John Louis Mansi: The bungling Gestapo officer Von Smallhausen in '’Allo ’Allo’

The character actor John Louis Mansi trod a comedy path that went from appearances alongside the former Goons Spike Milligan and Michael Bentine on television and The Beatles in Help! to the role of the bungling, junior Gestapo officer Herr von Smallhausen in 'Allo, 'Allo!

As assistant to the emotionless Herr Flick in that television sitcom, he dressed exactly the same – in a long, leather, double-breasted coat, wide-brimmed leather hat and gloves, and large spectacles – but Von Smallhausen was only half Flick's height. This "little and large" partnership guaranteed laughs in the tradition of music hall and slapstick films. With Richard Gibson (later David Janson) as Flick, Mansi threw himself into the part of the minion dominated by his superior officer – often taking a battering over the head with a rubber truncheon when he voiced one of his stupid plans or ideas.

Mansi joined the Second World War comedy about the French Resistance in 1985, during its second series, when the writers Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft decided Flick needed a foil. He stayed for the remaining seven years of its run before retiring from acting.

The actor was born John Patrick Adams in London in 1926, the son of an Italian father and an Irish mother. After Second World War service with the Merchant Navy and RAF, he trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama. He combined his first name with his father's family name to become John Mansi. Later, he added Louis – which was his nickname – as a middle name and, at times, he was simply credited as Louis Mansi.

He made his screen debut in the 1952 Ealing Studios film The Secret People, starring Audrey Hepburn. Soon, his foreign looks and mop of curly, black hair saw him typecast in such roles as an Italian in Hammer the Toff (1952), based on John Creasey's novels about a gentleman sleuth, and an exasperated Turin traffic-control official witnessing the mayhem of the Mini chase in The Italian Job (1969).

In Help! (1965), directed by Richard Lester – who had worked with the Goons on radio and television – Mansi was one of the thuggish followers of a cult leader, played by Leo McKern, trying to prise an ancient, sacrificial ring from Ringo Starr's finger.

On television, he appeared alongside one Goon in the surreal sketch show Spike Milligan: a Series of Unrelated Incidents at Current Market Value (1961) and another, Michael Bentine, in the zany It's a Square World (1960-64). He also appeared with Frankie Howerd in the comedian's eponymously titled BBC show (1964-66).

He was an Italian again, Professor Pesca, in a Sunday-afternoon adaptation of Wilkie Collins's mystery novel The Woman in White (1966), and appeared in episodes of the sitcoms The Fenn Street Gang (1972-73) and Robin's Nest (1980). He also played the role of a harassed restaurant chef in Jack Rosenthal's play Spaghetti Two-Step (1977). Mansi was also cast as the archetypal "foreigner" in programmes such as the air-stewardess sitcom From a Bird's Eye View (1971), starring Millicent Martin. He took rare straight roles in Department S (1969) and the Thirty Minute Theatre production "Revolution: Fidel Castro" (1970). On stage, he acted in runs of Uproar in the House (Whitehall Theatre, 1967-69) and Captain Brassbound's Conversion (Cambridge Theatre, 1971).

Mansi, who enjoyed his retirement in East Sussex, surrounded by chickens, later suffered from Parkinson's disease and, in May this year was diagnosed with lung cancer.

John Patrick Adams (John Louis Mansi), actor: born London 8 November 1926; died Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex 6 August 2010.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
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

SECONDARY SUPPLY TEACHERS NEEDED IN AND AROUND FOLKESTONE

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Description Randstad Education i...

KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

SECONDARY SUPPLY TEACHERS NEEDED IN AND AROUND DOVER

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Description Randstad Education i...

English Teacher - From October Half Term

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Secondary English Teacher requir...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week