Freddie Frinton, born Frederick Bittiner Coo, (17 January 1909 – 16 October 1968) was an English comedian and music hall and television actor who remains a household name in Germany and Scandinavia because of his performance in Dinner for One.
Frinton was born in Hainton Avenue, Grimsby, Lincolnshire, the illegitimate child of a seamstress, Florence Elisabeth Coo, and was brought up by foster parents. He started working in a Grimsby fish processing plant, where he is said to have entertained his colleagues with parodies and jokes, but was ultimately sacked. He moved into music hall, where he enjoyed modest success and renamed himself Freddie Frinton.
During the Second World War he made a moderate breakthrough as a comedian. In 1945, Frinton first performed the sketch Dinner for One in Blackpool. As he had to pay a royalty every time he performed the sketch, he bought the rights to Dinner for One in the 1950s, which turned out to be a very prescient decision.
At the age of 55, Frinton became a belated success as the plumber husband in the popular television sitcom Meet the Wife, which ran for 40 episodes (the wife was played by Thora Hird). The series is mentioned in the Beatles song "Good Morning Good Morning" with the line "It's time for tea and Meet the Wife". In October 1968, at the age of 59, Freddie Frinton died suddenly from a heart attack in London. He is buried in City of Westminster Cemetery, Hanwell.
Dinner for One
In 1963, Frinton's Dinner for One was recorded by the Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) German television station, and watching the unsubtitled English language sketch on television has subsequently become a German, Austrian and Swiss New Year's Eve tradition, with the short seeing multiple repeats every year from 1972 onwards. The role of Miss Sophie was played by May Warden.
The television cult also caught on in Scandinavia and Dinner for One has been a hugely popular institution on Danish, Finnish, Estonian and Swedish television on New Year's Eve for many years, as well as in Belgium in the original version. It became so popular that a Dutch version was made with the Dutch actor Joop Doderer for Dutch viewers. It is also shown every 23 December on Norwegian television (NRK), and has been shown on the Australian SBS television network on New Year's Eve for at least the last fifteen years. In South Africa the SABC likewise aired it every New Year's Eve, making it a family tradition during the 80's and 90's. The program and its main actor Frinton are far less well known in Britain than in any of these countries.
Ironically for an actor whose roles often comprised playing a drunk, Frinton was a teetotaller (complete abstinence from alcoholic beverages), having seen in others the damage that alcohol could do.
Frinton was married twice – firstly, in 1931, to Maisie Basil, and secondly to Nora Gratton, in 1945. He had a son by his first marriage, and four further children by his second – two daughters and two sons.
- Stars in Your Eyes (1956)