Chesney and Wolfe

Chesney and Wolfe

Ronald Chesney (born 1920 as René Cadier) and Ronald Wolfe (born 8 August 1922) are British TV comedy screenwriters, best known for their popular 1960s / 1970s sitcoms The Rag Trade and On The Buses.


Early years

Chesney left school at the age of 16 and became a professional harmonica player. He was declared unfit to serve in World War II because of illness. He began to write potential radio scripts for the BBC where he came into contact with future writing partner Ronald Wolfe.

Wolfe was born in London and during World War II he worked as a radio engineer at Marconi. In the early 1950s he began to contribute to radio scripts, and his long and fruitful partnership with Chesney began. Wolfe is the first cousin of actor Warren Mitchell.

Chesney and Wolfe's works

The first major success for Chesney and Wolfe was BBC radio's Educating Archie, in 1958. This featured ventriloquist Peter Brough and his puppet Archie Andrews and emerged from a one-off special they had written in 1956 for the BBC entitled Here's Archie, which also featured Brough, his dummy, and Irene Handl.

In 1961 the duo created The Rag Trade, starring Peter Jones, Miriam Karlin and Reg Varney. Written for the BBC, this comedy was set in a working class environment and featured strong roles for the female actors, which was unusual for the time. Set in a fabric workshop - Fenner Fashions - it centred on the battles and conflicts between the bosses and the workers, and contained a certain degree of social commentary. Sheila Hancock, Esma Cannon and Barbara Windsor also appeared.

In 1963 Chesney and Wolfe repeated their success with the BBC sitcom Meet The Wife starring Dame Thora Hird and Freddie Frinton. It was originally a one-off Comedy Playhouse pilot called "The Bed". Again, this featured working class characters and humour. This sitcom is also mentioned in the lyrics of The Beatles' Good Morning Good Morning ("It's time for tea and Meet The Wife").

In 1964 they wrote a 13 episode comedy series for Australian TV, 'Barley Charlie', which revolved around two sisters, Sheila Bradley as Joan Muggleton and Robina Beard as Shirley Muggleton, who inherit a run down garage complete with its one bone-idle employee, Edward Hepple as Charlie Appleby, it was produced by Rod Kinnear for the Nine Network.

In 1965/66 they wrote The Bed-Sit Girl starring Sheila Hancock, and in 1967 Sorry I'm Single starring Derek Nimmo, Gwendolyn Watts and Elizabeth Knight. In 1968 they created Wild, Wild Women starring Barbara Windsor, which was a kind of period-piece variation on The Rag Trade.

Their next major series though was ITV's On The Buses which started in 1969 produced by the newly formed London Weekend Television network. It starred Reg Varney as bus driver "Stan Butler", with Bob Grant as his bus conductor "Jack Harper", Cicely Courtneidge and later Doris Hare as his "Mum", Michael Robbins as his brother in law "Arthur", Anna Karen as his plain sister "Olive" and the memorable lip-quivering Stephen Lewis as bus Inspector Cyril Blake, usually referred to as "Blakey" or "Dracula". The series ran until 1973 and was a great success, producing three film spin-offs and an American remake, Lotsa Luck, which ran for one season on NBC in 1973-1974. When the series ended Wolfe and Chesney followed it with Don't Drink the Water (1974/75), which starred Stephen Lewis's Blakey abroad in Spain, which lasted for two series.

In 1972, the Two (Writing) Ronnies, as they were sometimes known, wrote the ITV sitcom Romany Jones starring Dad's Army actor James Beck and featuring Jo Rowbottom and Arthur English. It lasted four series, but was not as popular as some of their previous projects. Beck died after the second series necessitating some recasting. Romany Jones led to a sequel featuring the characters played by Arthur Mullard and Queenie Watts, Yus, My Dear (1976).

In 1977, an updated version of The Rag Trade was produced by LWT for the ITV network, with Peter Jones and Miriam Karlin returning, and Anna Karen virtually repeating her Olive character from On The Buses, it lasted two series.

Their last series as a comedy scriptwriting partnership were Watch This Space (BBC 1980), starring Christopher Biggins as the boss of an advertising agency, and Take a Letter Mr. Jones (Southern 1981), a vehicle for John Inman.

Both Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney live in London.

TV credits

  • Here's Archie (1956) BBC
  • Educating Archie (1958/59) Associated-Rediffusion/ ITV
  • The Rag Trade (1961–1963) BBC
  • Comedy Playhouse (Series 3) -"The Bed" (1963, Pilot) BBC
  • Meet the Wife (1964–1966) BBC
  • Barley Charlie (1964) Nine Network, Australia
  • The Bed-Sit Girl (1965/66) BBC
  • Sorry I'm Single (1967) BBC
  • According To Dora (1968/69) BBC
  • Comedy Playhouse (Series 7) - "Wild, Wild Women" (1968, Pilot) BBC
  • Wild, Wild Women (1969, series) BBC
  • On the Buses (1969–1973) LWT
  • The Other Reg Varney (1970, repeated as The Reg Varney Comedy Hour in 1972) LWT
  • Romany Jones (1972, Pilot) Thames TV
  • Romany Jones (1973–75, series) LWT
  • Don't Drink The Water (1974/75) LWT
  • Yus, My Dear (1976) LWT
  • Comedy Special - "The Boys And Mrs B" (1977, Pilot) BBC
  • The Rag Trade (1977/78) LWT remake
  • Watch This Space (1980) BBC
  • Take a Letter, Mr. Jones (1981) Southern / ITV
  • Allo Allo! (1989, one episode "Down the Drain", series 5) BBC

Film credits

External links

  • IMDB - link for Ronald Chesney.
  • IMDB - link for Ronald Wolfe.

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