Obituary: Jon Pertwee

It was not just Jon Pertwee's definitive portrayals of Doctor Who and Worzel Gummidge that made him a television star after his success on radio, writes Anthony Hayward [further to the obituary by Nick Smurthwaite, 21 May], but his appearances over 60 years in almost 50 films and scores of television programmes over 60 years. They made him one of the most prolific screen actors of the century.

Born John (not Jon) Devon Roland Pertwee, he made his screen debut as early as 1937 in two films co-written by his father. A Yank at Oxford, the first major Anglo-American feature, was a huge pre-war success starring Robert Taylor, Vivien Leigh and Lionel Barrymore, and Dinner at the Ritz featured David Niven. His father's stage play To Kill a Cat also provided Pertwee with his West End debut, at the Aldwych Theatre in 1939.

Wartime service in the Navy led to Pertwee's radio success, but he continued in films for most of his career, with appearances in mostly comedy features such as Carry On Cleo (1964), Carry On Cowboy (1965), Carry On Screaming (1966), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966) and One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing (1975). He even stood in for Danny Kaye in the London scenes of Knock on Wood (1954) and gave his voice to the children's films Wombling Free (1977) and The Water Babies (1978). His last films, the Cannon and Ball picture The Boys in Blue (1983) and the dreadful Carry On Columbus (1992), were more a testament to the sorry state of British comedy films than to his ever-reliable talents.

The big screen never provided Pertwee with a star vehicle. Instead, it was as the third Doctor Who on television and the walking, talking scarecrow Worzel Gummidge that he became best known to the nation. It was his enthusiasm for Worzel, and his recollection of reading the books by Barbara Euphan Todd in the Thirties, that led him to take the idea to Southern Television, which produced four series of Worzel Gummidge (1979-81), as well as a Christmas special, A Cup o' Tea an' a Slice o' Cake (1980).

Unfortunately, Southern Television lost its ITV franchise and no more programmes were made until the series was resurrected by a producer in New Zealand. Two series of Worzel Gummidge Down Under (1987, 1989) were made, screened in Britain on Channel Four, and at the time Pertwee told me: "It's my baby. I felt tremendous responsibility for it. I'm the one who has nurtured it and kept it going."

Pertwee made his television debut back in 1946, playing the Judge in a BBC production of Toad of Toad Hall, a screen adaptation of A.A. Milne's play from Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. Kenneth More played Mr Badger.

Pertwee's later television appearances included Round the Bend (1956), the adventure series Ivanhoe (1958), the tramp-steamer sitcom Glencannon (1960) and The Avengers (1967), before he took over as the Timelord in Doctor Who (1970-74). By now a television star in his own right, Pertwee was hired by Thames Television to present three series of the ITV crime quiz Whodunnit? (1973-78), landed a guest role in The Goodies (1975) and starred as a psychiatrist consulted by Father Christmas in The Curious Case of Santa Claus (1982).

In 1992, he appeared with his actor son Sean in the television film Virtual Murder. He was last seen on screen in March as a guest presenter in the Channel 4 magazine programme Food File, reporting on how insects feed on humans' breakfast cereals, even eating through the cardboard boxes. Pertwee's daughter, Dariel, also continues the family acting tradition, and his cousin Bill is still remembered for his role as ARP Warden Hodges in Dad's Army.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need