny, thread thing between me and death, 200 feet below!
What shall I do?
Oh, where are you?
It's all right, Betty!
I might need a bit of help, though!
When it was shown, I was sitting in the sitting room
with my mum and my dad and my two sisters,
and when it finished, my mother came over to me and slapped me.
I was aged 24 or something, and she slapped me.
She said, "What the hell do you think you were doing?"
But, of course, you couldn't do any of that stuff now.
I want to make this a night to remember.
Oh, I will remember it, Frank.
I'll never forget it.
You're not sorry we came?
Of course not.
As a sitcom star, Michael Crawford reached a huge television audience
but over a five-year period, only 22 episodes were made.
This place should be condemned!
We'll be condemned if they catch us!
The last series, it wasn't the same.
It just wasn't the same, and I don't think I played him as well.
I think I played him more...
thinking he was funny sometimes,
instead of him just being natural,
which is what I'd been talking about before.
I think he needed simplicity.
And I think I lost that simplicity.
That's the best I can do for now.
It was time for a move.
When the original producer went to ITV, Michael was drawn away
to play a very different character.
-I can't see him.
He must have gone in. Thank God for that!
Who would that be then?
-Settling in, then. Settling in.
In Chalk And Cheese, Michael Crawford plays a slovenly layabout -
the awkward Cockney neighbour in a posh suburb.
'It was completely the opposite to Frank.'
He was a great sort of down-to-earth guy,
and I grew a beard and had curly hair.
It was a street, lazy person, but very intelligent.
He had a very quick mind.
And we got, I think, 13 million viewers,
but they didn't want to see me playing that character.
What's up, then? Having a break, are you?
I did six or seven, and we didn't do any more.
But I did enjoy doing that. It was a good exercise.
I just shows you the power of the public
as to what they really want to see you do.
So, you can deny them that,
and go and be very independent and do what you want to do,
but, I... I tend to take notice of that.
It's no good saying, "I want to act, and I want to do this."
It doesn't always work that way.
It was May 1979 and his last starring role on television.
All right, love, don't worry, won't be long. Keep pushing.
I have to do something different if I'm going to do anything.
Because, it won't appeal to me, it won't intrigue me.
It won't challenge me.
So rather than do the ordinary,
I'd rather not do anything.
He'd been a boy actor, a trendsetter in '60s film,
had starred in a Hollywood musical,
was a master of physical comedy and had even played a white rabbit.
As a giant of television sitcom he had reached a peak audience
of 25 million viewers.
He loved the West End stage, but his time on screen wasn't over yet.
Does the name "Condorman" mean anything to you?
The name Condorman meant a starring role in a Disney film.
Coming quite out of the blue, it gave Michael a new line on his CV -
Vulture of the Western world.
This is a job for Condorman!
Cheap effects got the movie panned by critics.
Once again Michael's film career failed to fly
and Condorman was his last major film or television role.
I jumped off the Eiffel Tower and flew and that was done by stuntman.
But I did the landing in the Seine,
with these wings on, and they pulled me on the boat,
and that's the nearest I've ever come to drowning.
So I started to slow up on the stunts at this point!
From now on, Michael's career would have a different focus.
In fact, he had already spent most of the '70s in the West End,
quietly perfecting his musical theatre skills.
When you really love acting...
..and you can play a character from beginning to end in one take,
the adrenaline rush of that,
and then take it into musicals,
and you're doing so many different skills.
Every night, you go out and do a musical, say like Billy,
for two years, eight shows a week.
# Some of us belong to the stars... #
'I'm a hard taskmaster when I'm working.
'I learned that discipline from people like Gene Kelly.
'Because I saw what the result'
of hard work could bring and the pleasure it can bring.
And the more exciting you can make a person's night at the theatre,
the more...unforgettable it is to you as well.
Despite Gene Kelly's coaxing, he wasn't a natural dancer.
He did dance in Hello, Dolly and he danced very well.
I cannot imagine how many hours of rehearsal he must have had.
And knowing Michael, not just the hours of rehearsal
that have been given, but up at 4am
to practise and practise and practise.
And then again, at the end of the day, to practise
and practise and practise. No detail is ever left unturned with Michael.
# ..In every part of the atlas... #
He doesn't let one move go by without knowing how to do it
in every sense of the word.
So, all I would say was,
"step right" and he'd have to know how do you step right? On the heel?
On the ball? Where are your shoulders placed?
What do I have to do to step right? And it was as detailed as that.
Away from the big and small screen,
he was a showman who loved to hear an audience applaud.
In 1981, Michael heard a new show was heading for London
that could take his physical skills to a new level.
In preparation, he spent three months in New York
at the Big Apple Circus School.
I had this Hungarian teacher who taught me how to walk the high wire.
And I thought, "Ah, this is a piece of cake!"
And after about four or five days, I thought, "This is ridiculous!
"This thing is two feet off the ground, and I cannot master it.
"I cannot do it." And he's saying, "Yes, you can!"
All right, argghh!
The show was Barnum.
Barnum's the name, PT Barnum. Here they are!
Charity Barnum, I'll have a kiss before you leave.
A pleasure, Mr Barnum.
You may not make much sense, but you're beautiful.
It was joyous to do every night.
Every show, you were exhausted.
I mean, you were absolutely exhausted.
Because there was circus tricks involved,
you had to be very secure with your other team members around you.
# Fires glow, flags streaming
# Spires grow, towers gleaming
# In a land where the dawn is clear
# In a sky where the sun's forever
# On a plain where it's spring all year
# And the dark of the night comes never... #
And the tightrope walk and everything.
He worked so hard at what he wanted to achieve
and what he wanted to do that it was a consistently high performance.
I have to say, I don't want it to sound boring,
but it was highly professional in that sense.
You never got the feeling of,
"I don't know what sort of show we've got today"
with him or anyone else on stage.
It was high-energy throughout,
just one trick after the other of high energy.
Just enjoyment and affirmation
and explosion of circus and music,
and leaving everybody going out with a most wonderful feeling of high
which is, of course, what musicals are all about.
# I like your style
# Style! #
It was a high-pressure full-on circus spectacular -
as well as a musical.
Despite singing since his childhood, like many West End stars,
Michael took regular voice coaching.
Many singers and musicians crossed paths
in Ian Adam's South Kensington studio,
constantly training and perfecting their technique.
Andrew Lloyd Webber came with his then wife Sarah Brightman.
He was on the hunt for a leading man
to star in a new musical spectacular -
a dark, gothic love story with a disfigured, tormented anti-hero.
Michael was a sitcom star with a flair for physical stunts.
A comedy showman.
-When you first sang to me Danny Boy, do you remember?
It was an extraordinary experience,
because you hung your head afterwards and said,
"I'm terribly sorry, I don't suppose it's a musical."
And it was a wonderful experience.
When I was nearing the end of the lesson,
Sarah Brightman arrived with Andrew, early for her lesson.
And I was downstairs singing Care Selve,
and most probably murdering it!
And I finished, and he said, "Very good, Michael.
"That was so good. It can be better, but it was good. All right?"
"I'll see you next week."
I said, "Thank you, Ian, thank you." And off I went,
and went out the front door,
Andrew apparently came down with Sarah...
Sorry, came UP the stairs with Sarah and said,
"Who was that that was just singing just now?"
And he said, "Oh," he said, "I'm sorry, did it disturb you, Andrew?"
He said, "He's going to get better." He said, "No, no, no!"
He said, "It was Michael Crawford."
He said, "I think we may have found our Phantom."
Michael had the potential to play the Phantom Of The Opera
but it was a controversial casting.
'Before we opened in London, everyone was saying,
'"Michael Crawford as The Phantom?
'"I'm not quite sure what it's going to be like.
'"Apparently, he's going to be doing a lot of swinging
'"and be on the chandeliers and things."'
You must be brave, go too far...
'I spent hours and days and weeks in that room.
'You needed to.
'I mean, Music Of The Night took months to sing properly.
'It took months to make the joins seamless between the notes
'in the way you were going to do it, so that it was a cry of love.'
MUSIC: "Overture to Phantom Of The Opera" by Andrew Lloyd Webber
People say it was a big shock
when he was named as the Phantom, because of Frank Spencer.
All of those people had forgotten Barnum. They had forgotten Billy.
The guy was a great, big musical star.
Maybe the shock was the guy was a great big musical star
that the world thought depended on physicality.
And the physicality of the Phantom was totally different.
Opening in 1986, The Phantom Of The Opera was a huge success,
with a spin-off hit record, an Olivier Award
and Tony Award for Crawford as Best Actor.
# ..And stirs imagination... #
I thought Phantom was a big surprise and a big leap
and that was what was so wonderful, to see him do something
so very different after being very used to him as PT Barnum.
Phantom was very withdrawn and very inward,
but that's another one where he didn't....
Cos he can't! He's incapable of taking on the role and going,
"OK, I'll do it this way." He delves.
# Night unfold its splendour
# Grasp it, sense it
# Tremulous and tender... #
He's a storyteller.
And he's a storyteller with every song he sings.
But the other thing is that Michael uses his arms
and his hands to continue the storytelling from his heart.
And I'm fascinated by his hands,
absolutely fascinated by the way he uses them.
# For your eyes will only tell the truth
# And the truth isn't what you want to see... #
As the Phantom, watching him, it's all one.
It seems to come from his heart, and reach out to his fingertips,
to express what he's saying.
# That the truth is what it ought to be... #
It was just a revelation. I thought he was completely wonderful in it.
My breath was taken away.
# Music shall caress you
# Hear it, feel it... #
I just think it's the most extraordinary gift that he has.
# Floating, falling
# Sweet intoxication
# Touch me, trust me
# Savour each sensation
# Let the dream begin... #
When my daughters came to see it first,
it was in London at one of the previews.
And it's a very emotional show.
But they came round and my youngest daughter was absolutely sobbing.
And she said, "I didn't know you could do that, Daddy."
And, um, I just said this,
"Did you ever believe that we would have this feeling
"about something that I'd done?"
we kind of just hugged and it was...special.
# You alone can make my song take flight
# Help me make the music of the
# Night... #
And the winner is Michael Crawford for Phantom Of The Opera.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
There's been so many wonderful things that have happened to me.
I know, by the law of averages,
I must be due to be knocked down by a truck any day now.
Andrew, once again, I thank you for choosing me.
After two years in London,
Michael starred in the Broadway production
and opened the show in Los Angeles.
In 25 years of productions all around the world,
The Phantom Of The Opera has now taken
more than £3.5 billion of ticket receipts.
Michael had created the title character
in one of the greatest theatre productions of all time.
But in April 1990, after three and a half years in the Phantom role,
It seemed he had reached the pinnacle of his career.
For the next three years,
Michael headlined a world tour of Lloyd Webber songs.
The comic, the action hero
and stuntman seemed to have settled as a singer.
In 1994, it had been 16 years
since Michael starred on television screens.
He'd wowed live audiences all around the world,
but was so far off the British radar he might have been in a desert.
And that's where he headed next. Las Vegas Nevada.
Home of some of the world's most extravagant entertainment events,
but culturally, off the beaten track.
MGM producers planned a spectacular show in Las Vegas
bigger than anything ever before seen on stage.
It would test Michael Crawford, now in his fifties, to the limit.
It was colossal.
They wanted a show that they could truly say
is the seventh wonder of the world
And it was. It was, like, awesome.
That is, terrifying. The ride across is terrifying.
Because as you bang into the cables,
the thing is going from under your feet
so you've just got this arm loop to hold onto.
I am the effects master.
I'm in charge of this unusual world.
A world governed by...
I think it had been running for a year
and he wanted to put changes into the show
and asked if I would come and look at the show
and work with him to make some changes.
Well, I arrived, and Michael was doing the most hair-raising stunt
you could imagine!
It was astonishing!
Talk about torturing the body!
He wouldn't stop. He wanted more and he wanted more danger.
He did destroy his body.
He was doing this slide for life
where he came from the back of this vast auditorium.
It was quite a harsh landing and gradually, I was watching,
and Michael could barely walk and yet,
he would go through that show night after night.
I think there was nine shows a week.
He would not take a show off. He would not rest.
And I think after the injury became so severe,
he then had to pull out of the show.
A hip replacement operation ended Michael's time in Las Vegas.
He left the show in 1996 and returned to playing concert tours.
Crawford the stuntman seemed to have retired.
Five years passed, and then in 2001 came a surprise announcement
that he was to star in a new Broadway production -
Dance Of The Vampires.
Dance Of The Vampires was going to be Crawford's comeback vehicle.
There he is, back on Broadway,
in this enormous musical adapted from a '60s film by Roman Polanski.
Two things go terribly wrong with this.
First, 9/11 happens, which means that the show doesn't open,
it gets delayed for ages.
But then, when it does open, it's just a disaster.
The critics absolutely hated it.
It didn't sell and closed after just 56 performances
and losses of 12 million -
making it the most expensive flop in the history of Broadway.
He could've vanished and disappeared, but he didn't.
And it's interesting that he chose to come back
with another piece of Gothic horror.
He comes back as Count Fosco in Andrew Lloyd Webber's version
of Wilkie Collins's The Woman In White.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest West End show
needed an obese leading man.
# I can get away with anything
# Because I have
# Sha-a-a-a-a-a-ame. #
Michael was back.
He won the Variety Club's award
for Outstanding Stage Performance Of The Year in 2004.
But inside the fatsuit, he was boiling up.
After just weeks, Michael had to leave the show.
Eventually it developed into ME.
And you have no idea, I was going for every test known to man
and it left me vulnerable.
Michael's long recovery
was on the other side of the world in New Zealand.
Seven years later, London's musical theatre machine was changing.
A television talent contest
found a new young lead for The Wizard Of Oz.
But once again Andrew Lloyd Webber was on the hunt for a star
for the sage-like old professor.
Andrew phoned me up he said,
"What about Michael Crawford as the wizard?"
And I promise you, I said, "In your dreams".
Andrew said, "He's going to come in and meet us."
# We're off to see the wizard... #
The whole reason that I did Wizard Of Oz was for my grandchildren.
They hadn't seen me in anything that they could remember, live.
They'd seen me do concerts at Royal Festival Hall,
and they were sitting in the rehearsal,
but I don't think they were paying much attention.
And, I didn't hold their attention.
They were about four, five, six.
And now they were 13, 14, 15, and I thought this would be fun.
Michael didn't just play the Wizard in The Wizard Of Oz,
he had to play the Doorkeeper
and then we created something new called the Tour Guide,
so Michael could join in the vast Emerald City number
and lead the dancers.
# That's how we laugh the day away
# With a ha-ha-ha, ha-ha-ha ha-ha-ha
# In the merry old land merry old land
# Merry old, merry old, merry old land of Oz! #
In some ways, I found a very, very different Michael. A calmer...
Nevertheless, just as demanding.
"I am the sponge," says Michael,
"and I want to soak up everything I can."
So once again, working really hard at performing in The Wizard Of Oz
where he played different characters
was something that Michael wanted to do.
# Because, because, because
# Because of the wonderful things he does... #
When I started, I was a little bit terrified.
Because, as well as Michael, so many people were coming into this show
that I admired and had admired from afar for such a long time.
And I thought, "I'm going to have to stand on the stage
"and be in a rehearsal room with these people,
"I hope I'm good enough, I hope I can give what they need."
But from the second I walked into the rehearsal room on day one,
I just let out a sigh of complete relief because he was so generous
with his time and his knowledge and so welcoming.
I felt like I had a real rock next to me.
It wasn't the biggest of parts, but Grandpa Michael was back,
determined to make the most of what he had.
# Because, because, because... #
The Wizard goes off in the balloon at the end for Dorothy.
And he suggested having himself - at 69 -
falling out of the balloon
and being attached by his ankle and being taken up.
Most 69-year-olds would be like, "No way!"
They'd already built the set, so their excuse was
there was no room for me to go upside down.
I have a feeling that the insurance man had said to them,
"Under no circumstances is this 70-year-old to go
"upside down hanging by one leg from a balloon!"
And I suppose I'm grateful to the insurance man,
because it would have hurt, most probably.
But it was worth a try.
# You must come visit one of my Shangri-Las... #
He's a hero of stage and screen.
He's pushed himself to the limits for the perfect performance.
He's in his seventies now,
but we might not have seen the last of Michael Crawford just yet.
# I belong to the stars! #
I would love to do something else,
but the thing is it would have to be something...
What do the Americans say? Out of left-field.
It would have to be something off the wall.
Number one, get out of bed.
There's nobody quite like him,
so he's out there on his own really.
He doesn't think he's a big star.
He doesn't wear the coat of a big star.
He wears the coat of a man who always, always
wants to please and wants to learn.
I don't think you get stars like Michael Crawford any more.
I don't think they exist.
I don't think someone can do everything that he did in television
and everything that he's done for theatre.
To me, he's a megastar and he always will be.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
A programme tracing the extraordinary career of one of Britain's most versatile stars. Michael Crawford was a child actor who hit the 60s at just the right time. His first film The Knack was an award-winning cult success that saw him rub shoulders with the Beatles. A surprise move to the stage caught the eye of Gene Kelly and led to a lead role for Michael in the film Hello Dolly - one of the last great Hollywood musicals.
The programme features a new interview with Michael in which he reveals he's not a natural singer or dancer - the Hello Dolly producers wanted to overdub his most famous song. That song is now a cult classic, but his Hollywood success was short-lived and he spent some time working in his wife's cushion factory before landing his best known part as Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do Ave Em. His love of stunts and mastery of Frank's comic mannerisms made him a household name, but once more Michael Crawford turned to the stage in what became the biggest musical of all time - The Phantom of the Opera.
In recent years he has stayed on stage, but relentless stunt work and a punishing schedule has taken a toll on his health. Nevertheless, after more than 50 years in the business, he returned to the stage in the musical The Wizard of Oz - still singing and dancing with a new generation.