Obituary: Terry Scott
Wednesday 27 July 1994
THE PLIGHT of Suburban Man, jumping from one flap to another with consummate huffing and puffing, was the comedy for which Terry Scott will be best remembered. Scott's screen wife June Whitfield, who starred with him in three different series, was the actor's third partner, following his double-acts with Bill Maynard and Hugh Lloyd, in a television career that spanned more than 30 years.
Scott's gleeful, boyish grin was also prominent in British film comedy, including seven of the Carry On series. The highlight was his appearance as Jungle Boy in Carry On Up the Jungle (1969), swinging around on a rope like a baby-faced Tarzan, only to crash against trees with a thud. He found adequate compensation, however, with lessons on the birds and the bees from Angela Douglas.
The actor's own background was as suburban as many of the characters he played. Born in Watford, Hertfordshire, in 1927, the son of a postman who retired to run a corner shop, Scott studied accountancy, served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, then decided on an acting career, working with seaside repertory companies in Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria, and other resorts.
Switching to comedy, he auditioned for the BBC at the age of 21 and performed on radio with Bob Monkhouse, but not entirely successfully. He left to learn his craft in pubs, clubs, summer shows and pantomimes, starting at Clacton-on-Sea at the foot of a bill topped by Tony Hancock.
As he gained in confidence and experience, Scott was given another chance in radio - alongside favourites such as Charlie Chester and Frankie Howerd - before teaming up with Bill Maynard on stage, after they met at Butlin's holiday camp in Skegness. The pair's styles contrasted perfectly, as in all the best comedy double-acts, with Scott frenetic and Maynard laid-back. In 1955, they landed their own television situation comedy, Great Scott It's Maynard, in which their characters shared a flat. The series proved hugely popular, but Maynard was anxious to do more straight acting and the duo split up.
However, the loss of Maynard allowed Scott to venture into feature films, making his debut in the comedy Blue Murder At St Trinian's (1957), made by the celebrated writing, producing and directing partnership of Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat. He followed it with appearances in Carry On Sergeant (1958) - the first of the Carry On series, in the small role of Sergeant O'Brien - and two Brian Rix screen farces, The Night We Got the Bird (1960) and Nothing Barred (1961), as well as cameos in pictures such as the kidnap farce Too Many Crooks (1958) and the management/unions satire I'm All Right, Jack (1959).
Returning to television in 1962, Scott teamed up with Hugh Lloyd in Hugh and I, playing the schemer who invariably lost out to his 'simple' friend. The programme was a hit with audiences and ran for seven series.
Ten years after his first appearance with the Carry On team, Scott was back in the film studios in 1968 to make Carry On Up the Khyber, playing the blustering Sergeant-Major MacNutt of the Third Foot and Mouth Regiment. During the next four years, he made another five films with the team, most inventively as the slow-witted Cardinal Wolsey in Carry On Henry (1970).
Scott, who in real life was a lay preacher, recalled at the time: 'Playing Cardinal Wolsey left me with one burning ambition unfulfilled. Every time I got into the splendid red robes of the Cardinal, I had an irresistible urge to sneak them out of the studio and wear them to my local church on Sunday morning.'
In 1969, between film schedules, Scott was back on television, this time teaming up with June Whitfield for the series Scott On . . ., in which the pair performed domestic sketches together for the first time. One show would be Scott On Marriage, another Scott On Habit, and so on.
Five years later, they were cast in the first of their two domestic situation comedies, Happy Ever After, as the married couple Terry and June Fletcher, living the middle-class life in suburbia after their children have left home and finding it impossible to agree on how to spend their new-found leisure time. After five series, the same characters and cosy scenes were translated to Terry and June, following a copyright row over the original title. The new sitcom ran until 1988.
From the early Seventies, Scott had worked almost exclusively in television, where he is also remembered dressed as a schoolboy for a string of 'Curly Wurly' bar commercials and as driver of the hearse in Eric Sykes's wordless comedy Mr H is Late (1988), about an undertaker's attempts to get a client to church on time.
During the height of his television popularity, Scott was known on stage as a pantomime dame, performing three Christmas seasons at the London Palladium. Although he had performed farce with Brian Rix's Whitehall Theatre company during the Sixties and later continued the trend by appearing on stage in The Mating Game, A Bedfull of Foreigners and Run for Your Wife, as well as playing a memorable Toad in a musical adaptation of The Wind in the Willows at Sadler's Wells, Scott never fulfilled his ambition to return to the straight theatre. During his last few years, the cheerful manner and enthusiasm he generated in front of an audience began to subside as in private he fought a string of health problems.
His only son, Paul, died at just a year old after choking on a meal and Scott's first marriage ended in divorce. He subsequently married the ballet dancer turned choreographer Margaret Peden, by whom he had four daughters.
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