Dad’s Army is back – but not as we knew it
It was on 31st July 1968, in the days of black and white television, that the BBC aired the first episode of the TV comedy ‘Dad’s Army’ about the Home Guard during the Second World War, entitled ‘The Man and the Hour’. It was set in the then ‘present day’ of 1968, in which Mainwaring is seen addressing his old platoon as part a talk he gives on the contemporary ‘I’m Backing Britain’ campaign –
Coming as it did only just over a decade after sweet rationing ended and with wartime still in most people’s memories, the series became a firm favourite with the British public and has remained so ever since. It is repeated somewhere in the world even now, and has been a radio show, a stage show and at least one film. After two monochrome TV series, the later 1969 Series 3 was at last in colour, as were the rest of the eighty episodes – plus four Christmas specials. It was written to great effect by Jimmy Perry and David Croft and ended its original transmission run in 1977. The cast were: Arthur Lowe as Captain Mainwaring, John Le Mesurier as Sergeant Wilson, Clive Dunn as Lance-Corporal Jones, John Laurie as Private Frazer, James Beck as Private Walker, Arnold Ridley as Private Godfrey, Ian Lavender as Private Pike, Janet Davies as Mrs Pike, Bill Pertwee as Hodges the ARP Warden, Frank Williams as the Vicar and Edward Sinclair as the Verger.
News is out that this firmly established favourite TV show is to be given a second life in a movie that has been designed perhaps in order to revitalise the career of Catherine Zeta Jones. She will play a glamorous – of course – journalist who visits the fictitious Walmington-on-Sea to write about the local Home Guard’s exploits when reports suggest that MI5 has picked up a radio signal sent from the town to Berlin … is there a German Spy about? Reports show that Toby Jones has been cast as Captain Mainwaring with Bill Nighy as his right-hand man, and the eternally suave, Sgt. Wilson. Gawky Blake Harrison, from ‘The Inbetweeners’, will play Private Pike and Daniel Mays is to be the sleazy spiv Private Walker while Godfrey will be played by Michael Gambon. Bill Paterson will be Private Frazer with his catch phrase ‘we’re doomed! We’re doomed!’ while playing the elderly Private Jones will allow Tom Courtenay to scream ‘Don’t panic! Don’t panic!’ and ‘They don’t like it up ’em’.
Director Oliver Parker, of spy-spoof sequel Johnny English Reborn and the 2007 St Trinian’s remake fame, has also added Alison Steadman, Sarah Lancashire and Mark Gatiss to the cast, in as-yet undisclosed roles. The film’s script is by Hamish McColl, who wrote Johnny English Reborn and Mr Bean’s Holiday. Creator Perry is on board as a producer, but he recently told the BBC that he was letting the new creative team “get on with it”.
Will it catch on with fans from the past with today’s new-style movie watchers? Only time will tell.