‘Lost’ Tony Hancock screenplay discovered

Legendary film script The Day Off unearthed at Ray Galton's home

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Exciting news for fans of classic comedy: The Day Off, a complete screenplay by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson that comedy legend Tony Hancock turned down the chance to film, has been found during research for a new biography of the comedy writers.

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The freshly unearthed script, about the mishaps of a luckless bus conductor, was discovered by author Christopher Stevens behind a filing cabinet in Galton’s home.

Described by Stevens as “archetypally Hancock”, The Day Off was intended as Tony Hancock’s second feature film starring role, following 1961’s The Rebel. But the star rejected the script, asking the writers for something “more international”, before severing his ties with Galton & Simpson to collaborate with Phillip Oakes on the thoroughly parochial The Punch and Judy Man.

The Day Off was the third and final attempt by the screenwriters to concoct a follow-up movie for the troubled comic, and was previously believed to have existed only as a sketch.

Disappointingly for curious fans, it appears unlikely that the newly discovered script will ever be made into a film. Stevens claims that the script in its current form would run to nearly three hours of screentime, and Alan Simpson said that the writers would have to “get it out and reread it” before they would consider consenting to it being filmed.

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Extracts from the newly discovered script appear in Stevens’s book, The Masters of Sitcom, which will be published on Thursday 1 September.