As a firm believer in the fact that Dad’s Army is the greatest programme in the history of the world, I feel it only right to praise the wonderful Clive Dunn (Corporal Jones) who died this week. I never have been able to pick a stand out character from the show because they were all so oustanding, the main reason it was so good of course, but Jones was certainly responsible for some of my favourite moments.
Like many, I loved his crazed hysteria when he would say ‘don’t panic’ again and again and run around in a terror. His over enthusiasm when he got ‘a whiff of action’ was also reliably hilarious and the immortral ‘they don’t like it up ’em’ was of course always hysterical. Perhaps less appreciated, but in my opinion even funnier were the occasions when he would utter the wrong word. I always find those incredibly funny led for me by the line ‘we could all breathe in all the poisonous gases and all get sophisticated’ closely followed by ‘I apologise and I’ll do anything I can to regurgitate myself’. Finally, I have to pay tribute to his wonderfully exaggerated movements i.e. never simply walking to where he needed to be but having to march exactly right, 90 degree turns and all!
Amazingly, I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about Dad’s Army before so I have to take this opportunity to say why I adore it so much. Each character is so superbly well thought out and detailed, not simply a caricature. For instance, Frazer in many ways an archetypal grumpy Scot has so many facets to his character such as the occasion when he saves Godfrey’s cottage from being demolished or promises Wilson not to reveal a secret. The episode where it is revealed that Godfrey was a conscientous objector was also exquisitely done, revealing an astonishingly brave man without a violent streak in him.
I have to mention Captain Mainwaring. Arthur Lowe surely has to be the best actor of all time in terms of facial expressions. His exasperated puff of breath, his pursed lip outrage and uncomfortable look of being found out never fail to make me laugh out loud. Again though, the detail of the character is so superb reflecting a clearly highly insecure and sensitive man hiding behind a cloak of pomposity and snobbery. The incomparable Wilson is his nightmare – better looking, higher class and with an ability to wind him up at a moment’s notice. John Le Mesurier’s performance is faultless with his amusingly casual and unfailingly polite deliveries and I loved the never-quite-explained relationship with Mrs Pike. That of course brings me on to Pike, wonderfully portrayed by Ian Lavender. I very much enjoyed his growing up during the series and gradually becoming a little more argumentative with Mainwaring leading to some hilarious dialogue. Last but not least, the sadly lost Walker was a wonderful character who provided great energy and superb lines and as wonderful as the last three series are, his absence is definitely felt.
The wonderful thing about Dad’s Army is it isn’t simply a collection of lines. There is so much more to it with so many detailed characters and plots and the pathos that comes with a programme about what is a highly serious topic. It is timeless and that is perhaps because it was never ‘current’. In the way that Only Fools and Horses was very much about the 80s and Friends about the 90s, Dad’s Army was already about the past and simply transcends generation (not to say those two don’t incidently, but certain references would perhaps be applicable to the time).
In short, the finest of them all and something that I enjoy time after time. Clive Dunn was an enormous part of it and leaves Lavender as the only surviving member of the lead characters although various others are still around. Rest in peace Clive and thank you for so many wonderful comedy moments.