From the legendary Beyond the fringe (BBC 1964) and Not only but Also (BBC 1965-1966, 1970) TV programmes, to the supernatural big screen comedy of Bedazzled (1967), there will also be an opportunity to view a rare selection of rarities and oddities from the archive including sketches, interviews, adverts, chat show appearances and also a visit with Derek and Clive.
Arguably the brightest star of a remarkable generation of brilliant comedy practitioners to emerge from the Oxbridge fringe tradition, the rakishly handsome Peter Cook cut quite a dashing figure, often using a drag on his ever-present cigarette to act as punctuation to his acerbic comments and surreal flights of fantasy. One of his great strengths was his ability to extemporise on any unlikely subject, rambling wildly in all directions, but always somehow managing to find the humorous kernel at the centre.
Frequently his musings led him to conjure up absurdist takes on a given situation, holding it up to scrutiny and finally finding the flaw that rendered it ridiculous. He was a prolific writer and excelled at impersonating character types who sported strange speaking voices, often delivering their words in a trademark monotone.
But it was with his sparkling partnership with Dudley Moore that Cook achieved his greatest success, the pair reinventing the double-act dynamic and inspiring each other to greater heights. Their sketch series Not Only But Also (BBC 1965-1966, 1970) was one of the most revered shows of the 1960s and one of the evenings in this season will be dedicated to that show.
Elsewhere we present a rare screening of the Beyond the Fringe stage show which first brought Cook and Moore to the fore (as well as those great talents Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller), and also look at some of Cook’s solo TV work.
Finally an evening of oddities and rarities will bring together snippets from all areas of Cook’s career, including material never before seen anywhere! The TV treats will be supplemented by a couple of Cook’s big-screen appearances, in the political satire The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer (1967) and the evergreen supernatural comedy Bedazzled.
The BFI Southbank is open to all. BFI members are entitled to a discount on all tickets. www.bfi.org.uk/southbank