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.
“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
Camera: Leica 35mm.
Film stock: Kodak Tri-X Pan.
Location: Her Majesty’s Theatre, London.
Copyright: © Arthur Steel / The Arthur Steel Archive.