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Now and Then: Spike Milligan (1967)


Main image of Now and Then: Spike Milligan (1967)
1 December 1967
16mm, colour, 40 mins
Production CompanyAdanac Productions
ProducersBernard Braden
 Barbara Kelly
PhotographyRichard Bayley

Bernard Braden interviews the comedian and Goon Show founder.

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Bernard Braden's Now and Then interview series were largely self-financed, and were therefore produced with limited resources and under less than ideal conditions. Emphasised by the inclusion of the usually omitted reel changes and sound-cue clapperboards in this unedited version, it is apparent that the filming is not of the usual broadcast standard. Focus is not always sharp, and 'hairs in the gate' are visible around the edge of the frame. However, the candid, relaxed nature of this interview is also unusual, a characteristic rarely present in slicker studio conversations. In part, this is due to the skill of the interviewer, and the obviously familiar relationship between Braden and his interviewee. But the low-key surroundings also help to lower Spike Milligan's guard. At one point he asks: "Does this go out to the world, or just here?" There is a sense that this interview is a favour to a friend rather than a potentially public engagement, and one can speculate that Milligan may have had doubts as to how far the project would go.

Interestingly, the interview itself picks up on the distinction between private and public persona whilst discussing politicians. Television interviews with celebrities are usually the province of light entertainment, with subjects participating in order to promote a new book, album or film. Here Braden is free to ask questions which do not have to elicit easy, amusing answers, and Milligan is able to venture into unusual territories, with ideas and opinions that may have been more guardedly expressed in higher profile surroundings. For example, Milligan does give his account of a drink driving incident with the police, despite saying that he doesn't want to talk about it. However, part of this candidness is just Milligan character, and the full force of his opinions and personality were perhaps more of a problem for television and radio executives than for Milligan himself.

His battles with depression and nervous breakdowns were in full swing during this interview, but he was, at the time, on the cusp of a new phase of professional success with the BBC series The World of Beachcomber (1968-1969), which led to the better known Q5 (1969). While the interview is perhaps a truer representation of his personality, it is likely that fans of his Goon Show humour would have been at least a little impatient with his serious side.

Jez Stewart

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Video Clips
Complete unedited interview (42:07)
Milligan, Spike (1918-2002)
Now and Then (1967-68)