• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Clive Dunn

Actor;

Born: January 9, 1920; Died: November 7, 2012.

Clive Dunn, who has died aged 92, was a natural comic actor who won fame as the bumbling butcher Lance Corporal Jack Jones in the evergreen TV hit comedy series Dad's Army.

In fact Dunn, in theatrical terms, was old before his time. Even at the age of 19 he played a doddering old man in JM Barrie's whimsical play Mary Rose for a weekly repertory company in Abergavenny. Indeed, throughout his successful career he was regularly cast in such roles and once even played the father of Thora Hird who, in real life, was 10 years older.

But acting was not his only forte. As a singer, he landed a number one hit in 1971 with Grandad, which was written by Herbie Flowers and Kenny Pickett and which he sang four times on Top Of The Pops. "It sold 90,000 copies in one day," he said. "I bought a house with it."

Clive Robert Benjamin Dunn was born in London's Covent Garden area in 1920 into a family of performers; his grandfather, father and mother all trod the boards. He attended Sevenoaks boarding school for boys – which he hated – and later studied at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts and made his professional debut as a flying dragon in Where the Rainbow Ends.

In his memoirs, Permission to Speak (1986), he described how he embraced fascism briefly while at public school in the 1930s. Like many of his schoolmates, he joined Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists because "it seemed patriotic". He rejected them once he detected their anti-Semitism.

By the age of 15 he had made his debut in the Will Hay film Boys will be Boys (1935) as an extra and in the sequel Good Morning Boys two years later. Then came the Second World War and he served with the 4th Queen's Own Hussars but was captured by the Germans while serving in Greece. He spent four years as a prisoner of war and ended up as a medical orderly.

Years later he recalled feeling that both his fellow prisoners and his German guards were victims. "I felt sorry for them," he said. War taught him to distrust authority and he became a lifelong socialist.

After the war he worked for many years in music halls and theatres. In 1956 and 1957 he appeared in both series of The Tony Hancock Show and the army reunion party episode of Hancock's Half Hour in 1960. He also starred as Old Johnson, the butler, in ITV's Bootsie and Snudge with Alfie Bass and Bill Fraser, and was a regular on Michael Bentine's It's a Square World.

He won the role of Jones in Dad's Army in 1968. The BBC 1 Home Guard comedy, written by David Croft and Jimmy Perry, ran for nine series and 80 episodes, plus a radio version based on the television scripts, a feature film and a stage show. It was a huge and much-loved hit and is still repeated worldwide. Dunn was integral to the show's success.

With his catchphrases "Don't panic!", "Permission to speak Captain Mainwaring!" and "They don't like it up 'em", the bumbling, fiercely loyal Jones, a veteran of Kitchener's campaign in eastern Africa, had some of the show's best lines and would often set off on seemingly endless reminiscences of his time spent fighting "the fuzzy wuzzies" in the Sudan.

Ironically Dunn, despite playing the oldest member of the platoon, was one of the younger members of the main cast. He was five years younger than Arthur Lowe, who played Captain Mainwaring, and almost a quarter of a century younger than Arnold "Godfrey" Ridley. Of the main cast only Ian "Pike" Lavender and Bill "Warden Hodges" Pertwee survive, along with Frank Williams, who played the vicar.

Dunn put the series' popularity down to good writing and the fact people love authority figures making idiots of themselves and he had occasional off-air clashes with Lowe.

Lowe was an active Conservative and when the socialist Dunn was awarded an OBE, Lowe said he would accept only a higher honour from the Queen.

An ageing cast brought Dad's Army to an end in 1977 and the following year Dunn made his opera debut in an English National Opera production of Die Fledermaus.

He also appeared in the West End in An Italian Straw Hat and starred as a janitor in the children's TV comedy Grandad, which ran from 1979 to 1984.

In 1959 he married the actress Priscilla (Cilla) Pughe Morgan and they had two daughters. He was to spend his last 30 years in Portugal where he occupied himself as an artist, painting portraits, landscapes and seascapes until his sight failed.

Contextual targeting label: 
Block list

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

124471