Howdy !


1914 ~ 1989


Intro...

For many, Francis Coudrill will be fondly remembered for his quirky television wild ‘wooly’ west characters, including Hank The Cowboy, his 'sidekick' - horse Silver King, and the notorious bandit Mexican Pete. 

The 1950's witnessed the inception of television, and Coudrill saw the enormous potential pf this new medium of home entertainment that combined sight and sound. Television was the perfect vehicle for this talented on stage ventriloquist, and enabled the development of his wild west brain child into a Hank culture that encompassed the production of the fabulous cartoons and live on-screen appearances, as well as a hugely successful merchandising range.

However, there was another side to Coudrill. He was passionate about art; not merely at a commercial level, but at an ascetic level. He was a self-taught artist, whose early landscapes, including several of Cornwall, were positively received by critics.

Coudrill was born in Warwick, but it was in Cornwall that he found the inspiration for his painting. In his post-Hank era, Coudrill focused his artistic energy mostly on portraits and figure drawings. 


He also provided illustrations for technical publications.
This drawing appears in a 1944 p/b  METALS IN THE SERVICE OF MAN

Although the Hank phenomena continued to haunt and distort the considerable artistic contribution of Coudrill, his landscapes and portrait drawings are finally being recognised on equal footing as the other great Penwith artists of the 1960's.

 


Outro..
 ...courtesy of Coudrill Jnr.










FRANCIS  COUDRILL   1914 - 1989
CREATOR OF HANK THE COWBOY

My father considered himself to be primarily a Fine Artist, and it was within the parameters of this discipline that he made such a seminal contribution to the graphic art of the Twentieth Century, an opinion volunteered by Sir Christopher Frayling at the Royal College of Art in 1998.

Francis had early connections with the movie business; he sculpted the life-size figure of Dame Anna Neagle as Queen Victoria for Herbert Wilcox, made the original masks for the premiere of Snow White and stylishly caricatured Chaplin, Dietrich, and many other great stars.

He was commissioned in the 'forties to design the Inn Signs for the Ind Coope brewery chain and the work was exhibited at the Royal College as an example of excellence, an excellence he brought to the perfectly composed sets and characters in his famous Television Series.

Among the very first Variety Artistes to recognize the massive future of Television, he augmented success as a top-line Stage Ventriloquist with a weekly appearance alongside Annette Mills and Muffin the Mule on BBC Children's Television’s fondly remembered variety show "Whirligig" where, using live animation, initially assisted by the great Alfred
Wurmser, he developed his famous characters Hank the Cowboy, the archetypal bandit Mexican Pete and the rest of his Wild West pantheon, along with bit-players like Silas Hokum, crooked lawyer, and Joe Slick, merciless travelling salesman, that added the satirical edge of social comment to Hank's moral comedies.

With the onset of Commercial Television in Britain, Francis went into business as independent producer, and - a virtuoso tour de force - wrote, animated and filmed the Hank cartoons from first roughs to final editing, voices, songs and sound effects, entirely on his own, creating for the process a beautifully crafted alternative animation machine that was a work of art in itself.  I had the
honour, as a successor to Steve Race, my father’s first musical director, of creating the music for the final series.

Throughout the Nineteen Fifties the fan mail arrived by the daily sack-full.  No home was complete without Hank in the TV Comic, Hank painting books, Hank reading books, Hank jigsaws. Hank glove puppets, Hank marionettes, and of course Hank's deadpan comic image on everything else from tea towels to tin trays.

By the close of the decade, Selfridges west end department store was centering its Christmas window display around Hank and his supporting cast as it would later with Walt Disney’s blockbuster cartoon of Alice in Wonderland.

The Disney Corporation made a massive offer for Hank the Cowboy, but my father’s insistence upon total artistic control was incompatible with the corporation’s policy, so Hank,
iconically
Western, ironically never crossed the Atlantic.  Francis is buried in Ruan Minor Churchyard, two miles from his last home here on the Cadgwith cliffs. He was laid to rest in his full stage costume, including matched silver six-guns. 

Perhaps future archaeologists will marvel that here, in our own Wild West.

They died with their boots on…

Jonathon X. Coudrille

ps. Joanna Coudrill passes away ~

 

Peacefully at West Cornwall Hospital, Penzance, Sunrise on September 2nd, 2007. Only beloved Wife of the late Francis Coudrill of Cadgwith and Saint Ives, Mother of Jonathon X. Coudrille, Grandmother of Joseph and Xenia, Lead singer of the legendary Ruan Folk
.


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