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Jimmy Edwards
Born James Keith O'Neill
March 23, 1920(1920-03-23)
Barnes, London
Died July 7, 1988 (aged 68)
London
Occupation Comedy actor
Years active 1946 - 1988
Spouse(s) Valerie Seymour (1958–1969)

Jimmy Edwards DFC (23 March 1920 – 7 July 1988) was an English comedic script writer and comedy actor on both radio and television, best known as Pa Glum in Take It From Here and as the headmaster 'Professor' James Edwards in Whack-O!.

Edwards was born James Keith O'Neill in Barnes, London, the son of a professor of mathematics. He was educated at St Paul's Cathedral School, at King's College School in Wimbledon, London, and later at St John's College, Cambridge.

He served in the Royal Air Force during World War II, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross. His Dakota was shot down at Arnhem in 1944, resulting in his sustaining facial injuries requiring plastic surgery — he disguised the traces with the huge handlebar moustache that later became his trademark. He was a member of the Guinea Pig Club.

Contents

Career

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Radio and television

Edwards was a feature of London theatre in the immediate post-war years, debuting at London's Windmill Theatre in 1946 and on BBC radio the same year. He later did a season with Tony Hancock, having previously performed in the Cambridge Footlights review. He gained wider exposure as a radio performer in Take It From Here, co-starring Dick Bentley, which first paired his writer Frank Muir with Bentley's personal script writer Denis Norden. Also on radio he appeared in My Wildest Dream.

Graduating to television, he appeared in Whack-O, also written by Muir and Norden, and the radio panel game Does the Team Think? a series which Edwards also created. In 1959 a film version of Whack-O called 'Bottoms Up!' was made, written by Muir and Norden. On TV he also appeared in Six Faces of Jim, in guest slots in Make Room for Daddy and Sykes, in Bold As Brass, I Object, John Jorrocks Esq, The Auction Game, Joker's Wild, Sir Yellow, Doctor in the House, Charley's Aunt and Oh! Sir James! (which he also wrote).

Edwards also starred in The Fossett Saga in 1969 as James Fossett, an ambitious writer of Victorian 'Penny Dreadfuls', with Sam Kydd playing Herbert Quince, his unpaid manservant, and June Whitfield playing music hall singer Millie Goswick. This was shown on Fridays at 8:30 pm on LWT. (David Freeman was the creator.)

Stage and film

In December 1958, Jimmy Edwards played the King in the magnificent production of Rogers and Hammerstein's Ciderella at the London Coliseum with Kenneth Williams, Tommy Steele, Yana and Betty Marsden. In April 1966, Edwards performed at the last night of the Melbourne Tivoli theatre. His final words closed a long tradition of Australian music hall. "I don't relish the distinction of being the man who closed the Tiv. Music hall's dead in Britain. Now this one's dead, there's nowhere to go. I'll either become a character comedian or a pauper."[1]

Edwards frequently worked with fellow comedian Eric Sykes, acting in the short films written by Sykes, The Plank (1967) which also starred Tommy Cooper, alongside Arthur Lowe and Ronnie Barker in the remake of the The Plank during 1979 and in Rhubarb (1969), which again featured Sykes. The films were unusual in that although they were not silent films, there was no dialogue other than various grunts and sound effects.

Edwards and Sykes also toured UK theatres with their theatrical farce Big Bad Mouse which, while keeping more or less to a script, gave them rein to ad lib, involve the audience, and generally break the 'fourth wall'. Sykes was replaced by Roy Castle in later runs of the show both in its three year residency at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London's West End and also extensive tours of the Middle East and Australia. Edwards also starred in the stage revival of Maid of the Mountains.

Private life

Jimmy Edwards published his autobiography, Six of the Best, in 1984, as a follow-up to Take it From Me. Among his interests were brass bands and he was himself an accomplished player of both the tuba and euphonium. Edwards was a keen member of the Handlebar Club, in which all the members had such moustaches.

Edwards was a lifelong Conservative and in the 1964 general election stood as a candidate in Paddington North, without success. He was a devotee of fox hunting at Rottingdean, near Brighton. He also served as Rector of Aberdeen University for three years during the 1950s, a university that has a history of appointing celebrities and actors as their honorary rector.

A Brighton & Hove bus is named after him. He had been married to his wife Valerie Seymour for eleven years. During the 1970s, however, he was publicly outed by others as a lifelong homosexual, much to his annoyance. After the ending of his marriage, there were press reports of his engagement to Joan Savage, a singer and comedienne, but these came to nothing and were suspected to be a publicity stunt by both of them.[2] His home was in Fletching, East Sussex and he died in London in 1988 at the age of 68 from pneumonia.

Selected filmography

Notes

  1. ^ Van Straten, F. (2003) Tivoli p.233. Lothian Books, Melbourne, Australia. ISBN 07344 0553 7
  2. ^ Edwards's outing

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Baron Tweedsmuir
Rector of the University of Aberdeen
1951–1954
Succeeded by
Rhoderick McGrigor

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