Thursday, March 8, 2007

John Inman 1935-2007

John Inman, most famous for playing the flamboyant Mr. Humphries on the classic Britcom Are You Being Served died today at the age of 71. He had been suffering from Hepatitis A.

Inman was born in Preston, Lancashire on June 28, 1935. His family moved to Blackpool when he was 12. Even as a child he wanted to be an actor. His family even paid for elocution lessons. He made his stage debut at the age of 13 at Blackpool's South Pier. At age 21 he joined a touring repertory theatre company. He made his debut on the West End in Ann Veronica in the late Sixties.

Inman's greatest claim to fame would come through television. He made his TV debut in 1970 in a guest appearance in the sitcom Two in Clover. It was in 1972 that Inman was cast in the role of Wilberforce Claybourne Humphries on Are You Being Served. The sitcom was set in the aging Grace Brothers Department Store in London, where the menswear department was suddenly forced to share their floor space with the ladies department. Are You Being Served was an immediate success, lasting ten seasons and becoming a cult classic in the United States. It is still rerun to this day on both sides of the Atlantic. Mr. Humphries may well have been the most popular character on the show. Flamboyant and extremely close to his mother, Mr. Humphries' sexual orientation was always under question, even though it was never made explicit whether or not he was gay. The question "Is he or isn't he" was one of the show's long running gags. In 1976 he won the BBC Personality of the Year and was voted Funniest Man of the Year by readers of The Radio Times.

Inman also appeared on the sitcoms Odd Man Out, Take a Letter Mr. Jones, and Grace and Favour (the sequel to Are You Being Served). Following Are You Being Served, Inman became well known for his pantomimes, appearing in over 40 such productions across Britain.

Are You Being Served has always been one of my favourite sitcoms to come out of Britain. I must also admit that Mr. Humphries was always my favourite character on the show. The reason for this was quite simply Inman's comic talents. As Humphries he could be wonderfully over the top, yet at the same time the character possessed a gift for understatement. Indeed, as Mr. Humphries, Inman could get a laugh with a simple look. I must say that I am truly saddened by his passing.

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