Davis, de Havilland, Flynn, Cagney, Bogart ...

Davis, de Havilland, Flynn, Cagney, Bogart ...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Captain Hook and Cyril Ritchard -- A Fond Tribute


If you are old enough to remember the wonderful 1960 television production of Peter Pan with Mary Martin as Peter and the fabulous Cyril Ritchard as Captain Hook, you have probably remembered Cyril with great fondness.  Or perhaps you have been lucky enough to see the show some time over the years.  Cyril stole the show as the rather hapless leader of the dumbest bunch of pirates ever gathered.  He was flamboyant, funny as hell, and made his mark on my whole generation.  I ran across this picture of his wedding to his wife Madge in 1935.  I just had to share it.  Is Madge's dress magnificent or what?  And Cyril is the epitome of the dapper English gentleman.  The picture is a little bit fuzzy, but I just had to make it big enough to really showcase its beauty.





Cyril was an immensely popular and prolific stage star of musical comedies.  Because of the TV production of Peter Pan, the whole country was able to experience his charisma and great talent.  He was also the good friend of another figure who made his mark on my childhood, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.  Many may remember Bishop Sheen's popular TV show, which was top in the ratings for many years.  When Cyril died December 18, 1977 at age 80, Bishop Sheen celebrated his funeral Mass.


If you haven't seen him perform, I found one of his funniest numbers in Peter Pan to post here.  Whenever Captain Hook needed to think, he called his pirate band to inspire him with music.  They would ask:  "What tempo, Captain?"  He would reply:  "Tempo, Tempo, Tempo!" and decide.  This one is his ultimate, the hilarious waltz.  I hope it makes you laugh as much as I do, no matter how many times I see it.  My favorite line is Hook's angry response to disrespect:  "NO!  BI-CARBONATE OF SODA, NO!"







Cyril Ritchard -- nobody could top him as Captain Hook!






19 comments:

  1. Becky, I've never actually seen Cyril Ritchard's performance of PETER PAN, but after watching his delightful version, I wish I'd been around to enjoy it in person! Where's a time machine when you need one? And how cool that Ritchard was also friends with Bishop Fulton J. Sheen; talk about friends in high places! Thanks for putting a smile on my face, Big Sis! :-)

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    1. I'm glad you liked it, Dorian ... it's a real favorite of mine, as are both men. Hey, forgive me for not getting to your second installment of Maltese Falcon -- I've been in a creative mode and also busy, but I'll be over!

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  2. I remember it well. He really carried old Hook off with a flourish, making him larger than life, the way a children's book character should be.

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    1. Good point, Jacqueline -- Hook was never meant to be anything else!

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  3. I'm a Hans Conried gal myself, but have to admit that there have been times when I have been tempted to cross over to the Ritchard side.

    In her Nanny days, my sister Miss McCrocodile would show her charges the TV Peter Pan on rainy days. Whole new generations have grown up with an appreciation of the show and its fabled performers.

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    1. Do you mean Hans Conried played Hook too? I've never seen that. And I'd love to know where your sister got the name Miss McCrocodile!

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    2. Hans Conried provides the voice of Mr. Darling/Captain Hook in the Disney version of "Peter Pan". He is delightfully florid.

      My sister Maureen's twitter handle "Miss McCrocodile" comes from Richard Hannay's mispronunciation of the candidate's name in "The 39 Steps". She's a fan.

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  4. Becky, what a handsome wedding couple they were! Madge's wedding gown was very beautiful and must have made a great impression on the guests. While I can't say what fabric it was made of based on the photo, it looks like it was made in a lace or crochet, with a silk tulle veil. Magnificent.

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  5. Thank you, Christian. I knew you could shed some light on the gown. I never thought of crochet. To all who read and comment here, Christian is the resident costume and design expert for the CMBA. You can see visit his wonderful site at http://www.silverscreenmodiste.com/

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  6. Becky, the TV adaptation of the PETER PAN Broadway musical was a childhood favorite of mine. The cast album was the first LP I ever bought--and I still have it. Ritchard was the definitive Hook and he & Mary Martin played off each wonderfully. I enjoyed this tribute!

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    1. Thank you, Rick! I have such a place in my heart for Martin and Ritchard. I never forgot them and was thrilled when I got to see it again. That's cool that it was your first album and you still have it. I was an addict for the Broadway show albums when I was young, and I still have most of them too.

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  7. I remember the Mary Martin/Cyril Ritchard Peter Pan very fondly as well, Becky. I must have seen it several times as I do remember that it was repeated. I loved Cyril Ritchard as Hook. And Mary Martin was the perfect Pan. Thanks for that gorgeous photo of Ritchard and his wife on their wedding day. Perfection. Ah, memories...

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  8. Thanks for coming over, Yvette ... it's great to share something from long ago with others who remember it as fondly as I do. And oh that wedding dress! Wow!

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  9. Hey Becky, dear - somehow I missed this entry. Wow - now Cyril Ritchard is a name that brings back so many fond memories. I hear that NBC is going to produce a new version of Peter Pan. I wonder who will dare try to step into his shoes?

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  10. Re-makes of performances I love always give me the shakes. I just hope it isn't Brad Pitt or some popular generic teenage heartthrob!

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  11. He was the absolute best: a wonderful performer and human being! I'm so happy to see your lovely tribute and to know that there are others out there who remember him as warmly as I do.

    I wrote a tribute to him on my blog in July 2011 telling how I became an avid admirer after seeing him in Peter Pan in 1955. I wrote fan letters. He always answered them. The high point of my otherwise difficult childhood (with an abusive alcoholic father) was having a chance to meet him in the late 50's when he came to L.A. with Visit to a Small Planet. My brother, best friend and I were invited to visit him in his dressing room after the matinee performance we attended. He was sublime: took such an interest in us, wanted to know everything about us and really listened to what we had to say. He made us feel so important and, even more, that who we were and what we said mattered. When I told him that my father frightened me, he took my hand and we talked about the power of faith to heal the emotional wounds that life inflicts on us (he had lost an infant son in 1939 and his beloved wife in 1955). And he gave me a hug as I was leaving. I never saw him in person again, but his gentle kindness sustained me through many hard times and we stayed in touch by mail from time to time over the years. He was a performer who really cared about his fans -- especially children -- and who gave at least one little girl a sense of hope when she needed that so much. I'll never forget him.

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  12. What a lovely story, Dr. Kathy ... I've read that Cyril Ritchard went to daily Mass all of his life, a very devout Catholic. I'd like to share your story with all my readers. Thank you so much for sharing it with me.

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  13. Years after his Peter Pan TV shows, I recall seeing Cyril Ritchard as a guest on The Mike Douglas Show, along with co-host Michael Landon.
    During the talk, Ritchard mentioned that there was one song in the show that he loved above all the others, but had never gotten a chance to perform. Mike Douglas always liked to accomodate his guests, and so after a commercial break, we got to see Cyril Ritchard lead the two Mikes in a rousing chorus of "I Won't Grow Up!".
    I'd love to see this again; I always got the feeling that this was the real Cyril Ritchard.

    When Ritchard died, he was here in Chicago, appearing in the national touring company of Side By Side By Sondheim.
    He collapsed backstage, between acts, and died at the hospital.
    The producers shut down for a few days, until they engaged a replacement: Burr Tillstrom, along with Kukla and Ollie.
    At least one local columnist wrote that Cyril Ritchard would have approved heartily of the choice.
    Just thought you'd like to know ...

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  14. That IS a stunning wedding dress!

    Just realized that I really know nothing about Cyril Ritchard. Your post has prompted me to do more research. Thanks!

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