Obituary: Clive Dunn
Obituary by Jack Foley
CLIVE Dunn, best known for his role as Lance Corporal ‘Jonesy’ Jones in classic comedy Dad’s Army, has died at the age of 92.
The actor and comedian passed away in Portugal on Tuesday (November 6, 2012) from complications following an operation.
In Dad’s Army, Dunn became famous for his catchphrases including “Don’t panic, don’t panic” and “They don’t like it up ‘em”.
But beyond that show, he also found fame as a recording star in 1971 when his record, Grandad, reached number one.
Born in London in January 1920, Dunn almost inevitably followed his family’s path into the arts. His grandfather, father and mother all trod the boards. And he studied at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts before making his first forays into acting in the 1930s, appearing alongside Will Hay in Boys Will Be Boys as an extra in 1935 and Good Morning Boys in 1937.
But his acting career was put on hold during the Second World War, during which he spent four years as a German prisoner.
He later described his role in Dad’s Army as revenge on his captors.
After demobilisation, Dunn returned to performing and took jobs singing, dancing and making people laugh.
His part in Bootsie and Snudge made him well known to TV audiences and paved the way for some of his biggest successes on the small screen.
After becoming a regular on Michael Bentine’s It’s A Square World, Dunn found Dad’s Army, which was also broadcast on radio and turned into a full-length film and a stage production with music.
The popular show followed the often hilarious exploits of a Home Guard platoon formed to protect the seaside village of Walmington-on-Sea from possible German attack during World War II.
Dunn also found success in My Old Man, in which he played a pensioner uprooted from his home and moved to a council estate, and in the children’s TV series Grandad (from 1979 to 1984), in which he played an elderly school caretaker.
But his talents lay beyond comedy, too, and in 1978 he made his opera debut in an English National Opera production of Die Fledermaus, before going on to appear in the West End in An Italian Straw Hat.
His last screen credit came playing the Shakespearean clown Verges in a 1984 TV version of Much Ado About Nothing.
Outside of acting, Dunn was also a talented artist and several portraits of his fellow actors appeared in his best-selling autobiography, Permission to Speak. He was able to pursue that hobby extensively throughout the last three decades after moving to Portugal to enjoy his retirement.
Dunn, who was awarded an OBE in 1975, is survived by his wife, Priscilla Morgan, and their two daughters, Jessica and Polly.
Tributes have poured in since news of his death was announced. His agent, Peter Charlesworth, said he would be “sorely missed” and that his death was “a real loss to the acting profession”.
And Frank Williams, who played the Vicar on Dad’s Army, said he was always “great fun” to be around, adding: “He was a wonderful person to work with – great sense of humour, always fun, a great joy really.”
Broadcaster Stephen Fry also paid tribute, saying he was “saddened to hear of the death of Clive Dunn, the immortal Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army“.
And Tony Pritchard, of the Dad’s Army Appreciation Society, said Dunn had attended various conventions organised with the society and was “immensely popular” with its members.
He told BBC Radio Gloucestershire: “I met him many times over the years. He was just a nice chap. He always had a joke to tell and was full of humour.”
And Ian Lavender, who played Private Pike on Dad’s Army, told The Guardian: “Out of all of us he had the most time for the fans. Everyone at one time or another would be tempted to duck into a doorway or bury their head in a paper but not Clive, he always made time for fans.”