The world’s image of the friendly, banjo-playing ‘lad next door’, on the silver screen George Formby kept the spirit of music-hall slapstick and saucy seaside levity alive during the years of Depression and Wartime. A top British and Commonwealth box-office draw between years 1935 and 1945, England’s favourite screen comedian was born George Hoy Booth in a Wigan terrace house, on 26th May 1904. The eldest of a large family, George had the stage and a native performing instinct in his blood, for his father, George Formby Sr. (alias James Lawler Booth, 1975-1921) was a celebrated Edwardian musichall comedian who, after rising from dire poverty, had acquired national fame through musical-hall and recordings, before dying prematurely from tuberculosis. George was ‘discovered’ for the screen by Ealing producer (and former actor) Basil Dean (1888-1978). Dean, who later attributed George’s success to sheer force of personality, assessed his dramatic talents thus: “Fortunately he had a very shrewd idea of his own capabilities, and was always determined never to step outside them . . . That wide grin of his seemed to spread across the screen . . . George never acted gormless like some successful comedians. He was gormless, so far as the audience was concerned,and they took him to their hearts accordingly.