Perry in May 2011
20 September 1923|
Barnes, Surrey, England
|Died||23 October 2016
|Notable works||Dad's Army (1968-77)
Room Service (1979)
You Rang M'Lord? (1988-93)
High Street Blues (1989)
(m. 1956; d. 2016)
(separated in )
|Relatives||Diane Holland (sister-in-law)|
James Perry, OBE (20 September 1923 - 23 October 2016) was an English actor and scriptwriter, best known for devising and co-writing the BBC sitcoms Dad's Army (1968-1977), It Ain't Half Hot Mum (1974-1981), Hi-De-Hi (1980-1988) and You Rang M'Lord? (1988-1993), all with David Croft.
Perry received an Ivor Novello Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors for "Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr. Hitler?".
Perry was born in Barnes, Surrey. His father, Arthur, was an antiques dealer and he was educated at two independent schools, Colet Court and St Paul's School, which at the time were both based in Hammersmith in West London (now in Barnes). Not academically inclined, he apprenticed at a furniture store. With the outbreak of the Second World War, his family moved to Watford just outside London, where he served in the Home Guard and became involved in amateur dramatics.
Perry is credited with the original idea for Dad's Army, which was based on his experiences in the Home Guard during World War II; he had originally conceived it with the role of Walker in mind for himself. He also collaborated with Croft on It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Hi-de-Hi! and You Rang, M'Lord?
Many of the sitcoms Perry co-wrote with Croft drew heavily on his personal experience: at 16 he joined the Watford Home Guard (Dad's Army); two years later he was called up into the full-time forces, and was sent to Burma with the Royal Artillery, where he joined the Royal Artillery Concert Party and reached the rank of sergeant ("It Ain't Half Hot Mum"). Demobbed and back in the UK, he trained as an actor at RADA, spending his holidays working as a Redcoat in Butlin's Holiday Camps ("Hi De Hi!").
The Dad's Army mummy's boy character Private Pike was partly based upon the teenage Jimmy Perry, who said, "She didn't go so far as making me wear a scarf, but she came pretty near". In an interview with the journalist Neil Clark, Perry said: "It amazes me. I think it's because it's the thing that all British people savour: we were on our own at that time and we didn't turn away. Dad's Army reminds us of our finest hour." Perry and Croft continued their collaboration with It Ain't Half Hot Mum (1974-81). Inspired by Perry's wartime experience in the Royal Artillery Concert Party, "it was David's and my favourite", he told Clark who regrets that it "appears to have fallen victim to political correctness". It is not repeated on the terrestrial channels, but was shown on UK Gold. For Hi-de-Hi! (1980-88), Perry used his time working as a Butlin's Redcoat as an inspiration.
A solo effort, Room Service, written without Croft for Thames Television in 1979, and High Street Blues (1989), co-written with Robin Carr, according to John Oliver writing for the BFI Screenonline website, "remain contenders for the title of worst British sitcom". At the end of the 1970s, Perry became involved as presenter in a BBC series called Turns, dedicated to films of nearly forgotten music hall acts of the 1930s and 1940s. In the sixth episode of the first series of Dad's Army, "Shooting Pains", Perry makes a cameo appearance as the entertainer Charlie Cheeseman.
You Rang, M'Lord? (1988-93) was his last collaboration with David Croft. Perry's grandfather had worked as a butler, and he heard many anecdotes about life "below stairs". In 1994 he worked on a sitcom about the early years of the BBC in the 1920s, 2LO Calling, which was broadcast on radio for four episodes.
Although best known for his comedy writing, Perry also experienced musical success, composing the signature tunes to all of the above comedy series. The best known of these, the theme tune for Dad's Army, "Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Hitler?", won the Ivor Novello Award in 1971 for Best TV Signature Tune.
Starting in the late 1950s, Perry was actor-manager at the Watford Repertory Theatre, a role (perhaps intentionally) emphasised by his penchant for heavy checked tweeds, Inverness cape and deerstalker cap.
On 27 October British Labour politician Valerie Vaz paid tribute to Perry in the House of Commons and was joined, with references to Perry's best known comedy lines, by a number of other Members of Parliament.
BBC Two repeated two episodes from Series 9 of Dad's Army and also one episode of Hi-de-Hi in Perry's honour. The series continues (October 2017) to be shown regularly on Saturday nights on BBC2, regularly garnering two million viewers.