Jack Douglas: Actor and comedian who made his name in the 'Carry On' films

A permanent fixture in the final eight Carry On comedy films, Jack Douglas is best remembered for the twitching character he usually portrayed, complete with flat cap, spectacles and workman's overalls, and the one-word catchphrase: "Phwaay!"

The character, known as Alf Ippititimus, was created on stage two decades earlier and became a staple of his act. Douglas first transferred the character to the screen for a single scene in Carry On Matron (1972). Acting the part of the father of a new-born baby, he arrived in the waiting room of a maternity ward displaying the nervy, fidgeting mannerisms and facial expressions that would become familiar to fans of the series that made stars of actors such as Kenneth Williams, Sid James and Barbara Windsor.

It was a cameo role that had been written specifically for Douglas, to test his suitability for the series. He returned, looking exactly the same, for Carry On Abroad (1972), and he continued until the films fizzled out with Carry On Emmannuelle (1978), in which he went out of character to play a snooty butler. Later, he was one of the few from the original team who appeared in the abortive revival, Carry On Columbus (1992). "My favourite was Carry On Girls," he said. "The films might have been naughty, but they weren't filthy. It was seaside-postcard humour and could be watched by the whole family."

Hiding behind his screen persona meant that Douglas was able to go out in public without being bothered, despite his fame. "Because I played Alf – a character I'd developed at Butlins some years before – in seven of the eight Carry On films I worked on, people don't recognise me in the street," he said in 2006. "But I'm receiving plenty of fan letters, more now than I've ever had in my life."

Jack Douglas was born Jack Roberton in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1927, the son of a theatre producer. Although he showed no early interest in acting, he was bitten by the stage bug and ran away from home at the age of 11 to become a lime-boy, operating the spotlights at Feldman's Theatre, Blackpool.

Four years later, his father gave him the chance to direct a pantomime himself, at the Sunderland Empire. His break as a performer came while he was directing Dick Whittington (1948-49) at the Kingston Empire in Surrey. He was persuaded to step in after the comedian Joe Baker's straight man was taken ill. As a result, the pair formed a double-act and, in addition to their stage appearances across Britain and in Australia, they were seen regularly during the first year of the children's television programme Crackerjack (1955-56). When Baker left for the United States, Douglas worked as a foil to other comedians, including Bruce Forsyth, Arthur Askey and Des O'Connor.

He made his film début in the RAF comedy Nearly a Nasty Accident, starring Jimmy Edwards, in 1961. As well as appearing with the Carry On team in their forays into television, Carry On Christmas (1972) and Carry On Laughing (1975), Douglas performed on the small screen in many entertainment programmes. He was in The Bruce Forsyth Show (1965, 1969) and became a regular on both The Des O'Connor Show (1970-71) and the quick-fire comedy series Jokers Wild (1973-74).

Douglas's sitcom roles included Stanley Pickersgill, who pulled pints at the Brown Cow pub alongside his cousin Nellie Pickersgill (Hylda Baker), in the final series of Not on Your Nellie (1975) and the chief superintendent in The Boys in Blue (1983), which starred the comedy duo Cannon and Ball as policemen.

He switched to a straight acting role as Jake, the dour village widower, in the pilot of the comedy drama The Shillingbury Blowers (1980), the subsequent series, Shillingbury Tales (1981) and its spin-off, Cuffy (1983), which put Bernard Cribbins's village tinker character in the spotlight.

Both of Douglas's marriages ended in divorce. He leaves his partner, Vivien Howell, an actress with whom he regularly appeared in pantomime, as well as a son and daughter from his first marriage.

Anthony Hayward

Jack Roberton (Jack Douglas), actor: born Newcastle upon Tyne 26 April 1927; twice married (one son, one daughter); died Newport, Isle of Wight 18 December 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific