Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Late Great Jimmy Perry

Jimmy Perry, co-creator of Dad's Army and You Rang, M'Lord?, died on October 23 2016 at the age of 93.
Jimmy Perry was born on September 20 1923 in Barnes, Surrey. His father was an antiques dealer in South Kensington and one of the founders of the British Antique Dealers’ Association. His grandfather had been a butler at one of the houses in Belgrave Square and provided much of the inspiration for You Rang, M'Lord?. Jimmy left St. Paul's School in Hammersmith, London at age 14 and was sent to secretarial school. Having attended hardly any classes over the summer at the school, he then became an apprentice Waring and Gillow’s carpet department. He left Waring and Gillow when his family moved to Watford with the outbreak of World War II. It was there that he served in the Home Guard. It was also in Watford that he became involved in amateur plays.

Jimmy Perry was eventually called up and he served in the First (Mixed) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment of the Royal Artillery. He joined the Royal Artillery's concert party and as a result the regimental colonel did not include him in the D-Day landings. That having been said, he would later be posted to Burma and later Bombay. There he also took part in the Royal Artillery base's concert party. 

Once he was demobilised Jimmy Perry returned to England and enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). He took summer jobs at Butlins holiday camps as a Redcoat. Sir Billy Butlin himself offered Mr. Perry a permanent position, but he chose to return to Watford to serve as manager and actor of Watford's repertory theatre. He later joined  Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop at Stratford in east London.

Jimmy Perry made his television debut as an actor in a BBC production of The Water Gipsies in 1955. In the Sixties he appeared in episodes of Les cinq dernières minutes, Hugh and I, Beggar My Neighbour, and The Gnomes of Dulwich. Mr. Perry also wrote episodes of The Gnomes of Dulwich.

It was during his appearance on Beggar My Neighbour that Jimmy Perry came up with an idea based on his experiences in the Home Guard. He wrote a script and showed it to producer David Croft. It was David Croft who pitched the idea to the BBC. Initially the BBC was downright hostile to the idea, with many feeling that it poked fun at World War II. Eventually Messrs. Croft and Perry were able to win the BBC over. Dad's Army proved to be a hit. Debuting in 1968 it ran until 1977. It provided the basis for a 1972 movie with the original cast and a 2016 film with big name film stars.

In the early Seventies Jimmy Perry wrote episodes of Lollipop Loves Mr Mole. It was in 1974 that David Croft and Jimmy Perry debuted a new series, It Ain't Half Hot Mum. Like Dad's Army, It Ain't Half Hot Mum was based on Jimmy Perry's own experiences, this time in the Royal Artillery. It centred on a Royal Artillery unit in  Deolali, India, particularly on the members of its Concert Party. It also proved successful, running until 1981, although today it is regarded as very politically incorrect.  Without David Croft, Jimmy Perry created Room Service, which ran for only seven episodes.

In 1980 David Croft and Jimmy Perry's next series debuted.  Hi-De-Hi! was based on Jimmy Perry's experience in holiday camps. It centred on the fictional Maplin's holiday camp and was set in the late Fifties and early Sixties. It ran for 8 years. Jimmy Perry's next series, High Street Blues, was made without David Croft. It ran for only six episodes. His series Turns would also not see the success of his earlier work.

Jimmy Perry's final show was You Rang, M'Lord?. Created with David Croft, it proved to be a hit and ran for 26 episodes. It was essentially a parody of such dramas as Upstairs Downstairs

In 2002 Jimmy Perry published his autobiography, A Stupid Boy.

David Croft and Jimmy Perry made a great team when it came to creating sitcoms. In fact, they may have been the most successful sitcom writing team in British television history. Much of the reason for the success was Jimmy Perry's uncanny ability to take his own experiences and distil them into comedy magic. After all, the Home Guard and holiday camps may not seem to be the most likely subjects for sitcoms, and yet Jimmy Perry was able to make them subjects for two highly successful sitcoms. Indeed, Dad's Army is considered one of the greatest sitcoms in the English language. It is perhaps for that reason that Jimmy Perry prove to have much more success with sitcoms than other writers in the field. In the entire English speaking world, it would be hard to find a writer with a track record as good as that of Mr. Perry

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