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John Le Mesurier
Born 5 April 1912(1912-04-05)
Bedford, Bedfordshire, England
Died 15 November 1983 (aged 71)
Ramsgate, Kent, England
Occupation Comedy actor, film actor
Spouse(s) June Melville (1939–47)
Hattie Jacques (1949–65)
Joan Malin (1965–83)

John Le Mesurier (born John Charles Elton Le Mesurier De Somerys Halliley; 5 April 1912 – 15 November 1983) was a BAFTA Award-winning English actor. He is most famous for his role as Sergeant Arthur Wilson on the popular 1970s BBC comedy Dad's Army.

Contents

Career

Le Mesurier was born in Chaucer Road, Bedford, Bedfordshire, England in 1912.[1], the son of a solicitor, Charles Elton Halliley and Amy Michelle Le Mesurier, who was from an ancient family from Alderney in the Channel Islands. Le Mesurier was educated at Sherborne School, and began to study acting at the age of 20, using his mother's maiden name (common in the Channel Islands) Le Mesurier (pronounced 'Le Measurer') as his stage name.

Le Mesurier was at Drama School with Sir Alec Guinness, and later worked with him in a production of Hamlet, by Sir John Gielgud in which the young Le Mesurier understudied Anthony Quayle as Guildenstern. [2]

He was commissioned into the Royal Tank Regiment in 1941 and served in the UK and India during the Second World War, reaching the rank of captain.

Le Mesurier appeared in over 100 films, including Private's Progress (1956), Brothers in Law (1957), Carlton-Browne of the F.O. (1959), I'm All Right Jack (1959), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), Doctor in Love (1960), The Pure Hell of St Trinian's (1960), The Wrong Arm of the Law (1963), The Pink Panther (1963), Our Man in Marrakesh (1966), The Wrong Box (1966), The Italian Job (1969), and The Alf Garnett Saga (1972). In Ben-Hur (1959) he has an uncredited cameo role as a doctor. He also appeared in most of Tony Hancock's films and many episodes of his television series. His final film was with Peter Sellers in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu in 1980. In most of his performances, he presented an impression of good-natured vagueness, which acquaintances claim was close to his true personality.

Le Mesurier's most popular TV (and radio) role was as the upper-class Sergeant Arthur Wilson in Dad's Army from 1968 to 1977. He accepted that role after finding out Clive Dunn, with whom he had worked in the Players' Theatre, would be playing the part of Corporal Jones. Before that, he had starred in George and the Dragon, alongside Sid James and Peggy Mount and also in a one-off pilot show entitled "Marry The Girls". He gave a memorable performance in Dennis Potter's play Traitor (1971) which won him a Society of Film and Television Arts "Best Television Actor" award. Following the success of Dad's Army, Le Mesurier recorded several wartime songs as singles; A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square / Hometown (the latter with Arthur Lowe) on the Warner label in 1975 and There Ain't Much Change from a Pound These Days / After All These Years with Clive Dunn on KA Records in 1982.

For nearly 20 years until his death in 1983, he provided the original voice for the animated TV commercial character "Flour Grader Fred", a little man in a bowler hat who advertised Homepride Flour and related products. (The character continues, voiced by other actors.) In 1975, Le Mesurier narrated Bod, an animated children's programme from the BBC. In the series, a boy named Bod, his aunt Flo, and their friends have rather strange adventures (like falling into a manhole and finding a giant strawberry). In 1971 he appeared in Doctor at Large as the head of a health farm. He portrayed Jacob Marley in a BBC television adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which starred Sir Michael Hordern as Scrooge.

On radio, he reprised the role of Arthur Wilson in It Sticks Out Half a Mile, and played The Wise Old Bird in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1980) and Bilbo Baggins in the BBC's 1981 radio version of The Lord of the Rings.

Elsewhere, Le Mesurier played a short but key character role in Granada TV's adaptation of Brideshead Revisited in 1981 and guest starred in episodes of the British comedy television series The Goodies, Doctor in the House and an early episode of Hi De Hi.

Private life

Self-penned death notice in The Times.

Le Mesurier was married three times:-

  1. The actress June Melville (1939–1947)
  2. The comedienne Hattie Jacques (1949–1965); two sons Kim and Robin [3]
  3. The actress Joan Malin (1965–1983)

When his second wife, Hattie Jacques, left him for a younger man, Le Mesurier allowed the press to give him the blame for the break-up in order to save Jacques's public image. His close friendship with the comedian Tony Hancock was seriously tested early in his third marriage, when his wife Joan left him for Hancock, only to return a year later. Much of this was kept secret from the general public at the time.

In private life, the actor was a heavy drinker, often seen with a drink in his hand but never noticeably drunk. Hattie Jacques also claimed that his legendary calculated vagueness was the result of his "reliance on extra strong cigarettes".[4] Towards the end of Dad's Army, on medical advice he gave up alcohol but became seriously ill, and lost a great deal of weight. Friends relate that when he returned to drinking he had seven more years of life and regained his joie de vivre. He died at Ramsgate from a stomach haemorrhage, (which was brought on by cirrhosis) on 15 November 1983, aged 71.[5] He is buried in the churchyard of the Church of St. George the Martyr, Church Hill, Ramsgate. His self-penned death notice in The Times stated that he had "conked out" and that he "misses his family and friends".

His last words before slipping into a coma were reportedly, "It's all been rather lovely".

Filmography

References

  1. ^ GRO Register of Births: JUN 1912 3b 519 BEDFORD - Halliley, John E Le M, mmn = Le Mesurier
  2. ^ A Jobbing Actor by John le Mesurier, Sphere Books 1985, p24
  3. ^ GRO Register of Marriages: DEC 1949 5c 2328 KENSINGTON - John E. Le M. Halliley = Josephine E. Jacques
  4. ^ "Daily Telegraph - 18 October 2007". http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/non_fictionreviews/3668600/Carry-on-Hattie-Jacques.html/. 
  5. ^ GRO Register of Deaths: DEC 1983 16 1890 THANET - John Le Mesurier, DoB = 5 Apr 1912

Source

  • A Jobbing Actor, his autobiography (published posthumously in 1984)

External links








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