Just before she hit TV big time Hylda Baker was part of a Christmas variety show in Shropshire
Once upon a time the Granada Theatre in Shrewsbury (now a bingo hall) used to attract big names for its theatre productions. (I’ve told you about the time Laurel and Hardy visited The Hollywood great who came to Shrewsbury – and got burgled!).
They came to Shrewsbury towards the very end of their career – but in 1966 comedienne Hylda Baker came to the Granada. She was a big star on the variety circuit but was yet to get her break in TV. The festive variety show “Christmas Crackers” was on for a two week run produced by comedian and producer Terry Cantor and had a host of stars.
Hylda Baker was the headline star.
But there were other big names:
Fred Emney who became famous for “playing a posh fat bloke” in music halls. He had his own comedy TV program in the 1950s.
Clinton Ford a popular singer in the 1950s and 60s – also of the musical hall variety (Clinton Ford – He Played His Ukulele As The Ship Went Down)
Kenny Cantor, comedian and son of Terry the producer.(Interview on Cruising With The Stars – Kenny Cantor)
Lila Prentice – a rope spinner who toured the country with a troupe of dogs and a cycling act. Lila’s obituary
Hylda’s TV Break
Although she had made TV appearances in the 1950s her big TV break came in 1968 when (coincidentally) Granada cast her in their new sitcom Nearest and Dearest.
Take a look at one of the program’s Christmas Specials The Ghost of Picklers Past
It was however reported that she didn’t get on with her co-star Jimmy Jewell and the studio was a war zone.
Apparently she also kept forgetting her lines – a sign of the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
However she continued her successful television career appearing in many other TV shows and she cemented herself as a household name.
She apparently lived the life of a star, dressing in furs and keeping monkeys as pets.
Her final television appearance was in 1978 in BBC arts documentary show Omnibus about comediennes. She died in 1986. She’s still affectionately known as British TV’s first female comedy star.