Leslie Crowther CBE, English Radio and TV Entertainer. 1933 - 1996
"...he just seemed like a really nice bloke..." - Alexei Sayle
"It's Friday, it's five to five, it's CRACKERJACK!" This catchphrase, associated with both the man and the kid's show really launched Leslie onto television, and for many people, this and his hosting of The Price is Right are everything. There is, of course, much more to the man. He was a versatile entertainer and actor, with forty-plus years in entertainment.
He was born in Nottingham on 6th of February, 1933, and seemed destined for stardom. His family were theatrical, and encouraged him in all his endeavours. In 1944 he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music to study the piano, and was good enough to have pursued a classical music career, but instead, chose to 'tread the boards' as his parents had done. "I would rather finish a performance to the sound of laughter than polite applause", he wrote.
Leaving drama school, he met Gene, his future wife, and enjoyed a varied stage career ranging from Shakespeare to pantomime. They later also worked together presenting the Radio Luxemburg programme The Ovaltinies. This gruelling apprenticeship gave him enough experience to go to the BBC, in the Billy Cotton Bandshow and The Black and White Minstrel Show. Gaining in popularity with both BBC management and production teams, and the audiences, he was offered an appearance slot in Crackerjack.
It was in Crackerjack that he came into his own. A great lover of children, he had a natural way with them, and thoroughly enjoyed the show. When Eamonn Andrews left, he was the first choice to take over as host, which he did in 1960, until LWT offered him his own show, The Leslie Crowther Show. Here, he was responsible for launching another showbiz career, that of Larry Grayson, by unselfishly giving over more and more time to Larry's act.
In the late 70s and early 80s, he had a career slump, and was battling with alcohol addiction. Whilst he was working, it was in sitcom - something which he enjoyed little, as there was less in the way of audience participation and feedback. His time came again, however, with "The Price is Right", hosting this popular show for seven years. (It has to be said it was far more popular with audiences than with critics - the same had already been said about Crackerjack.)
Following a serious car accident in 1992(?), he felt he would no longer be able to give of his best, and retired. He was honoured with the CBE in 1993, in recognition of his work, not just in entertainment, but also his charity work (he was a member and sometime president of The Lord's Taverners). He died on 29th of September, 1996.