The name Vic Oliver may now be forgotten, but he holds a significant honour in British cultural history. On January 29 1942, the Viennese-born actor and comedian was the first celebrity to be cast away on Desert Island Discs, a series for BBC Forces Radio created and presented by the gently pedagogic Roy Plomley. Oliver’s choices included Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave and, controversially for an Austrian Jew, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries.
Guests in that first year included Arthur Askey, Michael Powell and Ivor Novello, but the now famous luxury item had yet to be devised – that wasn’t until 1951 when actress Sally Ann Howes chose a garlic plant; a simple choice but a sensible one, given that this...
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