Saturday, January 10, 2015

Godspeed Lance Percival

Comedian and actor Lance Percival died at the age of 81 on 6 January 2015. On television he was one of the cast of That Was The Week That Was and the star of his own shows, as well as the voices of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr on the animated series The Beatles. On film he was the voice of   Old Fred in the animated classic Yellow Submarine and appeared in such films as Darling Lili (1970) and  There's a Girl in My Soup (1970), as well as various entries in the "Carry On..." series.

Lance Percival was born on 26 July 1933 in Sevenoaks, Kent. He attended Sherborne School in Kent where he developed an interest in music and learned to play guitar. He fulfilled his national service in the Seaforth Highlanders where he achieved the rank of lieutenant. He moved to Canada for a time where he wrote jingles for radio commercials as an advertising copywriter. He also formed a calypso group using the name "Lord Lance," and toured both Canada and the United States. Eventually he performed calypso music in London clubs. It was in 1960 that he made his television debut in an episode of Spectacular. It was in 1961 that he made his film debut in Das Geheimnis der gelben Narzisse.

In the Sixties Lance Percival was frequently seen on television. He was part of the casts of the shows That Was The Week That Was, Impromptu and It's a Living. He was the star of two shows of his own, Lance at Large and The Lance Percival Show. On American television he was the voice of both Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr on the Saturday morning cartoon The Beatles. He also appeared on such shows as Citizen James, Thank Your Lucky Stars, Billy Cotton Band Show, Dee Time, International Cabaret, Frost on Sunday, and Call My Bluff.

He also appeared frequently in films throughout the Sixties. He was the voice of Old Fred in the animated British classic Yellow Submarine. He was also the star of the short film "It's All Over Town" (1963). For the most part, however, Mr. Percival appeared in supporting roles in comedies throughout the Sixties, including such films as Raising the Wind (1961), On the Fiddle (1961), What a Whopper (1961), Postman's Knock (1962), Twice Round the Daffodils (1962), Carry on Cruising (1962), Hide and Seek (1964), The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964), Joey Boy (1965), You Must Be Joking! (1965), The Big Job (1965), Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter (1968), Too Late the Hero (1970), Concerto per pistola solista (1970), and There's a Girl in My Soup (1970). 

Mr. Percival also had a recording career in the Sixties. With legendary producer George Martin he recorded the calypso style comedy song "Shame and Scandal in the Family". It peaked at no. 37 on the British singles chart in 1965. He also recorded several other novelty songs, such as "There's Another One Behind",  "If I Had Wings", "The Beetroot Song" ("If You Like Beetroot I'll Be True To You"), "I'm Beautiful", and "The Maharajah of Brum".

In the Seventies Lance Percival appeared in Frankie Howerd's films Up the Chastity Belt (1971), Up Pompeii (1971--based on the sitcom of the same name),  and Up the Front (1972). He also appeared in the films The Magnificent Six and ½: Up the Creek (1971), Our Miss Fred (1972), Confessions from a Holiday Camp (1977), Rosie Dixon - Night Nurse (1978), and Quincy's Quest (1979). He provided the voice of Terence the Sea Horse in The Water Babies (1978). On television he was a regular on Chico the Rainmaker and Up the Workers. He appeared on such shows as The Adventurer, Jason King, Who Do You Do, Whodunit, The Kenneth Williams Show, Star Turn, Those Wonderful TV Times, Target, Celebrity Squares, It's Knockout and Shoestring. Mr. Percival also wrote several episodes of Whodunit.

In the Eighties Lance Percival was a regular on the TV shows Bluebirds and Countdown. He also appeared on the shows 3-2-1, Andy Robson, Blankety Blank, and Happy Families. He appeared in the TV movie Jekyll & Hyde in 1990. He appeared regularly on various BBC Radio light entertainment programmes throughout the decade.

Mr. Percival wrote two books of verse, Well-Versed Cats and Well-Versed Dogs, both of which were illustrated by the Honourable Lalla Ward (best known for playing Romana II on Doctor Who). He also became popular as an after dinner speaker and a writer of humorous speeches for business executives.

Of the various talents to emerge in the United Kingdom in the Sixties, there can be no doubt that Lance Percival was one of the funniest. He had a gift for improvisation. He was known to be able to compose humorous calypso talents on the spot from subjects suggested by his audiences. As demonstrated by his various novelty songs he also had a gift for wordplay and a slightly off-kilter sense of humour. Mr. Percival had a real talent for voice work as well. The characters he played in films and on television shows often had dramatically different voices. Indeed, he was able to provide the voices of both Paul McCartney and Ringo Star on The Beatles cartoon with viewers none the wiser. It was because of his wide array of talents, from singing to comedy to voice work, that Lance Percival was so much in demand in films and on TV shows. Quite simply, Mr. Percival was so prolific because he was so talented.

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