Croft and Perry

Although Jimmy Perry (born London 20th September 1923) and David Croft (born Sandbanks, Dorset, 7th September 1922) were to work both in collaboration with others, and independently, it is their body of work together, largely based on their own youthful experiences, that remains their finest contribution to British television.

Following war service and a scholarship to RADA, Perry learnt his extensive stagecraft in Repertory and through nine years of running his own successful theatre company. (Ruth Madoc in fact appeared there at the start of her career, she was then known as Ruth Llewellen and Jimmy of course remembered her when casting for Hi-de-Hi!) He had his first real experience of television as an actor, playing roles in the comedy series Hugh and I (BBC, 1962-68) and Beggar My Neighbour (BBC, 1966-68).

By this period, Croft had already gained experience working in television. Following his own early years as an actor, he had contributed to the writing of the puppet series It's a Small World (BBC, 1952) and had co-written some of the music and lyrics for variety series Re-turn It Up (BBC, 1953).

With the arrival of independent television in 1955, Croft joined Associated Rediffusion as Head of the Light Entertainment Script Department. He then moved to Newcastle to work on the 1959 launch of Tyne Tees Television, where he remained for a short period as producer, director and writer, before returning to the BBC as a full time Comedy Producer. He produced both Hugh and I and Beggar My Neighbour, which brought him into contact with Perry for the first time.

It was Croft (via his wife theatrical agent Ann Callender) whom Perry approached with the outline for a potential comedy series centred on a Home Guard platoon during World War II. Both Croft and Michael Mills, Head of BBC Comedy, were impressed enough to take it forward, although Mills suggested that, as Perry had never written for television before, Croft should write the scripts with him. Thus was born one of British television's most successful writing partnerships and one of the most popular of all television sitcoms, Dad's Army (BBC, 1968-77).

The series won Perry and Croft Writers' Guild of Great Britain awards in 1969, 1970 and 1971, with Croft also winning a Society of Film and Television Arts award in 1971 for his production and direction of the series (he performed both tasks on the majority of the episodes). In the same year, Perry won the Ivor Novello Award for the series' theme song, “Who do you think you are kidding Mr. Hitler” sung by Bud Flanagan at the beginning of each episode.

The idea for the series was fired by Perry's own experiences in the Home Guard as a teenager prior to his call-up (Croft had been an ARP warden prior to his). Their remaining works together largely followed a similar pattern: historical settings, an autobiographical content, a hint of nostalgia, and stories structured for an ensemble cast.

It Ain't Half Hot Mum (BBC, 1974-81), which they consider the funniest of all their collaborations, was inspired by their experiences in army concert parties in India during and after the war. Similarly, Hi-de-Hi! (BBC, 1980-88) mined their experiences of working in Butlin's holiday camps in the 1950s, Perry as a redcoat and Croft as a summer show actor/producer. Hi-de-Hi! won them a BAFTA award for best comedy series in 1984.

Their final work together, You Rang, M'Lord? (BBC, 1988-93), set in an upper class residence in the 1920s, had no direct autobiographical content (being more a pastiche of ITV's drama series Upstairs, Downstairs, 1970-75).

Perry and Croft were both awarded the OBE in 1978. Croft was awarded the Desmond Davis Award by BAFTA in 1982.

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David Croft