One of British television’s greatest comedy writers, David Croft, has died aged 89.
Croft was best-known for Dad’s Army, a sitcom classic he wrote with Jimmy Perry between 1968 and 1977. Croft and Perry also had hits with It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Hi-de-Hi! and You Rang, My Lord?, while Croft’s partnership with Jeremy Lloyd created ‘Allo ‘Allo! and Are You Being Served?
The news was broken today on Croft’s official website, via this statement: “The family of comedy legend David Croft OBE are sad to report that David died peacefully in his sleep at his house in Portugal earlier today. He was a truly great man, who will be missed by all who had the great fortune of knowing and loving him. We know that he would have been proud that you had all been watching.”
“He was delightful,” said Dad’s Army star Ian Lavender. “A man of few words who didn’t suffer fools gladly, but a gentle man. That led me to believe that all directors would be gentle men, and gentlemen. Sadly, this wasn’t so. If only they’d all been like David. He was a lovely guy.”
Ruth Madoc, who played a lead role in Hi-de-Hi!, said she would remember Croft with “great, great affection and great awe”.
Melvyn Hayes, star of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, said: “The man was a genius. I was very privileged to have the opportunity to work with him. He based his writing on truth. He had a great innings and was very successful at everything he touched.”
Dad’s Army is still a regular fixture on BBC2, 34 years after its first episode was broadcast. Last Saturday night, for example, more than 2 million viewers watched it when it was scheduled against Doctor Who and The X Factor.
Apart from creating timeless, long-running sitcoms, Croft was known for being tirelessly prolific: in 1974, for example, the BBC broadcast new series of Are You Being Served?, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and Dad’s Army – all of them co-written by Croft.
The son of actors Annie Croft and Reginald Sharland, Croft began as a performer, appearing in a cinema commercial at the age of seven and, at 17, in a small role in Goodbye, Mr. Chips.
In the 1940s, Croft’s army career took him to North Africa, India and Singapore – experiences that would later give him material for ‘Allo ‘Allo!, Dad’s Army and It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.
Back in Britain, Croft earnt a living writing scripts for pantomimes and adapting Beatrix Potter books for stage musicals. In the 1950s he worked in light entertainment for Associated Rediffusion and Tyne Tees before joining the BBC as a producer. At the BBC he met Jimmy Perry and formed what was to become one of the most successful writing partnerships in television.
Croft also worked as a producer and director in Australia for Channel 7 and in the USA for CBS and Paramount. He was awarded the OBE in 1978, and the British Comedy Awards’ lifetime achievement award – with Perry – in 2003.
David Croft’s career in video: from Dad’s Army to Oh, Doctor Beeching!