Michael Henry Flanders (March 1, 1922 – April 14, 1975) was a British actor, broadcaster, and writer and performer of comic songs. He is best known to the general public for his partnership with Donald Swann (see Flanders and Swann).
Michael Flanders was born in London on March 1, 1922. The son of an actor and a professional violinist, Flanders' ambition from an early age was to work in the theatre. He attended Westminster School (where he first met Donald Swann) and went on to read history at Christ Church, Oxford in 1940.
While at Oxford, Flanders started work as a professional actor, but then left Oxford to join the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. The ship on which he was serving was torpedoed off the coast of Africa in 1941. Flanders survived the attack. Later he was promoted to Sub-Lieutenant but contracted poliomyelitis at sea, and spent the rest of his life from 1943 onwards in a wheelchair.
Unable to return to Christ Church to continue his studies, he found work as a radio broadcaster. A chance meeting with Swann in 1948 led to the start of their professional partnership. They began writing songs for West-End producer Laurier Lister, Swann writing the music and Flanders writing the words. Their songs were performed by artists such as Ian Wallace and Joyce Grenfell. They subsequently wrote two two-man revues, At The Drop Of A Hat and At The Drop Of Another Hat, which they performed all over the world until their partnership ended in 1967.
Outside of his partnership with Swann, Flanders was a versatile librettist, actor and broadcaster. He wrote the words for comic operas such as Three's Company and Christmas Story, and a children's cantata Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo. He appeared on stage in The Soldier's Tale and Ten Years Hard, and in two films, Doctor in Distress (1963) and The Raging Moon (1971). He also made many appearances on radio and television. His narration for Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf remained a staple of EMI's classical output for many years.
Michael Flanders died suddenly of an aneurysm on April 14, 1975 while on holiday at Betws-y-Coed, Wales. He was survived by his wife Claudia and daughters Laura and Stephanie.