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Tommy Cooper collapsed and died after suffering a massive heart attack in front of millions of TV viewers. Arthur’s photograph was the moving and powerful image that informed the nation of his passing.

Arthur recalls:

“I am an enormous fan of Tommy Cooper and was sat watching his live performance on television that night. When he suddenly collapsed on stage; my wife and I were in total shock and unsure whether or not it was part of the act; as some of the audience were still laughing. It then dawned on me that he may have had a heart attack and this could be an enormous news story for the paper. As it happened, I had been taping the show on my VHS recorder. Without hesitation, I grabbed my camera and tripod and played the footage back, freezing the frame of him slumped on the floor and took a photograph of the TV screen. I telephoned the office and told them that I had the shot on film, they immediately sent a motorbike courier to my house to collect the cassette and had the B&W film developed overnight. The next morning this moving and powerful image made the front page of the National Newspaper informing millions of people of his passing.”

Image unearthed: October 2022
Leica 35mm.
Film stock:
 Kodak Tri-X Pan.
Location: Her Majesty’s Theatre, London.
Year: 1984.
Copyright: © Arthur Steel / The Arthur Steel Archive.