Dad's Army has been repeated on the BBC many many times over the last 30 odd years, and its easy to understand why.
The scripts were rich, simple, entertaining, inoffensive, gentle & above all, very very funny. Veteran writers, David Croft & Jimmy Perry, excelled themselves with this show, that lasted nearly 10 years from 1968 to 1977.
Of course, having a good script is all very well, but you need quality actors to make those scripts come to life. Step forward, then, a host of relative unknowns, thespians and bit-part actors.
Arthur Lowe (blunderbus,Captain Mainwaring), probably takes most plaudits and was certainly a very good versatile actor. It was felt back in the early days of Dad's Army (DA), that the sitcom was perhaps a little below his considerable acting talents. But like all good actors, he stuck with it through the first hesitant series and was rewarded with major audience ratings which would invariably lead to more and more episodes coupled with an appreciative following and critical acclaim that would bring its own rich rewards.
John Le Mesurier (the softly spoken Sgt Wilson), another experienced film and theatre actor with almost 100 films in his CV prior to taking on the part of kindly Sgt Wilson - very much everyone's favourite "uncle" figure.
Clive Dunn (Corporal Jones), surprised us all by looking considerably older for his part as local butcher, veteran WW1 soldier, Jones. He was only in his late 50s when he took on the part of a soldier who looked well into his 70s. But for all that he was perhaps the funniest and most endearing character of them off, especially when he went off on one his "Don't Panic" attacks, telling everyone to calm down, when in actual fact there was nothing at all to worry about!
John Laurie (the Scottish undertaker, Fraizer), had a very distinguished theatre career coupled with some major films parts during the early part of his career in the 30s and 40s. Again, like Lowe, it was felt Laurie had too much quality to be seeing doing something as apparently "lowly" as a sitcom. It was even rumoured that during the first couple of series he criticised the scripts and some of the actors around him for being "amateur". Although by Series 3, and a consistant 16 million TV fanbase, coupled with a better salary, Laurie soon changed his mind and genuinely began to immerse himself in the part.
Ian Lavender ("Stupid Boy", Private Pike). It was a very shrewd idea by Croft & Perry, to include a very young soldier into the mostly elderly Home Guard. Pike was very much the "Mother's Boy", a soldier equiped with a rifle, a bannet and a wooly scarf knitted by his mom and wrapped tightly round his neck to keep out the cold. Lavender, was perfect for the part. It wouldn't be far from the truth if the majority of the female TV audience of DA were mothers, grannies and aunts simply begging to look after this young, innocent young man fighting to protect his home and country alongside a bunch of pensioners. Of course his Captain, Manwaring, wasn't quite so sympathetic, and would often call him a "Stupid Boy" for behaving like a reckless teenager weened on too many comics.
Then of course there are the support actors such as the Cockney spiv, Private Walker (James Beck), the soppy vicar (Frank Williams) and the antagonistic ARP Warden (Bill Pertwee), who clashed with Manwaring and his rabble of pensioners throughout the lifetime of DA, often resorting to calling the Captain, Napoleon for his arrogant and amateurish behaviour.
There were many excellent episodes throughout the history of DA and many many more "very good" ones. Only rarely was there a poor episode, and these seemed to crop up during the last couple of years of the show, when one or two of the actors such as James Beck had died, leaving huge gaps that were never really successfully filled.
By today's standard the sfx and stunts, such as they were, were often very poor & obvious, but this was downside never really handicapped the show. Today's audience is far more sophisticated in its viewing habits than those of 20 or 30 years ago. But what is consistent through the decades is the quality of the stories and its endearing appeal that can only mean Dad's Army will be continually repeated throughout the decades as a piece of warm & friendly humour during the dark months and years of WW2.
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