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Michael Palin

Sheffield History

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Sheffield History


Early life and career

Palin was born in Broomhill, Sheffield. His father was an engineer working for a steel firm. He started his education at Birkdale preparatory school, Sheffield, and later Shrewsbury School, Shrewsbury. When he was five years old at Birkdale, Palin had his first acting experience playing Martha Cratchit in a school performance of A Christmas Carol. At the age of ten Palin, still interested in acting, made a comedy monologue and read a Shakespeare play to his mother while playing all the parts.

After his school days in 1962 he went on to read Modern history at Brasenose College, Oxford. With fellow student Robert Hewison he performed and wrote, for the first time, comedy material at a university Christmas party. Terry Jones, also a student in Oxford, saw that performance and began writing together with Hewison and Palin.

In the same year Palin joined the Brightside and Carbrook Co-Operative Society Players and first gained fame when he won an acting award at a Co-Op drama festival. He also performed in the Oxford Revue together with Jones.

In 1966 he married his wife Helen Gibbins, whom he met for the first time in 1959 when on holiday in Southwold. This meeting was later fictionalised in the play East of Ipswich written by Palin. Together they have three children. When his son William still was a baby he briefly appeared in Monty Python and the Holy Grail as Sir Not-appearing-in-this-film.

After finishing university in 1965 Palin became a presenter on a comedy pop show called Now! for the television contractor Television Wales and the West. At the same time Palin was contacted by Jones who had left university a year earlier, and was writing a theatrical documentary about sex through the ages. He asked Palin to help him write it. Although this project was eventually abandoned it brought Palin and Jones together as a writing duo. Together with Jones, Palin wrote comedy for various BBC programmes, like The Kenn Dodd Show, The Billy Cotton Bandshow and The Illustrated Weekly Hudd. They were also in the team of writers working for The Frost Report.

Other members of this team were Frank Muir, Barry Cryer, Marty Feldman, Ronnie Barker, Ronnie Corbett, wee pipe Vosburgh and future Monty Python members Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Eric Idle. Although the members of Monty Python had already encountered each other over the years, The Frost Report was the first time all the English members of Monty Python (Terry Gilliam is an American) worked together. During the run of The Frost Report the Palin/Jones team contributed material to two shows starring John Bird: The Late Show and A series of Bird's. For A series of Bird's the Palin/Jones team had their first experience of writing narrative instead of the short sketches they used to write.

Following The Frost Report the Palin/Jones team worked as actors and writers on the show Twice a fortnight with Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and Jonathan Lynn, and the successful children's comedy show Do Not Adjust Your Set with Eric Idle and David Jason. The animations on Do Not Adjust Your Set were made by Terry Gilliam who joined the cast on recommendation by Cleese and was the first time the Palin/Jones team worked with him. Without Jones, Palin was asked by Cleese, who was eager to work again with Palin, to perform in How to Irritate People together with Chapman and Tim Brooke-Taylor. A television program meant to break into the American market. The Palin/Jones team worked again together in The Complete and Utter History of Britain.

It was during this time that John Cleese called up Michael Palin and wondered whether he was interested in doing a show with him, which would become Monty Python's Flying Circus. Cleese and Chapman were offered a show by the BBC who had seen them on The Frost Report, among other programmes. However, Cleese was reluctant to do a two-man show, for various reasons � including Chapman's supposedly difficult personality. At the same time, following the success of Do Not Adjust Your Set Palin, Jones, Idle and Gilliam, were offered their own series together. While this series was still in production Palin agreed to Cleese's proposal and brought Idle, Jones and Gilliam along. Much has been made of the fact that the Monty Python troupe is the result of Cleese's desire to work with Palin and the chance circumstances that brought the other four members into the fold.

After the Monty Python television series ended, Palin collaborated with Python writing partner Terry Jones on the television comedy series Ripping Yarns and the play Secrets, from the BBC series Black and Blue. He also appeared in All You Need Is Cash as Eric Manchester (based on Derek Taylor) press agent for The Rutles.

In 1982, Palin wrote and starred in The Missionary, co-starring Maggie Smith. In it, he plays the Reverend Charles Fortesque who is recalled back from Africa to England to aid prostitutes.

He appeared in Terry Gilliam's films Time Bandits, Jabberwocky, and Brazil. His biggest international role in a movie besides Python was as stuttering would-be assassin Ken Pile in A Fish Called Wanda. The film was such a success that John Cleese reunited the main cast almost a decade later to make Fierce Creatures.

After filming for Fierce Creatures finished, Palin went on a travel journey for a BBC documentary and, returning a year later, found that the end of Fierce Creatures had failed at test screenings and had to be reshot.

Apart from Fierce Creatures, Palin's last film role was a small part (The Sun) in The Wind in the Willows, or Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, a film directed by and starring Terry Jones. Palin also appeared with John Cleese in his documentary, The Human Face.

He also assisted Transport 2000 and others with campaigns on transport policy issues, particularly those relating to urban areas, and has now become president of Transport 2000.

Palin has also appeared as a "straight" actor in serious drama. In 1991 Palin worked as producer and actor in the film American Friends based upon a real event in the life of his great grandfather, a fellow at St John's College, Oxford. In that same year he also played the part of a headmaster in Alan Bleasdale's Channel 4 drama series G.B.H..

In 2000 Palin became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to television.

In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, he was voted the 30th favourite by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.

Travel documentaries

Palin's first travel documentary was part of the 1980 BBC Television series Great Railway Journeys of the World, in which � humorously reminiscing about his childhood hobby of train spotting � he travelled throughout the UK by train, from London to Kyle of Lochalsh, via Manchester, York, Edinburgh and Inverness. At the Kyle of Lochalsh, Palin bought the station's long metal platform sign and is seen lugging it back to London with him. In 1994, a second journey of Palin's for the same series, entitled "Derry to Kerry", went through Ireland. In a quest for family roots, he attempted to trace his great grandmother � Brita Gallagher � who set sail from Ireland 150 years ago during the potato famine, bound for a new life in Burlington, New Jersey, USA. It is a trip along the Palin family line.

Since 1989, Palin has written and appeared in a series of comprehensive travel programmes for British television, which have been broadcast around the world:

* Michael Palin: Around the World in 80 Days (1989): travelling as closely as possible the path described in the famous Jules Verne story without using aircraft.

* Pole to Pole (1992): travelling from the North Pole to the South Pole, following as closely as possible the 30 degree line of longitude, over as much land as possible, i.e., through Europe and Africa.

* Full Circle with Michael Palin (1997): in which he circumnavigated the lands around the Pacific Ocean counter-clockwise; a journey of 80,000 kilometres starting on Little Diomede Island in the Bering Strait and taking him through Asia, Oceania and the Americas.

* Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure (1999): retracing the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway through the United States, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean.

* Sahara with Michael Palin (2002): in which he trekked through the world's largest desert.

* Himalaya with Michael Palin (2004): in which he travels through the Himalaya region.

In 2005, he presented Michael Palin and the Mystery of Hammershoi, about the Danish artist Vilhelm Hammersh�i, whose work he collects.

In May 2006, he embarked on a new project, currently called Palin's New Europe, which includes visits to twenty-one countries once in the Soviet bloc and Yugoslavia and that are now either part of or future members of the European Union, as well as countries like Turkey which are applying to join the EU. The New Europe travels are intended to produce six one-hour programmes for BBC 1 and a book, both planned for release in late 2007.

Palin's travel programmes are responsible for a phenomenon termed the "Palin effect": areas of the world that he has visited suddenly become popular tourist attractions � for example, the significant increase in the number of holidaymakers interested in journeying to Peru after Palin visited Machu Picchu.

In honour of his achievements as a traveller (especially rail travel), Palin has a British train named after him. Virgin Trains' Super Voyager number 221130 carries his name externally and a plaque is located adjacent to the onboard shop with information on Palin and his many journeys


Palin's Travels Website - http://www.palinstravels.co.uk

IMDB Page - http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001589

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Guest moor_larkin

If you go here:


and scroll down to the bottom image. It is a Xmas play programme from the old Playhouse at Sheffield. Amongst the cast list you can see the name Angela Palin. I'm guseeing this may well have been Michael's older sister. She would have been about 17 at that time.

edit 17/3/2009 My website died a while back. The image is here now:


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