Thursday, 4 March 2010
Another great old English comedian from the days of music hall and variety. Doing his famous "What Have You Got In That Box" routine. I have vague memories of it on TV in the 60's when Roy Castle was the barmy chap with the box.
"Jimmy James was born James Casey on 20 May 1892 the eldest of four sons of Jeremiah Casey an iron puddler or steelmaker and Polly Gartland. Many sources state he was born in Portrack, Stockton-on-Tees although other sources consider that he was born in South Bank, Middlesbrough and moved to Stockton-on-Tees at the age of seven in 1899. At the age of ten he won a boy soprano contest at the Stockton Hippodrome and shortly afterwards ran away, hitching a ride to Darlington to join a travelling show.The police located him a few years later at the age of twelve by which time he had become a seasoned performer. His father, an amateur clog dancer himself, encouraged his son's showbusiness talents.
At the Sunderland Empire Jimmy met Isabelle Darby a music hall dancer. Although Jimmy appeared on stage as a convincing drunk, often with a cigar or cigarette in his mouth, he was teetotal and did not smoke off stage. His weaknesses were gambling and his famed generosity which may account for his declared bankruptcies in 1936, 1955 and 1963. Jimmy was last on stage in 1964, retiring that year. He died in Blackpool of pulmonary congestion on 4 August 1965 following a heart attack and is buried in Oxbridge Cemetery, Stockton-on-Tees."