Thursday, 17 May 2012

Digby Wolfe R.I.P.

Digby Wolfe, an actor who appeared in films and television and a writer who helped develop Laugh-In, passed on 2 May 2012 at the age of 82. The cause was lung cancer.

Digby Wolfe was born in London on 4 June 1929. He was 15 years old when he left school and took a job as an assistant scene designer. He made his film debut in The Weaker Sex in 1948. From the late Forties into the Fifties he appeared in such films as The Outsider (1948), Adam and Evelyn (1949), Stage Fright (1950), Little Big Shot (1952), The Final Twist (1953), and The Big Money (1958). In 1957 he was a regular on the series Sheep's Clothing.

In 1959 he moved to Australia where he was the host of the variety shows Revue '61 and Revue '62.  He also wrote for the BBC's satirical comedy show That Was the Week That Was. In 1963 he moved to Los Angeles, California. He appeared on such shows as The Munsters, The Farmer's Daughter, I Dream of Jeannie, and The Monkees. He provided the voice of Ziggy in Disney's animated version of The Jungle Book. He wrote an episode of The Wild Wild West ("Night of the Cadre"). He met producer George Schlatter at a cocktail party. He would help Mr. Schlatter develop Laugh In and wrote frequently for the show. It was also Mr. Wolfe who came up with the name "Laugh-In."

Mr. Wolfe would go onto write several television specials, including Sid & Marty Kroft's Fol-de-Rol, The Shirley MacLaine Special: Where Do We Go from Here?, and The Goldie Hawn Special. He also taught at the Watts Writers Workshop and at the University of New Mexico.

While the matter of who actually created Laugh-In has always been a matter of debate, there can be no doubt that Digby Wolfe made very significant contributions to the show. In fact, it is notable that the previous show that Laugh-In resembled the most was That Was the Week That Was (both the British and American versions).  Both shows were fast paced, satirical programmes (although TW3 was more pointedly satirical) that tended to defy the establishment. The primary differences between the two is that Laugh-In was perhaps more fast paced and was a pure comedy show (there were no real musical segments). Regardless, Laugh-In shows that it was influenced by That Was the Week That Was and that influence most likely came from Digby Wolfe.

Regardless of Mr. Wolfe's role in Laugh-In, he was a very funny man, both as a writer and an actor. Even in small bits he could get laughs, as in The Monkees episode "Monkees Get Out More Dirt," in which he plays the "Man with a Paper" in April Conquest coin operated laundry. He was also funny as the director of a children's show on The Munsters. Digby Wolfe was a man with a natural gift for comedy. He had perfect timing and a very expressive face. Both as a comedy actor and comedy writer, Digby Wolfe was very talented.

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