Dad's Army comic genius Jim Perry dies

Jimmy Perry, one of the UK's most loved comedy writers, has died at the age of 93 after a short illness.

He will be best remembered for creating Dad's Army, a series which first aired in 1968 but continues to be enjoyed to this day, even inspiring an star studded remake released in early 2016.

In addition, he also wrote comedies It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Hi-de-Hi! and You Rang M'Lord?, often working closely with producer David Croft.

Speaking on his 90th birthday, he said he was "amazed" by the success of Dad's Army. "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," he told The Telegraph.

"Dad's Army reminds us of our finest hour."

He was born in Barnes, south west London in 1923 and was involved in entertainment nearly his whole life, performing stand-up comedy at the age of 14.

"You stupid boy"  - a phrase frequently used by Dad's Army's  Captain Mainwaring to scold Private Pike, who was based upon Perry himself  - was his father's rebuke whenever he mentioned his show business aspirations.

But he succeeded in his ambition, even basing the character of Private Pike on himself as a young boy in the Home Guard - an auxiliary military unit made up of men who, for reasons of age or reserved occupation, were not eligible to serve in the regular forces. 

Perry he joined during the war because he was too young to be a soldier.

As with Pike's mother in the show, his own mum was overly dotting and fearful for her son as he went out on patrol. "She didn't go so far as making me wear a scarf," Perry once said to the BBC. "But she came pretty near."

Many Dad's Army characters were based on people Perry met during his time with the Home Guard. He also wrote the highly recognisable theme song, 'Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler,' sung by music hall performer Bud Flanagan.

Perry initially had a hard time persuading the BBC to commission the comedy - which was originally going to be called The Fighting Tigers - as the organisation was reluctant to run something which might be seen as mocking the Home Guard.

However, the cast, many of whom were themselves war veterans, performed well together and the show went on for nine series.

"Dad's Army was so easy to work on," Perry told the Radio Times in 2014. "I liked them all. After about ten episodes, people drifted into the parts as themselves…and it worked."

The show, still renowned by TV executives for its ability to bump up ratings, became known for its wit. In one of the most well-known scenes, the Dad's Army members were confronted by a German soldier who demanded the name of the hapless Private Pike. Captain Mainwaring quickly replied: "Don't tell him Pike."

After leaving the Home Guard, Perry joined the Royal Artillery, and became part of the regiment's Concert Party. He toured India and Burma and his experiences informed much of his writing for It Ain't Half Hot Mum, another successful BBC comedy written with David Croft.

Eight series of the show ran between 1974 and 1981. Despite not achieving the same household status as Dad's Army, Perry considered it his funniest work.

It has received some criticism as racist and homophobic but Perry said it reflected attitudes of the time it was set in.

"We had a sergeant major who hated us," Perry told the Guardian in 2003. "He'd say: 'No man who puts on make-up and ponces about on a stage is normal - what are you?' 'We're a bunch of poofs!' we'd reply. And those experiences are ones that enabled me to write It Ain't Half Hot, Mum."

He dismissed criticism of the show, set in India, saying it was considered racist "because of ignorance".

On Sunday evening, tributes poured in from across the comedy world and beyond. Shane Allen, BBC controller of comedy commissioning, said Perry's work spanned decades and will be remembered for a long time to come.

He said: "Jimmy Perry is a Goliath of British comedy writing. He was behind some of the longest running and most loved sitcoms on British television spanning the 60s, 70s and 80s.

"His work will be enjoyed and appreciated for many years to come. Our thoughts are with his friends and loved ones at this sad time."

Simon Blackwell, writer and producer of programmes such as In the Loop and Peep Show, said Perry's death was "sad news." He continued: "To create comedy that generations of people genuinely love is rare, and he managed it time and again.

"For years I thought Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler? was a genuine wartime song, so perfect was Jimmy Perry's pastiche."

Comedian Jack Dee said the show has endured throughout the decades. He tweeted: "RIP Jimmy Perry. Amazing contribution to British telly. Watched Dad's Army only yesterday. Still as funny as when I watched it as a kid."


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