Born in London in 1918, into a military family, Cargill went from Haileybury School to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst to train as an officer, and served in the Indian army, but resigned his commission to return home and become an actor, learning the ropes at Bexhill Rep in 1930.
With the outbreak of war, Cargill was back in the Army but, on being demobbed, he took to the boards in repertory theatre at Buxton, Croydon and Windsor. He made his West End debut in High Spirits, and his subsequent stage plays included Dear Delinquent, Say Who You Are, Two and Two Makes Sex, Blithe Spirit, Sleuth and more than 1,500 performances, over three years, in Boeing-Boeing.
Before Father, Dear Father, Cargill tended to play sinister types on television, drawing swords with Richard Greene in the Fifties series The Adventures of Robin Hood, acting the counter-espionage chief, Miguel Garetta, who teams up with the British agent Peter Dallas (played by William Franklyn) in Argentina in the 1961 crime series Top Secret - a role that Cargill recreated in an episode of the police series No Hiding Place a year later - as well as both Thorpe and a sadistic No 2 in Patrick McGoohan's cult Sixties yarn The Prisoner (1967- 68). He was also seen as baddies in The Avengers (1964) and Man in a Suitcase (1967).
But the talent Cargill had shown for comedy in films and on stage was brought to best effect on television when he played the doctor in the classic 1961 Hancock's Half Hour episode The Blood Donor. Cargill's dry humour as the straight man was a perfect foil for the legendary Tony Hancock, who dispensed with his regular foil, Sid James, for that final BBC series, which actually included several of the most memorable episodes of all.
Father, Dear Father, created and written by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke, ran for seven series and 52 episodes from 1968 to 1973, and was screened in more than 30 countries. The women whom Cargill's character had to contend with alone included his ex-wife Barbara (played by Ursula Howells), his daughters Anna and Karen (Natasha Pyne and Ann Holloway), his housekeeper Nanny (Noel Dyson) and his dotty mother (Joyce Carey). Cargill's only male companion, the St Bernard dog, spent most of his time sleeping on the settee, leaving him to contend with the chaos alone.
Cargill subsequently made a sequel, The Many Wives of Patrick (two series, 1976-77), written by Richard Waring, in which he played a similar character - a wealthy antiques dealer who had been married six times - and an Australian version of Father, Dear Father (1978-79), under the same title. For this last series, Cargill's character had moved to Australia after seeing his daughters married off and, once there, had to contend with two nieces, one of them played by Sigrid Thornton, who has since gone on to become a star of Australian films and television. Most of Cargill's subsequent work was on stage, although at the height of his television fame he appeared in a BBC series entitled Feydeau Farces (1973), featuring different stage plays by the noted French farceur.
All his career Cargill was a keen writer, who scripted an episode of the television series Top Secret and a stage play, Smith by Any Other Name (1956), as well as co-writing, with Jack Searle, the West End hit Ring for Catty, later adapted into the film Carry On Nurse (1959), which he also acted in.
Cargill made his film debut in the Disney live-action adventure The Sword and the Rose (starring Glynis Johns as Mary Tudor, 1953) and followed it with 30 pictures, including the naval spoof Up the Creek (1958), the Brian Rix wartime comedy The Night We Dropped a Clanger (1959), Doctor in Love (1960), Carry On Regardless (1961), Carry On Jack (1963) - as Dom Luise, the smooth Spanish governor threatened by the crew of the Venus - the Beatles' Help! (1965), A Countess from Hong Kong (Charlie Chaplin's last film, 1966), Inspector Clouseau (1968), The Magic Christian (1969), Every Home Should Have One (1970), Up Pompeii (1971) and Father, Dear Father (1973), a spin-off from the television series.Reuse content