Comedy writer David Croft dies aged 89
David Croft famous for sitcoms such as Dad’s Army, Are You Being Served? and Hi-De-Hi! has died.
David Croft with writing partner Jimmy Perry
Croft was born into a theatrical family, the son of stage actress Annie Croft and Reginald Sharland, a successful radio actor in Hollywood.
Born on September 7th 1922 he, and his brother Peter, would both step themselves into the world of show business. Aged seven he appeared in a cinema commercial however he wouldn’t follow in his fathers footsteps as a successful actor, in his late teens his dabbling with film came to an end in the movie Goodbye, Mr. Chips. His role as Perkins proving to be the end of that attempted career.
David spent time with the Army, joining up in 1942 he spent two and a half years in England and North Africa he was then commissioned and served in India and Singapore where he rose to the rank of Major. As soon as he was de-mobbed in 1947 he returned to the world of performance.
Pantomime and theatre producer Freddie Carpenter hired David to write scripts for productions such as Aladdin, Cinderella and Babes in the Wood. Later he joined forces with Cyril Ornadel, a highly respected composer and musical director; together they devised musical scores and lyrics for the BBC. These songs were performed on live variety programmes by the corporation. David estimated that they wrote up to three hundred songs for BBC Variety with Croft writing the lyrics and Ornadel composing the tune. There would also be many other successful theatre collaborations for the pair.
Through this association another venture took off. The pair worked on a series of Beatrix Potter tales recorded for radio and the HMV Junior Record Club, again Croft used his writing skill on the lyrics with Ornadel adding the music. The cast on these records included actors as diverse as Cicely Courtnedge and Vivien Leigh.
In 1955 David Croft joined the ITV Network first working for London’s Associated Rediffusion as the Head of Light Entertainment’s script department. In 1958 he moved to Newcastle to join the soon-to-launch Tyne Tees Television as a writer and producer. At TTTV he would get his first taste of ‘sitcom’.
Under New Management was set in a pub called The Three Pilchards and starred Mollie Sugden as the landlady. Mollie and David of course would have bigger success later. Others to appear in the now entirely wiped series included Arthur English, Hugh Lloyd and Jack Douglas.
In the early 60s David returned to London television, this time with the BBC where he worked as a producer and director on many hit shows including comedy sketches in The Benny Hill Show as well as sitcoms such as Steptoe and Son and Up Pompeii. While working on Beggar my Neighbour he first met Jimmy Perry. This partnership turned out to be one of British television’s most successful writing duos. Together they wrote Dad’s Army, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Hi-De-Hi and You Rang, M’Lord? and Dad’s Army’s theatre show spin-off.
The success continued with another writing partner, Jeremy Lloyd, and together they came up with shows such as Are You Being Served? ‘Allo ‘Allo, Grace and Favour, Come Back Mrs Noah and, Oh Happy Band.
Another popular, yet short-lived, sitcom was to be David’s final television series. Oh Doctor Beeching ran for two series. Co-written by Richard Spendlove, when the series ended Croft retired from the BBC.
Two years ago David assisted ATV Today with a feature on his hit BBC sitcoms. He was an absolute pleasure providing information and images – and in an age where people are all about making money and selfish thoughts, especially in the media world, it was refreshing to find David wanted to help with it just because he could and wanted to see our feature a success. A comedy writing legend certainly.
- David has also produced and directed television in Australia for the Seven Network and in America for CBS and Paramount.
- In 1956 Croft wrote the lyrics to musical Star Maker. It proved to be an enormous success.
- David hired Mike Neville to play a policeman in Under New Management, Mike went on to become one of the BBC’s best loved regional presenters hosting Look North for over 30 years. He also would go onto national fame hosting news show Nationwide and entertainment series Come Dancing.
- In 1978 he was awarded the O.B.E. for services to television, and in 1982 the Desmond Davies award for his outstanding contribution to the industry.
- David’s brother Peter Croft was one of the many long-term directors on ATV soap opera Crossroads.