back to article Will Hay: Britain's bumbling star of the screen and skies

It’s 80 years since Gainsborough Pictures released the comedy Boys Will Be Boys, the movie that finally established ex-music hall performer Will Hay as a British film name – during that same year of 1935 he also published an accomplished astronomy book Through My Telescope. Hay was now a rising star in both senses of the word …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sort of beats

    Brian Cox hands down..

    Things can only get better.....

  2. DUNCAN E.

    Out of copyright ?

  3. DUNCAN E.

    Out of copyright ?

    1. Tromos

      Re: Out of copyright ?

      Unless Disney grab it and stick on another century or three.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Brilliantly funny and years ahead of his time, fond memories of Will Hay TV re-runs when I was a kid.

    Not just an talented amateur Astronomer, apparently a gifted polyglot as well.

  5. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    My earliest knowledge of him was (as a child) being given a book 'School Yarns & Howlers'

  6. Chris G

    Where's the astronomy angle

    I remember watching his films on TV as a kid on wet Sunday afternoons some real classic comedy.

    I read all through the article expecting to learn more about his astronomy about which I knew nothing...

    and still don't.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Where's the astronomy angle

      he found a spot on saturn! Re-read it!

  7. John Gamble

    "...successfully touring America, South Africa and Canada."

    Nice article, but I believe your Canadian readers would like to have a word with you about geography.

    1. GBE

      Context, my boy

      In that context "America" is clearly referring to a country, not a pair of continents. The hint is that the other two things in the list are countries, and not continents.

  8. EddieD

    Fond memories

    I still remember nearly dying with laughter watching Will Hay films when I was young - when I was reviewing a Marx Bros film a few weeks ago I got to thinking of Oh! Mr Porter, and The goose steps.

    Thanks for the memories - and when I get a spare evening, I'll search YouTube for some more memories.

  9. x 7

    I hate to sound a damp note, but I've never thought he was funny.

    To be truthful, in my opinion his films were tedious unfunny crap.

  10. Pen-y-gors


    I remember going for an interview at UCL (back in the seventies) which was held at their observatory out at Mill Hill - originally Will Hays place. Impressive selection of equipment (well, I thought so at the time - Hubble it wasn't). It must have been wonderful when it was built, out there in the countryside north of London. By the seventies it had a dual carriageway right on the doorstep, laden with massive lorries rumbling by and shaking everything up, and the sodium streetlights everywhere were a bit of a problem too. At optical wavelengths the site was pretty well useless. Pity.

    1. hammarbtyp

      Re: Astronomy

      I remember going there too, although I wasn't aware it was Will Hay's old place. Some impressive instruments, but terrible location. I remember one problem they commented on was getting Mercury lines on their spectrum caused by the local football grounds floodlights.

      However I was impressed by the CCD one student had built housed in a old bake bean tin...

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Astronomy

        Will's hill in Mill Hill isn't a the be all and end all, but Will would surely tell us he coped with his telescope.

  11. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge


    My other half had childhood memories of watching re-runs of Will Hay movies, so when she found them on LoveFilm we spent a few weekends working our way through his back catalogue.

    Wonderful stuff...the only blow was when stepson #2 piped up "so, did you watch these at the cinema when they first came out?"

  12. Kubla Cant

    a Buster Keaton tribute as Hay and Hulbert end up hanging off the clock face of Big Ben

    It sounds like it was actually a tribute to Harold Lloyd. The famous clock face routine is in his film Safety Last.

    (To confirm my recollection, I searched Google for "buster keaton clock". Oddly, the first page of results contains four images from the Harold Lloyd film, a YouTube link for the Harold Lloyd film, a Wikipedia article about the Harold Lloyd film, and five other links related to the Harold Lloyd film. The interwebs seem to think Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd were the same person.)

  13. David 18

    Unsung, forgotten star.

    Glad to see this article, I think Will Hay is one of the great unsung stars.

    My dad got me into Will Hay films in the late 70s, they used to show them on TV a bit more then. Strangely enough I came across his films again by accident at where most were available to watch for free. Must settle down one rainy Sunday afternoon and revisit my youth.

  14. Ian 55

    There's some padding in the films

    .. but the same could be said of the Marx Brothers ones.

    The best bits of both are verbal wordplay at its finest.

  15. RichardB

    Someone doing media studies then?

    Ed looking for some extra content, so you thought you'd just submit a media studies first year essay then?

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