Jimmy Perry, best known for his sitcom work with the late David Croft, has died aged 93. The duo were best known for Dad’s Army and Hi-de-Hi!.
Perry was born on the 20th of September 1923 in Barnes, south-west London. His series’, produced and co-written by Croft, were often devised from his own personal life experiences. His first BBC comedy Dad’s Army followed the platoon of the fictional Walmington on Sea branch of the volunteer defense. When WWII broke out in 1939, he was too young to be signed up to the army, so instead became part of his local home guard, these memories and real life associates became the basis of the fictional characters and storylines. Dad’s Army launched in 1968, running until 1977, with 80 episodes recorded. The character of Private Pike (actor Ian Lavender) he noted was based on himself at that time in the 1940s.
The Croft and Perry partnership next brought ratings success in 1974 with It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. Set in India and Burma during the second world war the storyline followed the characters involved with the Royal Artillery Concert Party. Eight series were produced and 56 episodes, ending in 1981.
The cast and crew of Dad’s Army including David Croft (kneeling front with script) and Jimmy Perry (behind Croft in black shirt and white jacket)
In 1979 the pilot for Hi-de-Hi! was produced, with the show airing at new year 1980. Along with Dad’s Army this series is currently also repeating on BBC Two, Hi-de-Hi! was another from the experiences of Perry. After WWII Jimmy Perry trained as an actor at RADA however fame and fortune wasn’t instantly forthcoming; and he spent time entertaining holiday-makers at the Butlins holiday centres. Hi-de-Hi! is set in 1959 and 1960 at the fictional Crimpton on Sea, dilapidated, holiday camp owned by tight-fisted Joe Maplin. Many of the apparent scams and characters came from real-life encounters Jimmy Perry had in the 1950s. The BAFTA winning show was a huge hit with viewers however Butlins were not impressed with the show – banning red coats from saying “Ho de Ho” in response to holiday makers “Hi de Hi” call-outs. They also refused the BBC any use of their camps for filming with the beeb opting to use rival Warners and their Essex based Dovercourt holiday resort.
The cast and crew of Hi-de-Hi! in 1987
Hi-de-Hi! and the stories of its yellow coats ran for nine series and nearly 60 episodes. Most of the cast and crew then stepped further back in time for a Perry and Croft comedy spoofing popular ITV period drama Upstairs, Downstairs in Your Rang ‘M Lord?. Set in the 1920s it followed the lives of an aristocrat family and their downstairs servants. It was a change in style for Croft and Perry, with the production spanning a 50-minute slot rather than the traditional half-hour episodes. It ran from 1988 to 1993 for 26 episodes. It would be Perry’s final major series although the cast and Croft would go on to one more sitcom in Oh Doctor Beeching! which was a collaboration between David Croft and Richard Spendlove.
Jimmy Perry became a writer out of need rather than want. He was writing scripts which, he hoped, would give him good acting parts. It never ultimately worked out that way, although he did make some acting appearances including briefly in Dad’s Army as a music hall comedian. However his attempt at becoming an actor inadvertently made him one of the greatest comedy television writers of the 20th century.
Jimmy Perry speaking to BBC News in 2008
As well as scripting Perry also wrote the lyrics to the theme tunes to many of the programmes including ‘Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hilter?’, from Dad’s Army which won an Ivor Novello Award in 1971. It was sung for the series by wartime favourite Bud Flanagan. There was also Holiday Rock for Hi-de-Hi which was performed by the late Ken Barrie (of Postman Pat fame) for the television episodes while the single released in 1981 was performed by Paul Shane, who played Ted Bovis in the series. Perry also co-wrote the You Rang ‘M Lord? theme with Roy Moore. The composition was performed by Bob Monkhouse and Paul Shane.
Jimmy Perry was awarded an OBE in 1978. David Croft died in September 2011, aged 89.