Although for years one of Britain's best-loved comedians, working a legendary double act with his cousin, Ben Warriss, he was one of a small group of music hall artists who made the successful transition to straight acting late in life.
His career hit a low point after music hall declined and he became a master carpenter.
But he made a triumphant return to the stage at the age of 60 when his performances in West End plays such as Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman received wide acclaim.
He was hailed as one of the best character actors in the business and worked through his 70s in theatre and on television, saying he would stop only when he became an embarrassment to himself.
For television viewers he will be best remembered as the lecherous, boozy character partnering Hylda Baker in the 1970s series Nearest and Dearest.
Like Max Wall, in whose footsteps he followed from comedy to acting, he had the advantage of having been born and reared in showbusiness.
Born James Arthur Thomas Jewel Marsh in Sheffield on 4 December 1912, he had three distinct careers in his lifetime - first, as part of a family music hall troupe, second with Ben Warriss in the double act and finally as a distinguished actor.
He claimed that he never wanted to be a performer. His great joy was stage-managing his father, also a comedian.
But at the age of 14 he did a sketch and enjoyed the audience's laughter so much that he set out on his career as a comic. "It's the best life in the world," he was to claim later.
His wife, Belle, died in 1985.Reuse content