Tuesday, 28 May 2013

'Put That Light Out!'

I was saddened to hear of the passing yesterday of the actor Bill Pertwee.  A stalwart in the BBC sitcom Dad’s Army, Pertwee’s death at the age of 86, leaves only three survivors from the central cast of the classic wartime comedy.

I have to confess to being a Dad’s Army fan for the past 40 years. Superbly scripted and acted by a cast of the country’s finest actors, the programme ran for a total of nine seasons from July 1968 to November 1979. Re-runs on satellite channels have enabled Dad’s Army to retain its freshness and popularity to this day.  

The series, written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, chronicles the adventures of a Home Guard platoon in the south coast village of Walmington on Sea during World War 2. Although set in the context of war, Dad’s Army strikes a chord with me because it looks back at time when life was less complicated, gentler and morally more clear cut.

The actors and the wonderfully crafted characters they portrayed made the series. Bill Pertwee is fondly remembered as Hodges, the argumentative air raid warden who frequently annoys the platoon commander Captain Mainwaring and is known for his catch phrase, “Put that light out!” Indeed, warden Hodges proved far more of an irritant to the good citizens of Walmington on Sea than the German army poised across the channel.

A greengrocer by day, elevated to the position of chief air raid warden at night, the character of Hodges went to extraordinary lengths to pull rank over Captain Mainwaring, the town’s bumptious little bank manager.  The verbal jousting between the greengrocer and the bank manager, nicknamed ‘Napoleon’ by the former, exemplified the subtle nuances of social class which existed in England at that time.

Oliver Duggan’s obituary article in yesterday’s 'Independent' newspaper includes an interview with Bill Pertwee’s son Jonathan who said: “He would give everything a go..... But also he was very humble about the whole thing. ‘He’d say ‘marvellous, isn’t it, to be in this business, because I’m not really a proper actor’, but he was extraordinarily versatile."

With the passing of Bill Pertwee, only three members of the Dad’s Army cast remain today: Ian Lavender, who played the youthful ‘mummy’s boy’, Private Pike, Pamela Cundell, Corporal Jones’ girlfriend Mrs Fox, and Frank Williams, the show’s camp vicar.

In Dad’s Army Bill Pertwee made me laugh and that’s a great gift. As a Christian, laughter is important to me because I have something to smile about. The book of Proverbs talks positively about the healing qualities of laughter:

 ‘A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones’.

Good Clean laughter is a most wonderful kind of medicine. It comes highly recommended and helps bring about inner healing as well as building our faith and trust in God.


NB      Next post will be on June 12.  Jetting off to the Med for some sun.


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