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Richard, Cliff (1940-)

Singer, Actor

Main image of Richard, Cliff (1940-)

A British pop culture phenomenon, Cliff Richard (born Harry Webb in Lucknow, India on 14 October 1940) has been a celebrity since 1958, a pop icon and an enigmatic figure, a tabula rasa on to which an audience can write what it desires. His credentials as an early rock-and-roller, modelled on Elvis, lasted only from 1958 to 59; clearly his heart wasn't in it. His first film appearance was as a juvenile delinquent in Serious Charge (d. Terence Young, 1959), followed by his celebrated performance of 'Turn Me Loose', with menacing leer, on TV's Oh Boy! (ITV, tx. 30/5/1959), an image soon abandoned in favour of blander pop that appealed to both teenagers and their grannies.

Both The Young Ones (d. Sidney J.Furie, 1961) and Summer Holiday (d. Peter Yates, 1962) were top UK box-office attractions of their time. The former drew on the 'Hey, guys, Let's put on a show!' ethos of the Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland films such as Babes on Broadway (US, d. Busby Berkeley, 1941), and Summer Holiday even had Cliff and the gang Viennese-waltzing. With his limited acting range, his films became even dumber, with diminishing box-office returns.

Following his religious conversion in 1965, he appeared in Two a Penny (d. James F.Collier, 1967), which is ironic in hindsight, as a number, 'Shrine on the Second Floor', in Expresso Bongo (d. Val Guest, 1959) had earlier satirised pop singers and religiosity. Whenever his name is invoked today it is inevitably with a heavy sense of post-modern irony; except, of course, by his ever-loyal (mainly female) fans, like the two middle-aged women reported as sleeping eight nights in a car to ensure being first in the ticket queue for his 2002 Bournemouth performance. He was knighted in 1995 for charitable works.

Autobiography: Which One's Cliff?, 1977
Steve Turner, Cliff Richard, 1993.

Roger Philip Mellor, Encyclopedia of British Film

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From the BFI's filmographic database

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Expresso Bongo (1959)Expresso Bongo (1959)

Cliff Richard comedy about the discovery of a new musical star

Thumbnail image of Summer Holiday (1962)Summer Holiday (1962)

Cliff Richard and chums cross Europe by double-decker bus

Thumbnail image of Young Ones, The (1961)Young Ones, The (1961)

Exuberant musical in which Cliff Richard and pals fight to save their youth club

Thumbnail image of Oh Boy! (1958-59)Oh Boy! (1958-59)

Energetic ABC pop music show based on live performances

Related collections

Thumbnail image of MusicalsMusicals

Song and dance on the big screen

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