Michael Bentine CBE (26 January 1922  - 26 November 1996 ) was a comedian, comic actor, and founding member of The Goons. Bentine was born Michael James Bentin in Watford, Hertfordshire, of Anglo-Peruvian parentage and grew up in Folkestone, Kent, one of his friends being the young David Tomlinson. He was educated at Eton College. He spoke fluent Spanish and French. His father was an early aeronautical engineer for Sopwith aircraft during and after World War I. In World War II he volunteered for all services when the war broke out (the RAF was his first choice due to the influence of his father's experience), but was rejected because of his father's Peruvian nationality. He started his acting career in 1940, in a touring company in Cardiff playing a juvenile lead in Sweet Lavender. He went onto to join Robert Atkin's Shakespearian company in Regent's Park, London until he was called up for service in the RAF. He was appearing in a Shakespearean play in doublet and hose in the open-air theatre in London's Hyde Park when two RAF MPs marched onstage and arrested him for desertion. Unbeknown to him, an RAF conscription notice had been following him for a month as his company toured. Once in the RAF he went through flight training. He was the penultimate man going through a medical line receiving inoculations for typhoid with the other flight candidates in his class (they were going to Canada to receive new aircraft) when the vaccine ran out. They refilled the bottle to inoculate him and the other man as well. By mistake they loaded a pure culture of typhoid. The other man died immediately, and Bentine was in a coma for six weeks. When he regained consciousness his eyesight was ruined, leaving him myopic for the rest of his life. Since he was no longer physically qualified for flight, he was transferred to RAF Intelligence and seconded to MI9 a unit that was dedicated to supporting resistance movements and help prisoners escape. His immediate superior was the Colditz escapee Airey Neave. At the end of the war, he took part in the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. He said about this experience: Millions of words have been written about these horror camps, many of them by inmates of those unbelievable places. I’ve tried, without success, to describe it from my own point of view, but the words won’t come. To me Belsen was the ultimate blasphemy.
After the war he worked in the Windmill Theatre and the Starlight Roof revues. He decided to become a comedian, specialising in off-the-wall humour, often involving cartoons and other types of animation. He founded The Goon Show radio show with Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, and Harry Secombe, but appeared in only the first 38 shows on the BBC Light Programme from 1951-53. He also appeared in The Goon Show film Down Among the Z Men, and at the time seemed perhaps the most comfortable of the cast in working in a visual medium. He parted amicably with his partners and remained very close to Secombe and Milligan for the rest of their lives. (In 1972, Secombe and Sellers told Michael Parkinson that he was "...always calling everyone a genius..." and since he was the only one of the four with a "proper education," they always believed him. ) He left The Goons to work on his own radio series. Bentine spent two years in Australia (1954-55). In 1954 he began as a television presenter with a BBC children's series, The Bumblies. These were three small creatures from outer space who slept on 'Professor' Bentine's ceiling and who had come to our planet to learn the ways of Earthling children. During 1959, he worked on the radio series Round the Bend in 30 Minutes. During the 1960s, he had a television series It's a Square World. A prominent feature of the series was the imaginary flea circus where plays were enacted on tiny sets using nothing but special effects to show the movement of things too small to see and sounds with Bentine's commentary. The plays were anything but serious with one titled "The Beast of the Black Bog Tarn" which was set in a (miniature) haunted house. He narrated and presented the 1970s children's television programme Michael Bentine's Potty Time. He was also a writer. Three of his books, The Long Banana Skin (1975), The Door Marked Summer (1981), and The Reluctant Jester (1992) are autobiographical.
During the 1960s he also took part in the first hovercraft expedition up the River Amazon. In 1995, Michael Bentine received a CBE from Queen Elizabeth II "for services to entertainment". He was also a holder of the Peruvian Order of Merit, as was his grandfather Don Antonio Bentin Palamero. Bentine was a crack pistol shot, and helped to start the idea of a counter-terrorist wing within 22 SAS Regiment. In doing so, he became the first non-SAS person ever to fire a gun inside the close-quarters battle training house at Hereford. His interests included parapsychology. This is a result of his and his family's extensive research into the paranormal which resulted in him writing The Door Marked Summer and The Doors of the Mind. He was, for the final years of his life, president of the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena.
Family and healthEdit
He was married twice, remaining with his second wife Clementina Stuart, a Royal Ballet dancer, for over fifty years. He had a child from his first marriage, Elaine. His children from his second marriage were better known by their family nicknames than their birth names - Gus (real name Stuart), Fusty (real name Marylla), Suki (real name Serena) and Peski (real name Richard). Two of his five children, his eldest daughters, died from cancer (breast cancer and lymphoma), while his eldest son, Gus, was killed when a Piper PA-18 (Super Cub, registration G-AYPN) crashed into a hillside at Ditcham Woods near Petersfield, Hampshire on 28 August 1971. His body, together with that of the pilot and aircraft were found on 31 October 1971, the plane had been missing for just over nine weeks. Bentine's subsequent investigation into regulations governing private airfields resulted in him writing a report for the Special Branch of the British police into the use of personal aircraft in smuggling operations. He fictionalised much of the material in his novel Lords of the Levels. When his son Richard's first boy was born, he tried to give him a Maxim Spandau machine gun, which his daughter-in-law refused. When Richard's second son was born, Michael bought him a train set. From 1975 until his death, he and his wife spent their winters at a second home in Palm Springs, California. Shortly before his death from prostate cancer at the age of 74, he was visited at his home in England by the heir to the British throne Charles, Prince of Wales, who was a close personal friend. His two surviving children, Richard (aka Peski) and Serena (aka Suki), both work in marketing. Today, their mother Clementina, greets them with, "Good heavens! The surviving children!" They both reply, "Ah, the widow Bentine."
Some of the programmes Bentine appeared in were: The Great Bong (1993) Bentine (1975) Michael Bentine's Potty Time (1973-80) All Square (1966) The Golden Silents (1965) It's a Square World (1960-64) Round the Bend in Thirty Minutes (1959) After Hours (1958-1959) Yes, It's the Cathode-Ray Tube Show! (1957) The Bumblies (1954) Goonreel (1952) The Goon Show (1950-52)
Rentadick (1972) Bachelor of Arts (1971) The Sandwich Man (1966) We Joined the Navy (1962) The Do-It-Yourself Cartoon Kit (1961) I Only Arsked! (1958) Raising a Riot (1955) John and Julie (1955) Forces' Sweetheart (1953) Down Among the Z Men aka The Goon Movie (1952) Cookery Nook (1951)
The Reluctant Jester sub-title My Head-on Collision with the 20th Century - Bantam Press - 1992 - ISBN 0-593-02042-1 Open Your Mind sub-title The quest for creative thinking - Bantam Press - 1990 - ISBN 0-593-01538-X Templar - Bantam Press - 1988 - ISBN 0-593-01339-5 The Condor and The Cross sub-title An Adventure Novel of the Conquistadors - Bantam Press - 1987 - ISBN 0-593-01265-8 Lords of The Levels - Grafton - 1986 - ISBN 0-586-06643-8 The Shy Person's Guide To Life - Grafton - 1984 - ISBN 0-586-06167-3 Doors of The Mind - Granada - 1984 - ISBN 0-246-11845-8 The Door Marked Summer - Granada - 1981 - ISBN 0-246-11405-3 Smith & Son Removers - Corgi - 1981 - ISBN 0-552-12074-X The Long Banana Skin - New English Library - 1976 - ISBN 0-450-02882-8 Madame's Girls and other stories (1980) The Best of Bentine (1984) Panther The Potty Encyclopedia (1985) The Potty Khyber Pass (1974) The Potty Treasure Island (1973) Square Games (1966) Wolfe SBN 0723400806 M. Bentine & J. Ennis Michael Bentine's Book of Square Holidays (1968) Wolfe SBN 72340019 9