A stand-up comedian, impressionist and actor who learned his trade in clubs and variety theatres, Roger Kitter took his place in British sitcom history when he played the cowardly Italian officer Captain Alberto Bertorelli in 'Allo 'Allo!, complete with the plumed hat and uniform of that country's Bersaglieri regiments.
He took over the role from Gavin Richards for the seventh series in 1991. Creators David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd set the Resistance spoof, which had begun in 1982, around a small-town café in Nazi-occupied France. Bertorelli, whose troops were palpably unprofessional, was a womaniser who was frequently heard saying: "Da beautiful-a liedee I kiss-a de 'and-a."
The character arrived in the town of Nouvion as an assistant to its German commandant, Colonel Kurt Von Strohm (Richard Marner), during the fourth series, when Mussolini entered the war. He was also famous for saying: "What a mistake-a to make-a!" This followed his soldiers' blunders, of which there were many – but he was always loyal to his homeland's leader, declaiming: "Heil-a-Mussolini!"
Kitter was asked to join 'Allo 'Allo! on screen while playing Bertorelli in a stage version of the comedy during a 1990 Blackpool summer season. He continued with the theatre production on national tours until 1996. His character was written out to tie in with Italy's surrender.
"It's one thing taking over a character in a stage show," Kitter told the author Richard Webber in 2012, "but in this case the programme had been on for years. Without doing an impression, you want to be as close as you can to the way he was played before."
Impressions were familiar to Kitter, who had come to national attention with his wide smile and gleaming teeth in Who Do You Do? (1972-74), alongside comedians such as Freddie Starr, Peter Goodwright and Janet Brown, as well as its sequels, New Who Do You Do? (1975) and Now Who Do You Do? (1976). James Stewart, Norman Wisdom, Max Bygraves and Bruce Forsyth were among those he impersonated – and the quick-fire sketches and stand-up routines benefited from having Barry Cryer and Dick Vosburgh among the scriptwriters.
Kitter was born in Hampshire, the son of Leonard, an antiques dealer, and his wife, Phyllis. At Clifton College in Bristol he acted in Shakespearean productions and other school plays. He trained at the Aida Foster Theatre School in London before performing his act of comedy and impressions in clubs. His first theatre summer season was in Blackpool in 1969, with Freddie and the Dreamers topping the bill. Who Do You Do? opened doors, and he guest-starred on TV, becoming a regular in the 1973 series of It's Lulu, and joined the long-running Radio 2 comedy panel game The Impressionists in 1974.
Kitter devised and hosted the Radio 2 series The Name's the Game (1982-92), in which celebrities tried to guess the identity of a person based on a biography and several clues. He had to apologise to children listening to the 1986 Christmas special after describing Father Christmas as "male and fictional".
He performed his act at the London Palladium on the same bill as singers Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Petula Clark and Perry Como, and regularly trod the boards as an actor. In 1972 he appeared in a tour of the nude farce Pyjama Tops, starring Fiona Richmond, while Paul Raymond's original West End production was still running at the Whitehall Theatre. He was also in touring productions of the sequel, Wot! No Pyjamas! (1981), when one reviewer wrote, "The cast, with the notable exception of link-man Roger Kitter, have little idea of stage presence and no grasp of timing".
In 1986 he joined the cast of Ray Cooney's farce Run for Your Wife (Criterion) as Bobby Franklin, the gay neighbour. His other stage roles included the father, Howard Cunningham, in Happy Days (1999), a touring musical version of the TV series. He was also was a regular in pantomime, usually playing the dame.
On television he appeared in the panel game Punchlines (1981-84) and had guest roles in Goodnight Sweetheart (1993) and Birds of a Feather (1994). He was also a popular after-dinner speaker and had a chart hit as half of the comedy duo The Brat, with Kaplan Kaye. Their 1982 novelty single, "Chalk Dust – The Umpire Strikes Back", parodying John McEnroe's tennis court outbursts, reached No 19.
With other entertainers, he was a member of the Freemasons' Chelsea Lodge from 1995, serving as its Worshipful Master in 2010. He was also chairman of the Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Fund (2009-11).
Kitter, who died of cancer, was married to the actress Karan David, who played Sita Patel in the medical soap Angels.
Roger Daniel Kitter, comedian, impressionist and actor: born Southsea, Hampshire 20 October 1949; married 1975 Karan David (one daughter); died London 3 January 2015.Reuse content