Born in Wigan in 1901 and a childhood friend of George Formby, who was later to become his chief rival, Frank Randle was one of the greatest music-hall comedians of all time. His theatre career started in 1916, when he appeared as an acrobatic artist under the name of Arthur Twist. It was not until the thirties, however, that he achieved his greatest popularity and notoriety as a comedian whose wild, manic temperament introduced a fresh note of invention into popular entertainment. For ten years he ran his own touring company, Randle's Scandals, playing to enthusiastic audiences all over the country. He also made a number of shoe-string movies and was the star of Blackpool's most distinguished summer-season show. During the early fifties his health declined and he died in Blackpool in 1957.
Originally published in 1978, Jeff Nuttall's account of Frank Randle is both a portrait of a 'very, very, funny man' and the story of his own search as he pieced that portrait together by talking to Randle's acquaintances, friends, colleagues and relations. What emerges from his narrative is a beautifully recorded analysis of the ways in which working-class values are expressed in popular entertainment and are thus ritualised by it. The image Nuttall builds of Randle also allows him to explore the perennial theme of the clown as outsider and, with the passing of Randle, he acknowledges the passing of a certain naive optimism which Randle so expressively embodied.