David Croft

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Interview Date(s): 
18 Jul 2003
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David Croft Side 1

Camera  0:03  

Yeah, carry on. When we've done a few questions. I'll just do a check replay check .

Darrol Blake  0:09  

Oh, yes, please. Good idea. Okay, Yeah. You are rolling? Yeah. Okay. The copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU History Project. The name of the interviewee is David Croft, and the interviewer Darroll Blake, and the date is July the 18th 2003. Okay, I quite agree.  Thank you. And what we need to do is for you to say your name and where you were born and when? Okay. Okay, we off ? Okay, do tell me.

David Croft  0:44  

My name is David Croft. I was born in 1922 in Poole, Dorset, where my family,  It's known as Sandbanks as well, my family had a bungalow there because they were doing rather well by that time. They were both in the theatre. So that's how I happen.

Darrol Blake  1:06  

And what is your what are your first memories, say of theatrical business?

David Croft  1:12  

I think my first memory of this theatrical business is that my Mum and my Dad were in a show called... start again.

Darrol Blake  1:24  

Okay. We set up the... , set up the ... mother and father. Can you remember what the name of the show is? 

David Croft  1:33  

I will do.

Darrol Blake  1:35  

We won't roll until you have remembered. Yeah. Yeah.

David Croft  1:44  

 It was called "Recet ( ?)" to begin with. It was called something else after that. It was called "My Son John " At the Shaftsbury.

Darrol Blake  1:52  

That's right.  Okay. And what are your first memories of the theatrical business?

David Croft  1:59  

My first memory is with my Mum and Dad where in a show called "My Son John". That was at the Shaftsbury theatre. And I used to go and have a box actually and see it just occasionally. And one day  the box was full. I'm usually at the Matinee. So I was put on the side of the stage. And I wandered onto the stage and took part in one of the songs and I think the first thing the audience saw was my foot sort of coming out a kick from the from the side of the stage. And I gradually wandered further onwards, huge laugh, actually huge laugh. And because it was in an inappropriate moment in the show, and I think I was hooked on the show business from then on, because I heard laughter

Darrol Blake  2:54  

And what age were you when your toe first appeared on stage?

David Croft  2:57  

I think I was about four. Yes, four. Yeah.

Darrol Blake  3:02  

And your parents then suggested you go on the stage.

David Croft  3:05  

I was never sort of encouraged to go on the stage. Nobody in their right minds will encourage anybody to go on the stage, you know, but they never were particularly against this. It didn't arise, I think until I was about 10 or 11 or 12. By which time I had, I did a silent movie, actually. My moment was doing  one advertising movie about making bread. And they found it "This Is Your life", amazingly. And I'm there as a kid. I remember it was silent of course, and therefore the director was shouting at me through a megaphone particularly "don't look at the camera", which in that particular time was a major disadvantage. And know that was the beginning of it really, you know. Later of course, I did make a movie I was in "Goodbye, Mr. Chips". I have the distinction of being not in the beginning of my film career, in the middle of it, and also the end. I only made one movie, but it was a notable one. And I got a lot of days out of it. I had tiny vision. I was the Butcher Boy. But I only had a few lines but seems to strung out a lot. Largely because Sam Ward who was director was managing about 27 takes on every setup and so it took a long time. Freddie Young was, the great Freddie Young was one of his early movies. And he took a long time too.

Darrol Blake  4:37  

What do you remember Denham in those days?

David Croft  4:39  

It was a vast complex there. Women had very good dressing rooms and all that sort of thing. And you know, I used to take a train to it and I wonder if the station is still there? I presume it is. But it was a very efficient organisation. Very good. It was MGM. Victor  Saville was the Producer and I got a number of days dubbing as well, because apart from being a butcher boy, I also had  a public school accent. So I think they were more difficult to find. And so I played a lot of public school boys in the montages and things you know.

Darrol Blake  5:15  

Do you want to say anything about your education ?

David Croft  5:18  

Yes, I went to school in Swanage called Erskine Court. And that's where I think the seeds were further sown of wanting to be in show business because I did a lot of things with Gilbert and Sullivan and that sort of thing. And then I went to Rugby. I left Rugby actually, before I took any qualifications at all, I didn't even get O levels. So it wasn't they were they were called school surplus ( ?). But the money ran out. And so I got prematurely left school 15 and a half, and faced great big wide world. Willingly actually, because I was fed up with schoolwork, I didn't like that very much. Although it was very good school and very benevolent actually. I had very good times as a school boy. But the sooner I could get into show business, the sooner I liked it you know.

David Croft  5:52  

And what happened at that point? Were there family strings to pull or or did you?

David Croft  6:14  

I think the usual thing was that you know family try to pull strings, but I didn't want any help, actually. And so they can open the door for you, but they can't help push you through it really, really. Show business is really tough in that sort of way. If you haven't got the ability, you don't get on frankly. It also, I think it's pretty encouraging that as long as you can keep your marbles, you can be a star at eighty, you know.

Darrol Blake  6:43  

We've now got up to the beginning of the war, shall we say? Or was there anything any shows that you did before the war or any sort of milestones that you need to record before the war started,

David Croft  6:53  

I began to be here a little bit in, in radio, I got a job with a lovely musical called" Charing Cross Road". And was in the papers as the BBC's youngest juveniles that about 16 and a half. And that was really exciting because it was in the St. George's Hall. There weredays that when I wasn't sure what I ought to wear as whether I should put on a dinner jacket  for the broadcast. So I rang the producer up and said, Do I need to dinner jacket ? Oh No just a suit would be quite alright. And in point of fact, the announcer wore a dinner jacket that it was live, of course, it wasn't recorded.

Darrol Blake  6:56  

And then the war started in '39, obviously, and how did that encroach or impinge on your life?

Darrol Blake  7:45  

I had just when the war started, and just after that, I went on to the mom and I got a very good..., I did an audition in the Hippodrome Theatre for a New Musical called "Let's Face It". I got the part. And 10 whole pounds a week, actually. So I was terribly excited about this. And the thought I was, I was made, you know, in point of fact, the bombing started and they closed the theatres. And so that didn't happen. But I have... one of the interesting things I did manage is I did do a radio show up in Bangor, because the BBC evacuated the writing team department of Bangor, north Wales. And so I was able to do that show up there with the entire organisation was up there to sue the orchestra, the writers everything. And that was very exciting. And for Ronnie Wallman that show for the run for Roy Plumley. So that was just a matter of weeks before I joined the army, I joined the world artillery. And that was caused a severe interruption to anyone's career.

Darrol Blake  8:00  

Yes, but just before that started, you, it sounds as though you were in a nice little University of comedy writing or licenced statement writing and producing or were you in any way part of that creation? Or were you just employed as a performer?

David Croft  9:10  

No, I have no, no thought of being a writer then. And so I was merely hired because I couldn't think of it and as a performer. And that was my ambition when it was to be in musicals particularly and be a light comedian. That persisted I think until I went to the first night of Oklahoma in Glory Lane. And so Howard Key leaped over the fence and saying, "Oh, what a beautiful morning Oh, what a beautiful day". and that was a case of Oh, What a finish to my career but I wasn't that sort of a person. I was five foot eight, and really English, and a new world had started in the musical theatre really. 

Darrol Blake  9:53  

But what about the bit in between day to day the the war?  What was Happening?

David Croft  9:53  

Well, I was I went to North Africa in the ranks, and I got Rheumatic Fever there. So they tracked me back again. And I thought it was I thought it was coming out actually. So I went to see my agent and got all steamed up to go back because the young men were not available. So I thought, this is a great opportunity. But that didn't happen. I went to a medical board. And I showed my fingers to the presiding officer and said, you know, my, my knuckles are ready, rather large and he produced two Horn al Ganson(?) says, we're at the data you guys had to travel. I mean, I'm alright you see. So I was A1. So then I decided that I would finally try for a commission, which I did. And I went to India and north... to Malaysia. 

Darrol Blake  9:58  

What regiment?

David Croft  10:06  

 I was at the Essex regiment, although I'm qualified, I was commissioned to the Dorsets. But then I came back to the walls, I finished up a major actually, which is quite a good military career. And they wanted me to stay in but I still couldn't get out fast enough because showbiz was again beckoning. From there, I went into musicals and to rep and that sort of thing. And I was pursuing the actor's career really. I went to Wolverhampton and Hereford and I had about four years of struggling as an actor

Darrol Blake  11:34  

In musicals and in comedy?

David Croft  11:36  

And musicals and comedy and rep. You know, which is a great training really, because I think you learn the fear is it word apart from anything else, and you learn how to go in and out of doorways and things like that. I remember one one saying to one of my actors who didn't, you know, didn't you do doors at RADA because they were rattling at the set, you know, trying to get in and get out

Darrol Blake  11:59  

Do you remember any other any high spots in that in that four years that you would like to remember or be recorded?

David Croft  12:05  

Well, I think, mostly low spot really that I felt, I was getting about 15 quid a week. So I was I was surviving. All right. And that was quite a lot of money in those days. 

Darrol Blake  12:15  

I was meaning particularly productions or people or writers or, you know,

David Croft  12:19  

I was, I was in a couple of musicals in one that aborted actually, it was through a show called "Belinda Fair", written by Eric Mass, which I was I was very much homing in on the production side, really, I will there was an actor and an understudy, and that sort of thing. It was... I was very interested in the production side and director called Charles Gilder I sort of held his hand as it were, and to these notes, and followed him around and didn't leave his side at all. And that began to intrigue a lot of really, and later one.. we did a musical and we call a bit of New York and also wanting to wild violence. And if there was a pause in the action, as it were, scene pause or anything like that and they , were in trouble, I will quickly write a scene and, and get myself into it, you know. And so that's how the writing sort of began to develop. Yeah.

Darrol Blake  13:22  

Had your parents been in management or production at all? Or were they always did they have their own company, for instance?

David Croft  13:28  

My Mother was in management actually. She got got to show on into the Lamb Rows it was then called "Tulip Time". And she also did a production of "Chocolate Soldier" and went round the provinces with it. So she was very much in management, which was a unique thing for a woman in those days was and still is no woman  in management. 

David Croft  13:33  

I Remember, Gladys Cooper was for a time but I mean

David Croft  13:55  

I didn't know that. 

Darrol Blake  13:56  

Yes, yeah. But that's rarity as you say.

David Croft  13:59  

Yeah. She was supposed to star in the "Let's Face It", actually, funnily enough.

Darrol Blake  14:05  

So we've got to the end of four years in musicals and rats, and you're beginning to want to produce or direct and write and whatever, happened next?

Darrol Blake  14:13  

Well, I'm when I was in one of the musicals I met my my first partner, Cyril Ornade and when we started writing songs, and in those days, television used a lot of original material in the musical shows, in a Saturday show, for instance, it was boat race day or if somebody was coming over as a star. They'd have a special Shana written for them. And we wrote most of those special Shana you know, a scene of musical numbers. Yes.

Darrol Blake  14:13  

Can you say Cyril's name again?

David Croft  14:45  

Cyril Ornade. Yeah. He was a great partner and we read an awful lot of stuff together. And then we began to get into the BBC that way because Sir Michael Mills of was was one of the ones who commissioned our staff. And then we wrote for the Palladium pantomimes and Robert Nesbitt, who was also another great producer, great operator, and he knew how everything worked. He could get the scenery arm. He knew how the drummer's should do the pratfalls and everything like that he was a marvellous producer. So things sort of developed in that sort of way.

Darrol Blake  15:25  

So was there any more significant life for you and Cyril in the theatre before you moved into the BBC? Or can we move now into the BBC story?

David Croft  15:38  

We did. We wrote a musical with great difficulty. It took me about four years to get it financed. And I finally produced it as well directed it called Ann Veronica. It  was an HG Wells novel. And I did with and wrote a book with Frank Wells. And it flopped, unfortunately. But it was a great experience because to get a show cast and to find the money for it, from various people who's not there's not easy never was cost about 75,000 quid in the end,  

Darrol Blake  16:16  

That was in the late 60 wasn't it, it was some way into your BBC then. 

David Croft  16:19  

Yeah. Yes, it was, yes, I just started Dad's Army then. But that side of the writing went on, writing songs for a long, long time.

Darrol Blake  16:32  

You say flop, but I mean, you'd have like six or nine months round in the West End.

David Croft  16:35  

No it had a five week run actually, because when you sign the contract, you Lisslow in citizen for the Cambridge theatre that you had five weeks, and you couldn't take it off, because you then incur fines for the bars and things like that, which can be very expensive. So it was it was cheaper to keep the thing running, although nobody came. And even the nurses didn't come in, and you know, for nothing. And when the curtain went out, there was a very strong smell of disinfectant. But it was a great experience. It started with Johnathan?. Yeah, you know, it was it was very promising in the first place. And we thought we got another "My Fair Lady", "My Fair Lady" hadn't happened then. But it was very promising indeed. But it's only sadder really than the end of a musical because there's no salvage as it were you the century finishes up on the flaps in somewhere in the Thames, and then it gets burnt. And I think there was still a few long cloths and things outside of the Cambridge Theatre stage door a couple of months later, you know, they haven't actually taken them away. It's a terrible debris is left apart from the fact that every time the backers see, they say, "everytime I see you I get a pain in my wallet".

Darrol Blake  18:00  

Okay, let's backtrack a bit then to the beginning of the 60s, when you were offered a staff job or were you a short contract?

David Croft  18:08  

Yeah, I was going to the BBC in the day, Ronnie Wallman time, because when one is writing all these songs, the production is set off from so very chaotic that you know, loses the audience to get the full benefit of once you're done with it. And so I finally on top of the bus with my wife, we decided that what I would have to do was to be a director as well as a writer so that I could make sure that so some of the terrible things have happened didn't happen. I think ultimately, it was the one that did it was I was doing a Pat Kirkwood show on a Saturday and I think she had sung the song with a piano accompaniment, but they considered the orchestra up in Blackpool was not good enough to play the orchestrations and so the orchestra was done in London. They were listening through earphones to Pat Kirkwood on the tape, she was miming to the tape, I mean, it was unspeakable mess. And so we decided that I should probably do that.

Darrol Blake  19:23  

Now, you mentioned briefly your wife, if we can backtrack a bit yeah. I knew of her agent and calendar. 

David Croft  19:32  

Yes, indeed. Yes. Yeah. 

Darrol Blake  19:33  

So perhaps briefly, you could mention how you met and married

David Croft  19:38  

Yes we met in the middle of New York actually. And while I was playing the millionaire son of Ikibard Bronson, terrible production too, was rather ashamed when it came into these touring theatres and the canvas wasn't very well adhering to the flats and the terrible smell of size because he used two sizes from proof reading to make it unstretch. Anyway we met and we married a year later. And we now have seven children and I'm going to press I think 12 grandchildren. We won't be 11 at this minute will be 12 in Martin couple last time.

David Croft  20:16  

And she encouraged you to join the BBC

David Croft  20:32  

Oh yes, yes. She was very much. 

Darrol Blake  20:34  

Perhaps with seven children. Or five children or however many it was 

David Croft  20:38  

Well she was very much the architect of my career really, and so you know enormous credit to her is due I'm afraid. And we're still together after 50 years, which is pretty remarkable. So she's a very tolerant lady.

Darrol Blake  20:53  

How did it come about that you actually joined the staff at the BBC?

David Croft  20:59  

Well, having had this meeting with Ronnie Wallman, and kind of got the job as it were, I then was was given a contract for I think it was about 1200 a year, but that was for six months at half salary. So that works out about 300 quid for six months and even in those days, it wasn't very much. And I went see my agent and he said oh it's ridiculous. So commercial television was just starting, so he ran up a friend in Rediffusion and he said, oh he's just sort of person you, you ought to have as script editor light entertainment, because he's done a lot of comedy and a lot of pantomimes and that sort of thing. And they bought it. So I was there, the very inception of commercial television at 1500 pounds a year, which is, again was very good money that I could buy a car and live you know. And it was much later that I went to the BBC actually why first of all I went to Tyne Tees television where a lot of the BBC producers had gone,  Bill Lyon-Shaw, in particular who I'm written for a great deal. And I spent a year and a half up there 

Darrol Blake  22:06  

Doing what sort of shows?

David Croft  22:08  

Doing five shows a week, actually, there was only just three one o'clock shows which was the 45 minute show with music and dances and interviews and sketches and doing everything really, and a couple of ad mags. So that was a strange entertainment you don't see it anymore now, but it was, they had they grouped advertising in a show where I do two shows really one was called "Ned's Shed". And "Ned's Shed" was supposed to take all the do-it-yourself stuff and the glues and the all those. We found it a bit limiting so some genius said we should put a gas ring in the shed. So we could put a pan on and do things like marmalade used to buy, you could buy a sort of tin full of pulp you know and then make it into marmalade. So we sort of exploited those sort of things as well and shoe whiteners and horrible things like that

Darrol Blake  23:09  

which must have beeen a quite a challenge for a script writer to include in these admags

David Croft  23:14  

Again, they were they were live, live television in those days. That was lot of experience. So then I got I came down and again went to the BBC, Eric Maschwitz  funnily enough was head of light entertainment then and he was, although I had rewritten the comedy, it was showed to the "Belinda Fair" that he wrote, he wrote and he kindly gave me half a percent of the gross which is very generous of him. So he knew me and he was happy to waft me into the BBC. And that was about 1961 or two I think. And I was there then on, I never went to anywhere else.

Darrol Blake  23:54  

Okay, just brief keep rolling. You will warn me when you're about to end the tape. 

Camera  24:02  

Twenty minutes left. 

Darrol Blake  24:05  

Okay, good. So tell us about your your first years then in light entertainment. I presume that you were hanging out that you didn't originate them. 

David Croft  24:15  

Well yes. The first show I ever did there was called "The Eggheads". Which, Anne Cunningham, no she wasn't in it, so forget. The first show I did there was called "The Eggheads", which was about a university students. I did point out to Vera Norton, who were then comedy advisors that I had never been to university, I knew nothing about university and I was the last person in the world to do that sort of show with you. He said "Oh don't worry about that. You're a writer's producer, and it's writers comedy". So we did it. I think I started it about four weeks after I joined the BBC and it was a series of thirteen and it had no scripts, I didn't realise that it wasn't the way to carry on actually. But I think me and Norman(?) were very happy to unloaded that particular proposition on. Anyway, it ran, I think for 11 programmes and we, I wrote the script. So it was around about that time, I think that Tom Sloan, who was also the sort of manager of the light entertainment department, he wasn't the one actually says the head he rung up my agency and said "David Croft makes up his mind, either is he a writer or he is a director he can't be both". He denied that he said it but he jolly well did, you don't forget things like that.

David Croft  24:15  

After "The Eggheads",

David Croft  24:57  

After "The Eggheads", I went and did the Benny Hill show, Poor Benny was at the bottom of his career, as far as the BBC concerned and we didn't get on actually, he played me out quite a lot. He was a strange, I knew quite well actually, that we used to go around together. But when it came to the studio, he was not easy. And so I did about six shows with him, I think, big musicals. So there were big, big shows. I spent most of the money on the set, actually. There wasn't much left. The other production who wrote

Darrol Blake  26:24  

Who wrote their shows? I mean, did Benny write them?

David Croft  26:27  

They were written by Dave Freeman actually. Dave Freeman was a marvellous character and wrote some terribly funny stuff and I think Benny was recycling long afterwards. Extraordinary thing, he was about six foot two and a big fellow, I suppose he was about 16 stone. When he joined the army, he was he was brought in as a bevin boy and was required to go down on mine. Anyway, I diverse, I digress. I didn't get on very well with Benny as a result of all that. And because of that, I was then punished by being sent to do "This Is Your Life". Which I really enjoyed actually with Eamonn Andrews, who was wonderful, wonderful ?, it was live except for the pickup. It was a live show and Benny 

Darrol Blake  27:13  

In the Shepherd's Bush Empire?

David Croft  27:13  

It was was in the Shepherd's Bush Empire indeed was and we had a one camera there was a OB camera. And you could there was a lever at the side of it. And you could go from an ordinary sort of fairly wide shot to enormous close up and you could do it in vision actually, it was a terrible, there was a bit of a clutter when he pushed the button. But I used this quite a bit actually.

Darrol Blake  27:23  

And after that, at what point did you begin to originate shows? How did that start?

David Croft  27:45  

It started because my wife and was an Asian, as you said, and one of the clients was was so Jimmy Perry. Jimmy came into a show that I was producing as an actor, you know, and I went went down to see him in Watford and thought he was you know, quite right for the part. And when he got his first day he got there, he said I'm thinking about a comedy. Archer because I've written a very good part for myself. Do you think I dare give it to David to him to read? And so Ann said? Yes, you dare well give it to him? And I'll make sure he reads it and read it I did. And that was the beginning of Dad's Army. And I took it to Vera? to Michael Mills, who was the head of light entertainmenrt at that time and a very, very good venturous sort of, though nothing was impossible for him. He would... he would do... when you needed to go to France that was all right. You know, Somebody else would worry about budget somewhere along the line, you know, and he'd he get things done. And he liked the idea. And so he said it's obvious that Jimmy is not a television writer. He hasn't done the television. Why did you collaborate on it? Which we did. And so we devised six programmes and we started off.

Darrol Blake  29:13  

Yeah, but that was in '68. I think.

David Croft  29:16  

It was sixty seven I think yeah, 

Darrol Blake  29:18  

but there's there are several years between Benny Hill and the first it's my fault. I asked you when you started to originate.  Yeah, but there's quite a few things in between aren't there like

Darrol Blake  29:30  

I suppose so. Yes. I did an awful lot of humanise about '80 or so. I did a devise a show called "Last Train to Serve" I think it was called with John Chapman. But I couldn't write it in that stage because no, it was rather forbidden to be a writer. And lots of routine shows, you know, all of which ran for six or 13 programmes you know,

Darrol Blake  29:59  

as they did in those days. BBC Two started. And you did a devise?

David Croft  30:10  

Yes, so, well, on the beginning of BBC Two, well I was suddenly I was a staff producer then. I devised a show called "Impromptu", whic Anne Cunningham was in. And Bill Cotton actually warned me and said "Unless look you cheat a bit and say your wife devise this, you're not gonna get paid for it". And I was very honest and said "Oh, I couldn't do a thing like that" and of course I didn't get paid for it. But I've had my revenge since I've got paid very well since then. But it was the forerunner of "Who's Laughs is it Anyway" really, it was entirely clean show, it was genuine. They were impromptu and they just made it up as they went along. And we used to give them a situation and the first line and setting as it were, and then they bash away at it. I used to record about 45 minutes and edit it then down to 30. And it was fine. It's good fun, it look too perfect, really. You know,

Darrol Blake  31:13  

Who else was involved in that? Who were the improvisers?

David Croft  31:16  

There was Peter Reeves Yes, [Victor] Spinetti, he was very good of course, because the costume company violence is vital. Because Spinetti bailed outst raightaway. He's deserted the sinking ship, the ship didn't particularly sick. It went on for about 13 programmes actually.

Darrol Blake  31:40  

And then you launched a series with Roy Kinnear, which is how we met.

David Croft  31:45  

Indeed, that was the week that was become a very popular show. And therefore the various stars in that show, all got situation comedies. Roy had one, which was very unfunny, and I did that one as well. And they thought well, he's you know, he's a funny man. We'll have a second try there. So there was this marvellous show written by

Darrol Blake  32:11  

The same Dave Freeman

David Croft  32:15  

Dave Freeman, yes, very good indeed, called a "World of His Own". And very, he was very funny in it. It was very nice format. And so it was very successful, it went well.

Darrol Blake  32:31  

Okay. And I've got notes about something called "Beggar my Neighbour",

David Croft  32:37  

Yes, "Beggar my Neighbour" the one I think "Beggar my Neighbour", and that Jimmy Perry in. It was written by by Mike Sharland, my nephew.

David Croft  32:50  

So I was able to get him in, but I wasn't able to write myself at the time. And that was very good. With Peter, Peter Cook? No. Can't remember but Reg varney was in it anyway. And that was

Darrol Blake  33:09  

Not Peter Jones?

David Croft  33:11  

Yes, Peter Jones, Peter Jones was marvellous, unfortunately, he was not easy to work with because he was absolutely delightful but as soon as he started reading a script, he then went off into how he would have devised himself if he was writing it, and then the rest of the time to try to let it be a near his heart's desire. So, but it was a good show. Very good show.

Darrol Blake  33:34  

Is there any else you want to say about the shows before we actually started you know, writing and originating patch?

Darrol Blake  33:47  

I think the the casting of "Dad's Army" was always an interesting theme, because we will put it well as to who to who to put into it. And I think all of them will probably my third choices, in many, many instances. But one of the things that happened was that Michael Mills was said, "You must use John Le Mesurier, he suffers so well". And I couldn't, couldn't reconcile myself with the idea of making him the officer and in charge, I think would have been too chaotic. And by some obscure method, we came across the idea of making him the sergeant and Arthur Lowe the officer. And that were to dream but it was a secret of success of it really.

Darrol Blake  34:36  

You say that they weren't necessarily your first choices. Can you remember who might have been Captain Mainwaring?

Darrol Blake  34:44  

Yes, Captain Mainwaring. Well, I think the first choice when he was this posh officer was Pertwee, not Jo Pertwee, Michael Pertwee but, John Pertwee. I played him in a similar sort of part. Unfortunately, he was doing something in Los Angeles he got the contract for so I couldn't get him. And Jimmy was very keen to have  Arthur Lowe as the  Sergeant actually, because this show was written... because they've memoirs about how I'm gonna sergeant, and that was on the front of the script. So for a long time, he was visualising him as a sergeant. 

Darrol Blake  35:29  

And that would have been conventional casting as if it were,

David Croft  35:32  

Yes, yes, it would. Yeah. Yeah.

Darrol Blake  35:34  

The other bit was the clever bit.

David Croft  35:35  

We switched it. Yes. Yeah. It was very lucky.

Darrol Blake  35:39  

What about the others? I mean, the 

Darrol Blake  35:41  

I think the next one after that was "Are You Being Served?", I think, was it? Yes. It was. Or was it "It Ain't Half Hot"?

Darrol Blake  35:53  

Yes, it would have been. Yes, I've got "Are You Being Served?" '73 - '83 

David Croft  35:58  

Yeah, that was the next one

David Croft  35:59  

That was very lucky, really, because I have to be hovering in the door of Bill Cotton's office. And I think Johnny space will fail to deliver something. The next series of "Till  Death do us Part". And I done a pilot of "Are You Being Served?" and I said, "Well, look, you know, no problem. I've got the actors or what the set, we'll still write the scripts. All we need is the dough". And so he said, "Well, yes, all right, you could do it but you can't have the poof", actually.  I said "First place he is not a poof, he is a mother's boy, he  hasn't made his mind up yet. And in the second place, we don't have him there's no comedy, but it absolutely is one of the principal foundations of comedy of the show. He said, "Well get on with it then. Get out of the office". So that was the way things were done in those days. If somebody was trusted to produce a show that they wanted to see. And on the whole, it worked very well. I think in this day and age with executives come into it, I think controllers now want to read scripts and I think there are seven stages, you have to go through approval before you can get a show on the air now. So it's all got very sticky and very earned. And they all they all add the three penneth? and the senior executives and it's difficult to ignore them, you know, you have to fight each each corner. So I think that's one of the reasons, I think the actors are all terribly good and the writers are quite all right except they're being required to write for a target audience, which we never did. You see, we just tried to, our target was laughs We tried to find a funny show. And that's enough problems anyway.

Darrol Blake  37:53  

Okay, can we relax

End of Side 1


 David Croft was born on 7th September 1922 as David John Sharland, son to the infamous stage actress Annie Croft and Reginald Sharland, a successful radio actor in Hollywood. Born into the world of show business it was inevitable that David would become intertwined in the theatrical scene, even as early as 7 years old, when he appeared in a cinema commercial. Later down the line at the young age of 17, David landed his first role as Perkins in Goodbye, Mr. Chips. This was regarded as the beginning, middle and end of his film career.

Soon to follow was David’s enrolment into the army in 1942. After graduating from Sandhurst as an Officer; David served in the Royal Artillery for 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 followed in his parents' footsteps. It was those years that later gave David the material for classic comedies such as Dad’s Army, Ain’t Half Hot Mum and ‘Allo ‘Allo.



The next big turning point for David was meeting Freddie Carpenter who produced many pantomimes for Howard & Wyndham across the UK. This lead to David writing many scripts such as Aladdin, Goldilocks, The Three Bears, Cinderella, Humpty Dumpty and Babes in the Wood. Continuing to make a living through writing, through his lifelong friend, composer/conductor, Cyril Ornadel, David met Fiona Bentley. Fiona managed to obtain the licenses to adapt and musicalise a number of Beatrix Potter classics. Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggy Winkle, Jemima Puddle-Duck to name just a few. Cyril wrote the music and David wrote the scripts and lyrics. The cast on these records included actors as diverse as Cicely Courtnedge and Vivien Leigh!

With the arrival of independent television in 1955, David joined Associated Rediffusion as Head of the Light Entertainment Script Department. He then moved to Newcastle to work on the 1959 launch of Tyne Tees Television, where he remained for a short period as a producer, director and writer, before eventually joining the BBC. In his early days there, he produced and often directed an extraordinary array of successful comedies; The Benny Hill Show, Steptoe and Son, Hugh and I, Up Pompeii and Beggar My Neighbour, to name just a few. It was Beggar my Neighbour which caused him to cross paths with Jimmy Perry for the first time. In fact, it was Ann Callender, the theatrical agent, (who was also David’s wife!), who introduced them to one another.

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? Dad’s Army is still showing on television today, forty years after its original transmission! One of the strengths of this remarkable partnership was the autobiographical nature of their shows, which proved to be the foundation of the Croft/Perry success. David’s ‘hits’ continued when he joined forces with Jeremy Lloyd, producing and writing shows such as Are You Being Served? ‘Allo ‘Allo, Grace and Favour, Come Back Mrs Noah and, Oh Happy Band. David’s final television series before retiring from the BBC was Oh Doctor Beeching another nostalgia-based comedy, this time set in a 1960s rural railway station; David produced and co-wrote this series with Richard Spendlove, a hugely popular radio broadcaster.

David also produced and directed television in Australia for Channel 7 and in Los Angeles for CBS and Paramount. 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.

© Copyright David Croft.