Tributing a Jewel Amongst Comedians…
Digging into Windsor Davies comic treasures and unearthing more hidden gems.
Windsor Davies, an actor known for many comic turns passed away recently. This was sad news, made all the sadder as another acting talent from much-loved comedies and those Carry On films had died just before the New Year, June Whitfield. As back in the day, I remember watching both these comic talents as a kid, primarily from these roles in my dad’s much-loved comedy films and TV.
Just as John Mahoney wasn’t American, Windsor Davies wasn’t actually a born and bred Welshman. This, not the only revelation I discovered about this Welsh accented actor, that I’d known for solely his comic, retro roles. This actor was born in London to Welsh parents and brought up in Wales from the age of eight or nine. Here I look back at just some of Davies comic roles, and more.
It Ain’t Half Hot Mum (1974-81)
It Aint Half Hot Mum – End Credits, DavidCroftcouk
This comedy’s ending credits were remembered primarily for Davies bellowing “Shut Up”. This series set at the end of World War II had Davies in a commanding role. This role as Battery Sergeant Major Williams – complete with an almost villainous moustache – in charge of a motley group of soldiers. The soldiers were members of the Royal Artillery concert party, based in India.
Williams a bigoted man who not happy with his post believing he should work with real soldiers. With for this role written for Leonard Rossiter, then rewritten Davies as a Welsh accented Sergeant Major. This comedy is very much in tune with the times it set in. This sergeant major – reportedly based on the men Davies met during his National Service – often thinking his men are carrying out duties that are no worthy for a man to do and believing in the then British Empire. This character also famous for catchphrases, “Oh dear, how sad, never mind!” and “lovely boys”.
Never the Twain (1981-91)
‘Never The Twain’ Opening Titles 1983, David Hayden
This was another British TV comedy, this time from the eighties and made for ITV. It had Davies and Donald Sinden playing feuding Antique Dealers Oliver Smallbridge and Simon Peel. The pair were not only feuding next-door neighbours but also one-time business partners.
In the first series, the men become in a quirk of fate, become fathers in law to their children’s spouses. In a further series, they are rivals in love to Honor Blackman’s widow. These actors both known for their distinctive voices had a wonderful on-screen comic rapport and relationship. And these characters from this 11 series sitcom is one for the impersonators… so watch this space for a tribute from The Trip‘s Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.
Carry on Behind (1975)
Carry On Behind – UK Trailer, Carryon Trailers
Carry On England (1976)
Carry On England – UK Trailer, CarryOn Trailers.
This the second and last role in a Carry On film for Davies has him in casting as Sergeant-Major ‘Tiger’ Bloomer. Set during World War II, at a mixed gender battery. Which needless to say leads to more romps of a sexual kind than of those of military action. With Davies playing the role he was destined for in the second of his Sergeant Major roles.
This Carry On film was the first one filmed after Carry on regular, Sid James passed away. However, it starred Joan Sims and Kenneth Connor. With Sims’ Jennifer Ffoukes-Sharpe’ character who has a bit of a thing for Bloomer. Davies starring here with his co-star of It Aint Half Hot Mum, Melvyn Hayes.
Whispering Grass, Kingoflimpets
After learning more about this comic actor I learnt like many other celebrities he added a one-hit wonder to his career. In 1975, Davies topped the chart for three weeks with his It Ain’t Half Hot Mum co-star Don Estelle hit Whispering Grass.
Davies also appeared in many Agatha Christie adaptations, Doctor Who and in adverts with products ranging from chocolate bars to department stores. And he even added his voice to a Paul McCartney’s Rupert the Bear tale Rupert and the Frog Song (1985) and Terrahawks (1983-86). In Terrahawks, he also portrayed a Sergeant Major.
But sadly for all of us, Davies missed out on that much-coveted role of the British Speaking Clock. With this legendary voice of a lifetime only getting to the audition stage. I’m sure we’d all agree it’s about time the hours and minutes delivered in Davies unique, always comic, Sergeant Major style.