Vic Oliver

Biography by

b. Viktor Oliver Von Samek, 8 July 1898, Vienna, Austria, d. 15 August 1964, Johannesburg, South Africa. Born into the aristocracy, Oliver studied classical violin before deciding upon a career in showbusiness.…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

b. Viktor Oliver Von Samek, 8 July 1898, Vienna, Austria, d. 15 August 1964, Johannesburg, South Africa. Born into the aristocracy, Oliver studied classical violin before deciding upon a career in showbusiness. He spent some time in America before making his home in England. In 1922 he had relinquished any claim to his father’s title (he was Baron Viktor Von Samek) and during the 30s appeared in a number of minor British films, including Rhythm In The Air (1936), Who’s Your Lady Friend? (1937), Meet Mr. Penny and Around The Town (both 1938). He developed a comedy act, which including playing a violin piece, which he did well, interspersed with hoary old jokes. He also worked on radio and somehow conveyed aurally the glint in his eye when he told bad jokes. On Christmas Eve, 1936 he had attracted considerable media attention when he married future prime minister Winston Churchill’s daughter, Sarah. In the early 40s he teamed up with Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon on their immensely popular wartime BBC radio series, Hi Gang! He also made a few more films, including Room For Two (1940), He Found A Star, in which his wife also appeared, and the film version of the radio show, Hi Gang! (both 1941). In the mid-40s he was in some Gainsborough films, Give Us The Moon (1944) and I’ll Be Your Sweetheart (1945), both with Margaret Lockwood and Peter Graves. He again drew the attention of the press with his 1945 divorce from Sarah.

In the post-war years Oliver continued his variety act and then, in the late 50s, went into television, playing the lead in Hotel Imperial for Associated-Rediffusion Television. The series, which was written by Alan Melville, featured Oliver as Monsieur Victor, leader of the orchestra at a posh London hotel. In each of the 12 episodes screened in March-June 1958, he would talk to camera, as if being interviewed, about his experiences at the hotel before segueing into a story that would feature a guest appearance by actors and singers such as Bonar Colleano Jnr., Mary Ellis, Donald Pleasance and Elisabeth Welch. The show proved to be popular, with Oliver clearly revelling in a starring role, and a further 12 episodes were screened in January-March 1960. Oliver continued performing in England and overseas during the early 60s.