Stanley Baxter, born 24 May 1926, was educated at Hillhead High School, Glasgow. His father Fred was an Actuary (one of only three in Scotland at that time), and his mother Bessie, “desperately wanted to be an actress”.
Schooled for the stage by his mother, he began his career as a child actor in the Scottish edition of the BBC’s Children’s Hour.
He further developed his performing skills during his National Service. Posted to the official Entertainment Unit, he compered and produced shows, in huts, tents and anywhere else that could be used as a theatre. When he was demobilized he returned to Glasgow, and spent the next three years at the Citizens Theatre.
Following success on the radio with Jimmy Logan, Howard and Wyndham Ltd invited him to star in pantomime at the Theatre Royal Glasgow followed by the Half Past Eight Shows, and their successors the Five Past Eight shows at the Alhambra Theatre
Stanley made his television debut on the BBC’s Shop Window in 1952, followd by guest appearances on variety shows.
Perhaps Baxter’s best known series of sketches is Parliamo Glasgow, which had a ficticious scholar visiting Scotland where he tackled the broad Glasgow accent. The first sketch was included in one of the BBC Scotland series in the 1960’s and was based on the corporation’s first language programme Parliamo Italiano (‘Let’s Speak Italian’)
By 1963 Stanley was sufficiently well known to be given his first series with his name in the title. The Stanley Baxter Show (1963-1971). Stanley moved to London Weekend Television (LWT) for the Stanley Baxter Picture Show, which ran from 1972 to 1975, followed by a number of specials, plus another series in 1981. However, the cost of the extravagant show proved too much, and LWT dropped him, even though the shows attracted audiences of up to 20million. Baxter also courted controversy, becoming the first person on television to impersonate the Pope and the Queen.
He returned to the BBC with Stanley Baxter’s Christmas Hamper in 1985 and Stanley Baxter’s Picture Annual in 1986, and unfortunately again budget constraints meant there would be no more specials. In the absence of other work Stanley starred as Mr Majeika, the irrepressible wizard, sent to “Britland” from the planet Walpurgis for failing his wizarding exams, in the ITV children’s series Mr Majeika (1988-90). On stage, he performed in the original production of Joe Orton’s controversial farce What The Butler Saw in the West End in 1969, and was a longstanding favourite on the Scottish pantomime scene until his retirement in 1991.
2004 saw a return to radio for Stanley where he starred in Stanley Baxter and Friends, a series of four comedy plays co-starring Maureen Lipman, Claire Bloom, Phyllis Logan, Lynn Ferguson, and Greg Hemphill and Ford Kiernan. Baxter supplied 11 voices in one of the plays including the yapping dog!.
In 1997, he was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the British Comedy Awards and two television tribute programmes.
Happy birthday Stanley!