Obituary: Jack Davies

Jack Davies, scriptwriter, journalist: born London 25 November 1913; married (two sons); died California 22 June 1994.

JACK DAVIES was a writer of British film comedies, for over 40 years concocting vehicles for radio and stage stars of the Thirties, postwar classics like Laughter in Paradise and a string of Norman Wisdom successes and international blockbusters.

Born in 1913, Davies went straight from school at the age of 18 into the film industry, as part of the script department at the Elstree studios of British International Pictures. BIP had the largest studio in England in 1931, its nine stages covering 40 acres. Its productions included 10 films directed by Alfred Hitchcock, including Blackmail, but since the coming of sound its stature had waned. The Cinematograph Act of 1927, requiring that all British cinemas play a statutory amount of homemade product, had spawned a number of small companies turning out leaden low-budget films to feed distribution requirements - the infamous 'quota quickies'. BIP's product now filled the middle ground between these and the prestigious work of Alexander Korda, Michael Balcon and Herbert Wilcox at other studios.

When Davies joined their script department, they were turning out 30 films a year, modest but respectable programme pictures. He gained a solid groundwork in story construction and the ways in which best to exploit the particular talents of contract performers. He worked on vehicles for the opera star Richard Tauber (Heart's Desire, 1935), the stage star Gertrude Lawrence (Mimi, 1935, an underrated version of the La Boheme story), and the American singer 'Buddy' Rogers (Dance Band, 1934, and Once in a Million, 1936, a bright comedy that echoed Rene Clair's classic Le Million), plus a Somerset Maugham adaptation, The Tenth Man (1936), and an outrageously stylised comedy- thriller, Someone at the Door (1936).

Davies brought imaginative flair and innovation to many of these assignments. Radio Parade of 1935, starring Will Hay and showcasing radio stars of the day, had a finale filmed in Dufaycolour featuring a giant television screen in Piccadilly Circus, while Music Hath Charms (1935), starring Henry Hall and his orchestra, had an engagingly surreal approach, showing the startling effect of Hall's music on mountain climbers, African explorers, policemen and others that foreshadowed the films of the Beatles and the Monkees 30 years later.

Moving briefly to Gainsborough, Davies co-wrote the Will Hay comedy Convict 99 (1938). After war service writing training films in the RAF he became film critic of the Sunday Graphic but returned to scriptwriting in 1948, the same year that his son John Howard Davies became famous with his remarkable performance in the title-role of David Lean's Oliver Twist.

A productive partnership with the writer Michael Pertwee and the director Mario Zampi produced some of Davies's finest credits, notably Laughter in Paradise (1951), in which a millionaire specifies that in order to profit from his will his heirs must fulfil tasks at odds with their character - the imperious matron must work as a servant, the timid clerk must hold up a bank. In the most felicitous section, Alastair Sim, as a prim writer who has to get himself arrested, vainly tries to get caught shoplifting in Swan and Edgar's. 'Are you going behind the Iron Curtain?' asks his fiancee (Joyce Grenfell), when he advises her of his imminent secret absence. 'In a way, yes,' he replies.

Top Secret (1952), in which George Cole, designer of a new toilet filter system, is mistaken by the Russians for a defecting scientist, enabled the writers to have fun at the expense of bureaucrats and the cold war, while Happy Ever After (1953) took an unconventional approach to Irish shenanigans and included an off-beat role for David Niven as a roguish squire.

The sole writer of the comedy with music An Alligator Named Daisy (1955), Davies was one of four writers on the Norman Wisdom vehicle Up in the World (1956), but established such a rapport with the star that he was principal writer on six more Wisdom films. 'He did the storyline,' said Wisdom, 'and then would leave it to me to put my two-penn'orth in.'

Davies acknowledged the comedian's gag contribution by insisting that he share screen credit. The Square Peg, Follow a Star, The Bulldog Breed, On the Beat, A Stitch in Time and The Early Bird were not praised by critics, but were perfectly tailored for the star's talents and enormously popular with his fans.

Davies moved into the international market when he collaborated with the director Ken Annakin on the big-budget Cinerama film Those Magnifigent Men in their Flying Machines (1965), followed by Ronald Neame's caper movie Gambit (1966) and another all-star Annakin spectacular, Monte Carlo or Bust (1969). He was sole writer on Doctor at Sea, the last in that series, and was reunited with both Annakin and David Niven when he wrote the original story and screenplay for Paper Tiger (1975), after which he retired to California.

(Photograph omitted)

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 People

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker