Don't Panic! The Dad's Army Story


Don't Panic! The Dad's Army Story

Victoria Wood presents a tribute to the classic sitcom Dad's Army, with footage of the cast on location and personal tales about the making of the series.


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Transcript


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'Ere, want to find out about Dad's Army? Meet me behind Jones's van.

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# Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Hitler

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# If you think we're on the run?

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# We are the boys who will stop your little game

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# We are the boys who will make you think again

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# Cos who do you think you are kidding, Mr Hitler

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# If you think old England's done? #

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AIR-RAID SIREN, GUNFIRE

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Dad's Army is the most affectionately regarded comedy programme ever on TV.

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We want to find out why it's so wonderful.

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This could be the only documentary made entirely in second gear.

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I was sitting in my office with a stack of Dad's Army videos and a cup of tea

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and I watched 40 programmes.

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I think I know now what makes it so wonderful.

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I'm going into fourth gear now.

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YES!

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Dad's Army's on!

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Don't panic! Don't panic!

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It's still popular. People really do love it.

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We're doomed...doomed.

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It was definitely one of those shows where it was a family event.

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Excuse me, Uncle Sergeant.

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I was part of something important in the history of television.

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Stupid boy!

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When comedy really works well, you know, the secret ingredient is magic.

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It was a miracle. The cast was right, the time was right,

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the script was right, the tunes were right

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and the whole situation was right. It's as simple as that.

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# Don't let's be beastly to the Germans

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# When our victory is ultimately won... #

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Dad's Army ran from 1968-1977 - nine years.

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World War II was only six. It's never been repeated!

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Like all good sitcoms, it's based on a very simple idea -

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a bunch of blokes in a church hall defending their country.

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But it's about a vanished England, class, relationships, war.

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To me, the linchpin of the whole thing is the relationship between Mainwaring and Wilson,

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and the performances of John Le Mesurier and Arthur Lowe.

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Stupid boy.

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-You both went to public school.

-Can't help feeling, sir, you have a chip on your shoulder about that.

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No. What IS on my shoulder, though - three pips and don't you forget it!

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'Captain Mainwaring loved being in charge. He made himself in charge.'

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When it all started, everybody was volunteering for everything,

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and he decided to volunteer to himself to become a captain.

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-First, we have to appoint a properly appointed commander.

-A what, sir?

-A properly appointed commander. Me!

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-All right?

-..All right.

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People say, "Was Arthur Lowe really pompous?"

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He wasn't, but he didn't suffer fools gladly.

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Mainwaring was the best example of pomposity ever.

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-I don't think I gave you permission to sit.

-I'm sorry, sir.

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He got carried away with his own importance, or sense of importance.

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He could fight the Germans single-handed.

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You kind of have an empathy for... You do feel for him.

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There were episodes where he showed himself to be a good person.

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-We rarely get a chance to meet as equals.

-No, we don't.

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-However, tonight, you may call me George.

-Thanks awfully, sir.

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-I shall call you Arthur.

-Will you really? Good.

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The change over Arthur Lowe as the aggressive captain...

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and he has, from time to time, to speak to his wife on the phone.

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"Get them to do so and so and so and so!"

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Then a complete change... "Hello? Elizabeth?"

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Hello? Elizabeth?

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You've taken a long time to answer, dear. Where have you been?

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..Oh, I see.

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-..She's been down in the air-raid shelter.

-Oh...

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..I might have a little surprise for you tonight.

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..No, no...

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'They wanted her to appear in an episode. Arthur didn't.'

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I agree. We all got this different idea of what Elizabeth was like.

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I think the only time we had a possible glimpse of her body

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was when her great big bum was in the top bunk

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and Arthur was underneath, Mainwaring was underneath!

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Are you awake, Elizabeth?

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Stuck on the bottom bunk of a joyless marriage - no wonder Mainwaring was tempted elsewhere.

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Oh, I shouldn't have eaten all that cheese.

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Far too rich.

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'Only Mainwaring doesn't have anybody,'

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except his wife that's never seen, until this one episode

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where Miss Fiona comes into his life.

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It was out of character for Mainwaring to drop his guard,

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if you'll pardon the pun, and go chasing after Carmen's character.

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But it just showed another side of his character.

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-Captain Mainwaring?

-Yes?

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I heard you need women helpers for the Home Guard.

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Yes, quite correct.

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'I played a character called Fiona Grey,

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'who'd gone down to Walmington-on-Sea'

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to take her mother away from the bombs in London. He falls for her.

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Fiona?

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What a pretty name.

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Do you think so?

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-Yes, it's always been one of my favourites.

-Oh, thank you.

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She says, "Would you mind taking your glasses off? It gets in the way of the warmth of the eyes."

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He blossoms!

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'It's so sweet that he grows... He wishes he didn't need the glasses.'

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'She realises he has a wife,'

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so she decides to go back to London.

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Stand clear, sir! ..And pull those blinds down!

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Promise you'll write.

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-Very well. I promise.

-WHISTLE BLOWS

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-Make it soon.

-Goodbye, George!

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FRANK WILLIAMS: 'I'd say something like the Brief Encounter thing

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'actually was not out of character for Mainwaring.'

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It added a new dimension to his character.

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This was the other wonderful thing that happened in so many episodes.

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You suddenly found a facet of a well-loved character that you hadn't seen before.

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You've got to have light and shade, really, for the comedy to work.

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If it's gag, gag, gag, gag, gag, it doesn't work.

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You've got to have that... not tears of a clown, crying on the inside and all that,

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but you've got to strike the balance for the comedy to work.

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It's a wonderfully complicated relationship between Mainwaring and Wilson.

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Wilson is upper class with a way with the ladies.

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Mainwaring despises the upper class, but might like to be part of it.

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The other complication is Wilson is only the chief clerk at the bank

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and Mainwaring is the bank manager.

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You're right. I'm the manager and you're the chief clerk.

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I'm the officer and you're the sergeant. Pull your socks up and get about your business.

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'The relationship between Mainwaring and Wilson in the bank'

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was a very strange one. The manager in those days was God.

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John Le Mesurier's character obviously came from a good family,

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upper class,

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and Arthur was made good from the ranks.

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-Being a member of the aristocracy explains a lot about your character.

-Really?

-Oh, yes.

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'Wilson didn't care.'

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This worried Captain Mainwaring.

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Wilson?

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-What are you doing?

-So sorry, sir.

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As it was such a beautiful day, I thought, while you were chatting,

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I'd take advantage of this glorious sun

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and try and get myself a tan.

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'Wilson wouldn't want to be in charge.'

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He was only really there because Mainwaring told him to be.

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He was actually in control, more in control than Mainwaring, really.

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Is it the Honourable Sergeant Wilson or Sergeant The Honourable Wilson?

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I don't want any fuss. I just want to be like an ordinary sergeant.

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I'm sure that would suit us all, Wilson.

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'John Le Mesurier was wished on me by Michael Mills, the Head of Comedy.'

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You must have John Le Mesurier. He suffers so beautifully.

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Sometimes you'd see him do that before he answered

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or while he was answering.

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Mainwaring would have a go at him about something and he'd say,

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"Yes, I think you're right, sir."

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He gets wise and he'd wait,

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and I realised he was waiting for that light on the camera.

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He gave this wonderful vagueness, which was important to the show. We took advantage of that.

0:11:210:11:28

-Listen, Arthur.

-Yes.

-Tell Captain Mainwaring I'm not having Frank going on any more marches.

-I can't.

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Well, if you don't and Frank wakes up in the night again, you won't be there to hear it!

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We knew he was having a long-standing affair with Pike's mother,

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but we never mentioned anything.

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She used to say, "Oh, Arthur - he's a wonderful man. So strong!"

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We used to put in all this innuendo!

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-Will you be round later, Arthur, for your usual?

-Maybe.

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The clever part of the writing was that it wasn't a classy lady,

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which you'd expect because Wilson was supposed to come from that class.

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But here was a lady who was ordinary, almost working class.

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Gin and tonic - there we are!

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And don't get all Nellie Dean like last week!

0:12:200:12:24

Excuse me... Oh, cor blimey, how do you do?

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Uncles and aunts were part of people's lives.

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It did keep things moving very smoothly in family circles.

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And...unquestioned. It was Uncle!

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I never hear you leave and I never hear you come back in the morning.

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Well, you see, I let myself in and out very quietly.

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You never do anything else quietly!

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'After we'd finished,'

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I said to David, "Was John my father?" He said, "Of course he was, yes."

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-I'm going to have this out with Captain Mainwaring.

-I feel a fool!

-I can't help that.

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Evening!

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Pike was based probably on me and the rest of us boys in the Home Guard.

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-Uncle Arthur?

-Yes?

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-I've got an idea.

-I'm delighted.

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'Jimmy very kindly told me'

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after about ten episodes

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that Pike was him. "Thanks, Jim(!)"

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Suddenly, you're playing the writer.

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Jimmy was that age in the war and he was in the Home Guard.

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-What do you want now, Pike?

-I'm sorry, but Mrs Mainwaring's on the phone again.

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I said you were having coffee with Mrs Fox...

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You stupid boy.

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He was the main foil for nearly every ambition Mainwaring had.

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-Why don't we wrap something round the pipe?

-Pike, take off your tunic.

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-Why me?!

-Because you're wet already.

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Arthur came to me and said, "Ian, don't worry about not having a lot of lines. They'll come.

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"For now, get yourself a funny costume and stand near me."

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Pike? You must not wear a coloured scarf with your uniform. Take it off.

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Mum says I mustn't take it off. I get croup.

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# When Britain is in danger When trouble's in the air

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# We all forget our squabbles It's trespassers beware

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# A nation is united When danger looms in sight... #

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The world of Walmington-on-Sea is pre-war.

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Even in the war, things were pre-war because they didn't have time to be post-war till after the war

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because there was a war on.

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The society Mainwaring was a pillar of was very rigid.

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Nobody liked Hodges. He was only a greengrocer.

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# United we shall stand Whatever may befall... #

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There's a wonderful variety of ages within the main group.

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You've got the spiv Walker, who is old enough to fight but has got out of it,

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and Pike, who is too young to fight.

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Jones enlisted in 1880-something and gave the fuzzy-wuzzies a seeing to.

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The cold steel, they don't like it up 'em!

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JONES: I've been struck by something deadly.

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I look at it this way - we're now all in possession of secret information.

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Supposing we was captured by an enemy agent, sir,

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how long could we stand out against torture before we revealed ourselves?

0:15:570:16:02

I spent four years in a POW camp,

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working for Hitler, of course -

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up a mountainside, digging and God knows what else.

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So when I had this part, it was like a sort of revenge for me.

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I could be aggressive.

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It was like a wonderful happy revenge for that.

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I signed on as a drummer boy in 1884. Later, I saw service in the Sudan.

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Fought the fuzzy-wuzzies. They come at you with a knife and slit you right open!

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They soon find out if you have guts!

0:16:370:16:39

'The part of Corporal Jones'

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was based on a real character, an old soldier with me in the Home Guard.

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They don't like the cold steel, sir. They don't like it up 'em. They...

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Get him a chair, Wilson.

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This instructor we had - he'd been in the 1914-18 war - used to say,

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"Look at the bayonet, you've got to understand the cold steel.

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"They don't like it up 'em. They can't abide the cold steel. So show 'em the cold steel."

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You'd think, "Who wants it up 'em?"

0:17:120:17:15

When I saw it in the script, "They don't like it up 'em", I thought it was offensive.

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Then I thought an old butcher who'd been in all those campaigns, he would say that.

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He'd say, "They don't like it up 'em."

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There's no substitute for the cold steel. They don't like it up 'em!

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I might have mentioned that before.

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The British love that sort of humour so I gave it the full works. "They don't like it up 'em, sir!"

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You do that again and you'll get this up you and you will not like it!

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I wanted to make sure that I got what we used to call Joey Joeys.

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The Joey Joeys were a short term for the obvious gag -

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the red-hot poker up the bum.

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Attention!

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Captain Mainwaring was very frustrated by Jones,

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although he admired him in a way.

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He was such a silly man, and making silly suggestions.

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- Any suggestions? - What about a tunnel, sir?

0:18:250:18:29

- A tunnel? - Yes, sir!

0:18:290:18:32

We all go round behind that wall and dig the hole in a downwards direction, sir.

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Down, down - and then suddenly you start digging sideways, sideways.

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When we think we're under the mill, we dig upwards, upwards! God willing, we'd be in the mill.

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Or Australia!

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I think you're in the realms of fantasy again here, Jones.

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It was a time of great hardship

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and, yet, you know...

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it showed how resourceful people are in those times,

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and that hardship was obviously great raw material for comedy.

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You know, Corporal Jones being able to do sausages for people.

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-Got any sausages?

-Hold on.

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EXCITED CHATTER

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'When war's on, butchers are the kings of the area. Everybody's got to keep going nicely with the butcher.'

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And Jack Jones sort of...rather enjoyed that situation, I think.

0:19:370:19:43

-I bought that for you.

-What's this?

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-Your favourite tobacco.

-Thank you, madam.

-I'll be in later in the week.

0:19:450:19:51

'He was quite romantic in a way.'

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And he was mad about Mrs Fox,

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played by Pamela Cundell so deliciously.

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Well, she was a flirt. There's no getting away from it.

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She made a play for Mr Jones because she wanted sausages and kidneys.

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I'm only a humble butcher. Is it true affection she feels for me?

0:20:130:20:18

Does she love me for myself or does she love me for my meat?

0:20:180:20:23

'They decided, Jimmy and David,'

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that we should get married. That was a lovely episode.

0:20:270:20:32

'Oh, it was gorgeous!'

0:20:320:20:34

# ..Faint hearts don't win fair ladies, A lady's love... #

0:20:340:20:39

No confetti! No confetti!

0:20:390:20:42

I'M going to throw confetti!

0:20:420:20:45

It's not only Jonesy who has wonderful one-liners. The whole show is full of them.

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We first became aware it was becoming very popular when people, workmen on a roof, said,

0:20:540:21:01

"Oi, Jonesy! They don't like it up..." Or, "Don't panic!"

0:21:010:21:06

- Don't panic! - Stupid boy!

0:21:060:21:09

- Permission to speak! - He's doomed!

0:21:090:21:12

You stupid boy.

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We never thought of catch phrases. "Oh, we'll put these in and they'll catch on." They just happened.

0:21:140:21:22

You stupid boy!

0:21:260:21:28

Things crept in and the public picked them up.

0:21:300:21:34

-I'm all wet, Mr Mainwaring!

-You stupid boy!

0:21:340:21:38

The fact is they do not like it up them.

0:21:410:21:45

Can't stand it, they really can't.

0:21:470:21:50

It's hard to decide if a catch phrase is intrinsically funny out of context

0:21:500:21:57

because what we know of those catch phrases is people repeating themselves now

0:21:570:22:03

in the light of it having been on Dad's Army.

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So when someone says, "Don't panic" or "Stupid boy",

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it's loaded with all the comedy baggage of being in a very, very successful sitcom.

0:22:120:22:19

-'Number, please!'

-Walmington-on-Sea...

0:22:190:22:24

-I've forgotten the number.

-You stupid boy.

0:22:240:22:28

It's Walmington-on-Sea... Just a moment.

0:22:280:22:31

All the main characters have the thing that they do,

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which is the thing the original audience would have latched onto -

0:22:360:22:41

Godfrey always wanting to be excused - but they did much more than that.

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So you can watch the programmes a lot and they don't pall.

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Attention!

0:22:500:22:52

It wasn't awfully good, was it?

0:22:530:22:56

'You'd start every programme with a line-up.'

0:22:560:23:00

It's a useful way of introducing everybody.

0:23:000:23:04

What's in your pockets, Walker?

0:23:040:23:06

A pound of granulated and a pound of sultanas.

0:23:060:23:10

-You must check this sort of thing before I inspect the troops.

-This is disgraceful!

0:23:100:23:16

-You'll have to throw it in the bin.

-OK, but you paid for 'em.

0:23:160:23:21

Jimmy Bett's character of Private Walker, they were called spivs then.

0:23:220:23:28

He could get you anything - he could get you your nylons or lipstick or whatever.

0:23:280:23:34

He was able to make a few bob out of the war, as people were then.

0:23:340:23:40

But it was still part of that community.

0:23:400:23:44

Walker wasn't selling something huge to an outside country.

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It was all done within that framework.

0:23:490:23:53

He always got the girl. But he's the kind of character who'd say he did!

0:23:530:23:58

It's up to you to decide. He was the only one who COULD get the girl!

0:23:580:24:03

This is a friend of mine - Edith Parish.

0:24:030:24:07

Miss Parish. Have you an occupation, Miss Parish?

0:24:070:24:11

Yes. I'm an usherette.

0:24:110:24:14

'I was Private Walker's girlfriend.'

0:24:140:24:16

She wasn't a good-time girl, but she liked fun.

0:24:160:24:20

There was never anything SEXUAL. That would be totally wrong.

0:24:280:24:33

The Second World War brought out the best in us. We could make a sponge cake with carrots and a hair net.

0:24:330:24:41

While Dad's Army is about that war, what adds a layer is you're watching people who fought in that war.

0:24:410:24:48

As a setting for a comedy, war is brilliant.

0:24:480:24:52

You don't have to have really nasty characters

0:24:520:24:56

because you've got the biggest baddie - Hitler...and his Nazis,

0:24:560:25:03

who hold the platoon captive by putting a bomb down Jones's trousers

0:25:030:25:09

in The Deadly Attachment.

0:25:090:25:11

JIMMY PERRY: It WAS going down Arthur Lowe's trousers.

0:25:110:25:15

It wasn't till we were setting up in the street, he said,

0:25:150:25:20

"I've just read the script. I have a bomb in my trousers."

0:25:200:25:25

He wouldn't have it. Anyway, they decided to put it down my trousers.

0:25:250:25:31

One of the cleverest rewrites ever.

0:25:310:25:33

David and Jimmy just crossed out Mainwaring and put Jones.

0:25:330:25:38

He was hoist with his own petard and had to go along with it.

0:25:380:25:43

I was very happy to have a bomb put down my trousers.

0:25:430:25:47

ALL: Aaaaaaargh!

0:25:470:25:49

-Save yourself, sir!

-I'll cut it out.

0:25:530:25:57

It should have gone off by now.

0:25:590:26:02

So it should.

0:26:020:26:04

I've been saved! I've been saved!

0:26:040:26:07

'He was very strange about what he would and would not do.'

0:26:080:26:12

Apparently, he had an agreement with David Croft,

0:26:120:26:17

when he started to arrange what he was going to do in the show.

0:26:170:26:22

They wouldn't do any scenes where he had to remove his trousers.

0:26:220:26:27

Now that the crisis is past, would you mind asking Frazer to take his hand out of my trousers?

0:26:270:26:32

'That's as near to pornography'

0:26:320:26:34

as it got!

0:26:340:26:35

The Deadly Attachment was a favourite episode with us.

0:26:370:26:42

I suppose when you get a really strong situation and a crisis like that,

0:26:420:26:48

it's very easy to play it through.

0:26:480:26:51

< He's surly. Watch him.

0:26:510:26:53

I played the U-boat commander.

0:26:530:26:56

Myself and my crew had been captured.

0:26:560:27:01

They found out immediately, early on in the programme,

0:27:010:27:05

that Dad's Army have to look after us until the official Army arrive the next day.

0:27:050:27:12

I'm warning you...Captain.

0:27:120:27:16

Just do as you're told.

0:27:160:27:18

HE COUGHS

0:27:250:27:28

'It wasn't easy'

0:27:280:27:30

to bring the platoon face to face with the Germans.

0:27:300:27:35

In reality, they never were, virtually, so we couldn't use that much. When we did, we revelled in it!

0:27:350:27:41

I am making notes, Captain!

0:27:410:27:44

Your name will go on the list.

0:27:440:27:48

And when we win the war, you will be brought to account.

0:27:480:27:52

You're not going to win this war.

0:27:520:27:54

-Oh, yes, we are.

-Oh, no, you're not.

-Oh, yes, we are!

0:27:540:27:59

# Whistle while you work Hitler is a twerp

0:27:590:28:02

# He's half barmy So's his army... #

0:28:020:28:05

Your name will also go on the list. What is it?

0:28:050:28:10

-Don't tell him, Pike!

-Pike...

0:28:100:28:12

'We knew we'd got the funny moment there.'

0:28:150:28:17

This was one line, one episode, that went out once.

0:28:170:28:22

The next day, in the street, people shouted, "Don't tell him, Pike!" Extraordinary.

0:28:220:28:28

# ..Couldn't be nicer Couldn't be sweeter

0:28:310:28:34

# Couldn't be better Couldn't be smarter... #

0:28:340:28:37

This is Walmington-on-Sea. All right, it isn't - there's no such place.

0:28:410:28:44

-I

-know that. I work in television.

0:28:440:28:47

This is Thetford, where the team came for two weeks every year to do location filming.

0:28:470:28:52

I can't show you Stead and Simpson or Timothy White's,

0:28:520:28:57

but Walmington-on-Sea wouldn't have those places now either.

0:28:570:29:02

There's still an undertaker's and a butcher's. Is there a bank still?

0:29:100:29:15

Pikey would be 70! He'd be ordering a kebab, nipping into Sue Ryder. ..He's not real! Stupid boy!

0:29:150:29:23

A tip. If you want your comedy show to be watched and enjoyed 30 years after it was written,

0:29:230:29:29

set it in the past. Then it's already dated and it can't date.

0:29:290:29:33

Mr Mainwaring, it went jidder-judder and tore me trousers off.

0:29:360:29:41

Are you all right?

0:29:410:29:43

- I've lost what I hold most dear. - Oh, no.

0:29:430:29:47

My pocket book and discharge papers.

0:29:470:29:50

'I remember Thetford well cos we went there year after year.'

0:29:500:29:55

People were pleased to see you. The typical English town, really.

0:29:550:30:01

We liked it.

0:30:010:30:03

Arthur Lowe used to come up by coach. He could lord it a bit on the coach.

0:30:030:30:09

"Very nice. A bit of countryside. Dry..." All this sort of thing.

0:30:090:30:14

And working out if they'd got the message at the tobacconist's for his special fags.

0:30:140:30:21

Never mind what we were going to do filming. That was another world.

0:30:210:30:26

I used to drive up with John Le Mesurier. He was my mate.

0:30:260:30:31

The Bell Hotel, there was plenty of booze in the Bell. We all met at meal times.

0:30:320:30:38

An extraordinary situation. Fun.

0:30:380:30:40

FRANK WILLIAMS: Jimmy and David always had extraordinary luck with the weather.

0:30:460:30:52

Plan your summer holidays when Dad's Army is on location. It's lovely.

0:30:520:30:59

WENDY RICHARD: It was like being allowed into a gentlemen's club.

0:31:030:31:08

They were all sweethearts in their own way.

0:31:080:31:12

BILL PERTWEE: We worked hard during the day's filming.

0:31:120:31:16

No question.

0:31:160:31:18

FRANK WILLIAMS: We'd get up and go down to breakfast.

0:31:180:31:22

Arthur would complain about the kippers or something.

0:31:220:31:26

"Have you got a little ham this morning?" He said, "Off the bo-one, off the bo-one."

0:31:260:31:33

Clive wandering about, looking for his boots.

0:31:330:31:37

"Somebody put my boots somewhere." "Probably in your room." "I'll look."

0:31:370:31:42

Some of them were middle-aged and over.

0:31:440:31:49

The wives came to look after them.

0:31:490:31:52

We'd have a break in the morning and the wives would be fussing around.

0:31:520:31:57

I mean, this was a film in itself!

0:31:570:32:00

Arnold Ridley was the funniest.

0:32:000:32:04

His wife, she used to drive him to Thetford.

0:32:040:32:08

And she used to have to go and get the food from the wagon.

0:32:080:32:14

And she... He did boss her about a lot.

0:32:140:32:18

"You sit there and I'll get you a cup of tea." "Yes, dear," he said, "Mmmm!"

0:32:180:32:24

-Godfrey!

-Can I be of assistance, sir?

0:32:240:32:27

Look to the front. Don't wear your hat straight like that.

0:32:270:32:32

You look like George Formby. >

0:32:320:32:34

'Godfrey was a wonderful invention,'

0:32:340:32:37

and perfectly cast with Arnold Ridley cos he was so gentle and sweet.

0:32:370:32:43

-< GODFREY!

-Did someone call?

0:32:430:32:46

Godfrey was the nurse. If anyone needed medical attention, it was him!

0:32:480:32:54

We got enormous comedy out of the way they had to help him into the van.

0:32:540:32:59

His disabilities were an advantage from a comedy point of view.

0:32:590:33:04

Did he ever do anything? He always had his Red Cross box on.

0:33:040:33:09

I don't think he ever opened it. Did he? Did he?

0:33:090:33:13

-Jones has got a bout of malaria. Got anything we can give him?

-Yes, sir, I've got some aspirins...

0:33:130:33:20

bicarbonate of soda... some ointment for wasp stings.

0:33:200:33:23

This is a fighting unit, not a Girl Guides' outing!

0:33:230:33:29

'I said, "Arnold, are you up to this?" '

0:33:290:33:31

He was 73 or 74 at the time.

0:33:310:33:34

"I don't think I can protect you from having to run occasionally."

0:33:340:33:38

He said, "Yes, I think so. I think I'll manage."

0:33:380:33:42

We had to rush across a field with fixed bayonets, or whatever.

0:33:420:33:47

It was quite hard work. We did it quite a lot.

0:33:470:33:52

He used to let Arnold Ridley off and that annoyed John Laurie.

0:33:520:33:56

They were more or less the same age.

0:33:560:33:59

While we're rushing about, running the flag up the pole, Godfrey will still be climbing out of the van.

0:33:590:34:06

There's no doubt about it, they were genuinely out of breath from time to time.

0:34:060:34:12

Again, it added to the pathos of the fact that, poor old duffers,

0:34:120:34:17

they were trying to keep up, trying to do it.

0:34:170:34:21

I'm sure it isn't good for the heart.

0:34:220:34:25

JIMMY PERRY: 'They thought their careers were finished.'

0:34:250:34:31

Don't give up!

0:34:310:34:33

'They thought it was curtains for them. Suddenly, they had this terrific new lease of life.'

0:34:330:34:40

He's taken leave of his senses!

0:34:400:34:42

'John Laurie was in his mid 70s.'

0:34:420:34:46

He'd worked at the Old Vic with Gielgud, Olivier and all the greats

0:34:460:34:51

and was a fine classical actor.

0:34:510:34:54

He'd tell you he was the greatest Lear they'd had there. Very modest!

0:34:540:35:00

-This is Private Frazer.

-Howdy.

0:35:000:35:03

Noo's the day and noo's the hoor, see the front of battle lour

0:35:040:35:07

and see if proud Hitler's wanton tour thraves on slavery.

0:35:070:35:12

Wha would be a traitor knave?! Wha sae base as be a slave?!

0:35:120:35:17

Wha would fill a coward's grave?!

0:35:170:35:20

Let him turn and flee!

0:35:200:35:22

'I can remember him once saying to Jimmy Perry,'

0:35:250:35:28

"You know, Jimmy, I played all the great Shakespearian roles

0:35:280:35:34

"and now I've become a household name doing this rubbish of yours!"

0:35:340:35:40

He said to Jimmy Perry, "I think this is a load of r-rubbish!

0:35:400:35:45

"I get a cheque at the end of the week, but I don't think it'll be a success. Mark my words."

0:35:450:35:52

And then when it was, he went up to Jimmy, after the second series, I think,

0:35:520:35:59

"I never had any doubt it would be a success."

0:35:590:36:03

'Great, great, laddie, great.'

0:36:030:36:06

Captain Mainwaring...

0:36:060:36:08

..did you ever hear the story of the auld empty barn?

0:36:090:36:15

No.

0:36:160:36:18

Would you like to hear the story of the auld empty barn?

0:36:180:36:23

I dished up all that "We're doomed!"

0:36:260:36:28

He was doing that in Will Hay films 40 years beforehand.

0:36:280:36:32

The story of the auld empty barn.

0:36:320:36:37

Well...

0:36:380:36:40

There was nithing in it.

0:36:430:36:45

# There's something about the soldier

0:36:460:36:49

# Something about the soldier

0:36:490:36:51

# Something about the soldier that is fine, fine, fine... #

0:36:510:36:55

DAVID CROFT: 'It did the cast a lot of good -

0:36:550:36:59

'they were all getting on, quite old -'

0:36:590:37:02

to wave them about in the fresh air every spring.

0:37:020:37:06

'We had fun.'

0:37:060:37:08

CLIVE DUNN: 'We were all let off the leash at nine, wandering about the pubs, bumping into one another.'

0:37:140:37:20

The ones that pretended they didn't drink, they'd look furtive. You got to know the cast.

0:37:200:37:27

We'd all go down to the bar and Arthur would be on the stool,

0:37:270:37:32

immaculately dressed, slightly red in the face,

0:37:320:37:36

and with what he called "an amazon",

0:37:360:37:39

which was a gin with ginger ale and one - not two - one slice of cucumber in it.

0:37:390:37:47

He'd be propped up against the bar and we'd all drift in -

0:37:470:37:52

I don't know why we all dressed up, we did - and we'd yarn.

0:37:520:37:56

BILL PERTWEE: I remember Arthur said to David Croft one day, about me,

0:37:590:38:02

"Where did you get this fellow from?"

0:38:020:38:05

David said, "Well, he's been in variety..." "Hmm, really?"

0:38:050:38:10

Why don't you pick on someone your own size? Come on!

0:38:100:38:14

Hold my glasses, Wilson.

0:38:140:38:16

'I was an outsider to start with.'

0:38:160:38:19

Don't you tangle with him in your crippled state. I'll do it for you, sir.

0:38:190:38:25

'It was as if I was somebody looking in,'

0:38:250:38:29

looking into this group of seven.

0:38:290:38:32

Bill Pertwee, bless his heart, who played Hodges,

0:38:320:38:36

is a sort of villain of the piece.

0:38:360:38:40

I became Mainwaring's private Hitler.

0:38:400:38:42

I suppose it was with great pleasure that the writers wrote it if there was any water, he'd get it.

0:38:420:38:48

BILL PERTWEE: 'I took the brunt of a few stunts.'

0:38:480:38:53

Ruddy hooligans!

0:38:530:38:55

He was terribly good natured about it.

0:38:550:38:58

Oh! Here we go again!

0:38:580:39:00

One of the situations was alarming.

0:39:010:39:04

-There's an object in the water.

-Won't be long now.

0:39:040:39:08

'We were doing late-night filming at Lowestoft, 2am,

0:39:080:39:11

'and my boat overturned with me

0:39:110:39:14

'and the water got underneath the strap of my helmet.'

0:39:140:39:17

I was all right. I gurgled a bit and spat a bit of water out.

0:39:200:39:24

Everybody had gone. There was only one person left.

0:39:240:39:27

They'd all gone to the next shot!

0:39:270:39:31

I said, "Where is everybody?" "Gone." Never mind about me!

0:39:310:39:37

Then we couldn't chuck him in the water because we were filming in rivers with rats in them.

0:39:370:39:43

Health and Safety don't like comedy.

0:39:430:39:47

Then, you could chuck somebody in a river - usually Bill.

0:39:470:39:53

As long as I got the cheque at the end of the week.

0:39:530:39:57

# The very thought of you... #

0:39:570:40:00

That summer, the show reached its highest viewing figures yet.

0:40:000:40:05

Firmly established as a hit comedy, the platoon seemed unstoppable.

0:40:050:40:11

DAVID CROFT: The first person to die was Jimmy Beck. That was a shock.

0:40:110:40:17

He became ill on location, I think,

0:40:170:40:20

and he was hovering for about a fortnight, at death's door, as it were.

0:40:200:40:26

Jimmy dying so young, at 39, presented a lot of difficulties

0:40:260:40:32

because no way would we have recast that part.

0:40:320:40:35

And I'm afraid he was a very, very heavy drinker. It just got him in the end.

0:40:370:40:41

The next episode, Jimmy was not going to be in it,

0:40:430:40:46

in that last episode of the series.

0:40:460:40:51

It was very sad, very poignant.

0:40:510:40:53

The camera goes along the line and comes to a gap.

0:40:530:40:58

'And there's a note where he would have been standing.'

0:40:580:41:03

Captain Mainwaring - personal.

0:41:030:41:05

Personal? Give it to me!

0:41:050:41:08

Unusual perfume.

0:41:140:41:15

Petrol.

0:41:170:41:19

"Dear Cap,

0:41:220:41:24

"Thanks for letting me off."

0:41:240:41:26

"Had to go up to the smoke for a few days to do a deal."

0:41:280:41:33

CLIVE DUNN: 'The shock. From a selfish point of view, I thought,'

0:41:330:41:37

"What will happen to the programme? Are we still going to be able to do it?"

0:41:370:41:42

So it was awful for his wife and for all his friends.

0:41:420:41:49

It was a bad time, a bad time. Hmm.

0:41:490:41:52

Yeah, something went... most certainly.

0:41:520:41:56

Despite the success of the four or five series we did without Jim,

0:41:560:42:01

something wasn't there, no doubt about that.

0:42:010:42:05

# ..The very thought of you, my love. #

0:42:050:42:09

There was an effort to replace Jimmy. It was an impossible task.

0:42:090:42:14

You couldn't take over from somebody like him.

0:42:140:42:20

The next series, a lovely Welsh actor called Talfryn Thomas - had teeth like that - Mr Cheeseman.

0:42:200:42:27

He was on the local newspaper, the Walmington Bugle.

0:42:270:42:31

He was war correspondent.

0:42:310:42:34

He had an armband with "WC" on the side.

0:42:340:42:38

-What's that?

-Oh, that's so everyone knows what I do.

0:42:380:42:42

-What DO you do?

-Well, WC - War Correspondent.

0:42:450:42:50

John Laurie came to me once and said, "James, can I have a word, please?"

0:42:500:42:55

He said, "Is yon Welsh fella going to be in the next series?"

0:42:550:43:00

I said, "I don't know." He said, "Well, make sure he isn't. He's getting far too many laughs."

0:43:020:43:07

Totally ruthless.

0:43:070:43:10

Talfryn was not in the next series, and he was SO funny, very, very funny.

0:43:100:43:16

30 years on, the show remains as fresh as ever.

0:43:160:43:21

Inevitably, many of that wonderful cast are no longer with us.

0:43:210:43:24

I think it's rather sad that Arthur and John

0:43:360:43:40

and some of the other actors never lived to see the extent of the fame

0:43:400:43:45

that Dad's Army reached.

0:43:450:43:48

I never mind watching it when I turn it on. My children like it.

0:43:480:43:53

My two oldest children are seven and five-and-a-half. They find it funny.

0:43:530:43:58

I think one of the things they like about it is it's grown-ups being silly and trying to be serious

0:43:580:44:05

and coming undone as a result.

0:44:050:44:08

They enjoy that side of it.

0:44:080:44:11

I met a little boy the other day in a shop and his daddy said, "Mrs Fox, can you meet my son?"

0:44:110:44:18

So he came up and we shook hands.

0:44:180:44:21

We had a little talk and I said to him, "Why do you like Dad's Army?"

0:44:210:44:26

He said, "Because it's funny and not rude."

0:44:260:44:30

Now, out of the mouths of babes...

0:44:300:44:33

It was absolutely wonderful.

0:44:330:44:36

What do you think of this?

0:44:360:44:38

-It's awful...

-What?

0:44:400:44:44

No, no, no, it's awfully good.

0:44:450:44:48

Oh, dear. Ha-ha-ha-ha! Oh, dear, oh, dear.

0:44:480:44:52

LAUGHTER GETS LOUDER >

0:44:550:44:58

Watch it, Wilson. You might snap your girdle.

0:44:580:45:02

'A few years ago,'

0:45:020:45:05

at a charity event at St James's Palace, I met the Queen Mother.

0:45:050:45:10

She likes people to stand in a semicircle, not a straight line.

0:45:100:45:15

I said, "I do believe, Ma'am, I was in a programme which is a favourite of yours - Dad's Army."

0:45:150:45:22

She went, "Oh, yes!" She addressed the whole ensemble and said,

0:45:220:45:27

"You know, after a bad day and you come home, put your feet up and pop on a video,

0:45:270:45:34

"and there you are, laughing again."

0:45:340:45:36

There is a nostalgic thing about Dad's Army which people value,

0:45:490:45:54

and it is looking back on something which one sort of, in a way, longs for -

0:45:540:46:00

not the horrors of war, but the feeling of community and belonging to one another.

0:46:000:46:07

I think that's important.

0:46:070:46:09

DAVID CROFT: The British public behaved very well at that time. We took advantage of that.

0:46:140:46:21

That's one of the appeals of the programme.

0:46:210:46:25

WENDY RICHARD: It showed the spirit - which is lacking today -

0:46:250:46:29

that people had, pulling together and keeping our country safe.

0:46:290:46:35

That is an aspect of it, but I don't relate to that at all.

0:46:350:46:40

I had, like a lot of people, a foul war and wouldn't want to go back to that, no.

0:46:400:46:46

It's 60 years since the real Dad's Army, the Home Guard, was formed,

0:46:520:46:57

30 years since Arthur Lowe and John Le Mesurier recorded episode one.

0:46:570:47:02

It's two different lifetimes away, but we're still watching them.

0:47:020:47:06

Mainwaring struggling to maintain his dignity, Wilson rarely losing his, Godfrey having to be excused

0:47:060:47:13

and all the other brave soldiers marching across yet another field

0:47:130:47:16

to make us laugh again and again.

0:47:160:47:19

I think there are some wonderful comedy shows around now.

0:47:250:47:29

I don't think all old comedy is good, but what Dad's Army has got is

0:47:290:47:33

it's celebratory and it's positive and it's innocent.

0:47:330:47:37

It's got some fantastically wonderful performances.

0:47:370:47:42

It's full of wit, pathos, character, slapstick, farce, overplaying, underplaying.

0:47:420:47:48

It's stuffed full. It's like a draught excluder. What? You know what I mean.

0:47:480:47:52

# Keep young and beautiful

0:47:580:48:01

# It's your duty to be beautiful

0:48:010:48:04

# Keep young and beautiful If you want to be loved... #

0:48:040:48:09

CAPTAIN MAINWARING: We'll stick together, you can rely on that.

0:48:090:48:13

If anybody tries to take our homes or our freedom, they'll find out what we can do. We'll fight.

0:48:130:48:18

There are thousands of us all over England...

0:48:200:48:23

FRAZER: And Scotland!

0:48:230:48:25

MAINWARING: And Scotland.

0:48:250:48:27

Men who'll stand together when their country needs them.

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It would be a nice idea if we were to pay our tribute to them.

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For once, I agree.

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To Britain's Home Guard.

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ALL: To Britain's Home Guard.

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# ..The lack of one is wounding to our pride

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# Last night we saw the cutest Little German parachutist

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# Who looked like it and giggled a bit and laughed until he cried

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# We'll have to hide that armoured car when marching to Berlin

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# We'd almost be ashamed of it in Rome

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# So if you've caught the blighters with a Bren gun

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# The Home Guard might as well The Home Guard might as well

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# The Home Guard might as well go home! #

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:49:290:49:32

Victoria Wood presents the true story behind Britain's timeless comedy. Includes footage of the cast on location and incredible personal tales about the making of the series. Was Arthur Lowe really just like Captain Mainwaring? Why did the warden always end up in the water? And how did Corporal Jones find a bomb down his trousers? Find out why Dad's Army was the Queen Mother's favourite show.