Jimmy Perry, co-creator with David Croft of Dad’s Army, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and Hi De Hi! (to name but a few of his popular triumphs) has just turned 90 and the Daily Telegraph pays tribute to him today, asking "Is there anyone living in Britain today who has contributed more to our Gross National Happiness than Jimmy Perry?"
Here's how he first sketched out his ideas for Dad's Army - that most golden of comedies from the days when the BBC produced such things:
“I had one of those exercise books with multiplication tables on the back, and scrawled down the characters when I was on the train from Victoria.”
And here's the inspiration behind Private Pike:
“Well he was partly based on me and partly based on all the other young men I met in the Home Guard. The phrase ‘You stupid boy’ was what my father said to me when I told him I wanted to be a great actor or comedian.”
And, of course, Private Pike was the character who inspired one of the best of all TV jokes:
Pike: Whistle while you work! Hitler is a twerp! He’s so barmy, so his army! Whistle while you work!U-Boat Captain: You’re name will go on the list! What is it?Mainwaring: Don’t tell him Pike!U-Boat Captain: Pike! Thank you!
Here's a clip from one of my favourite episodes, We Know Our Onions:
Jimmy Perry is pleased that the Beeb still repeats Dad's Army, but is disappointed about the lack of repeats for It Ain’t Half Hot Mum:
“It was David’s and my favourite,” says Perry, who is cross that it is now associated with “blacking up”. “All Michael Bates (who played the bearer Rangi Ram), wore was a light tan. He wasn’t blacked up! Michael spoke fluent Urdu, and was a captain in the Gurkhas.” As to charges of homophobia, Perry points out that shouting at soldiers that they were “a bunch of poofs” was what Sergeant-Majors did in the Forties. “That’s how they talked. ‘What are you?’ ‘We‘re a bunch of poofs!’ That’s how it was! It was the reality.
The BBC's response rather mirrors that of Sergeant-Major Williams: "Oh dear. How sad. Never mind."