|Johnny Hutch at 15 and receiving his MBE in 1994.|
Johnny Hutch, one of the unsung heroes of physical comedy, would have been 100 years old today. As things turned out, he not only made it past his 93rd birthday, but remained active as an acrobatic performer until age 69, and as a teacher and choreographer late into life, last working as a stunt coordinator for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the age of 87. He was also married to the same woman, Jane Phillips, for 66 years, passing away — probably not coincidentally — months after she did in 2006.
More significant to today's performers (youse guys) is that Johnny Hutch deserves huge praise for generously sharing his knowledge with others, in the process becoming a key transitional figure between the circus/variety world of the mid-20th century and the alternative theatre world of the past fifty years. He created the Johnny Hutch School of Professional Acrobatics and Stagecraft —"Producers of High Class Specialty Acts. Knockabout and Fight Sequences. Traditional Trap Routines" and coached Robert Downey, Jr. for the title role in the movie Chaplin. He not only worked for established institutions such as the RSC, but also assisted fringier enterprises such as People Show and The Kosh, and helped establish Zippos Circus. So giving and dedicated was he to transmitting his skills that he was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth for "service to young people of the theatrical profession."
|Johnny Hutch as a clown.|
Here are a few video clips, followed by some remembrances by two huge fans, and finally a chronology of Hutch's life taken from his memoir.
Click here to see Johnny and The Seven Volants on the Circopedia site. This is from 1965.
A year later, these are the Herculeans at the Royal Hippodrome. Click here to watch, again at Circopedia.
This routine, by the way, reminds me of one Victor Gaona taught at Ringling's Clown College back in 1973, and that has been seen in some form in that circus many times.
A skit from the Benny Hill Show. Recognize anyone?
An obituary by acclaimed British actor Anthony Sher, which first appeared in the London Guardian.