Jimmy Edwards

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For other people also known as Jimmy Edwards or James Edwards, see James Edwards (disambiguation).
Jimmy Edwards
Jimmy Edwards.jpg
Born James Keith O'Neill Edwards
(1920-03-23)23 March 1920
Barnes, Middlesex, England
Died 7 July 1988(1988-07-07) (aged 68)
London, England
Occupation Comedy actor
Years active 1946-1988
Spouse(s) Valerie Seymour (1958–1969)

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

Biography[edit]

Edwards was born in Barnes, Middlesex, 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 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 facial injuries requiring plastic surgery—he disguised the traces with the huge handlebar moustache that became his trademark. He was a member of the Guinea Pig Club.[1]

Career[edit]

Radio and television[edit]

Edwards was a feature of London theatre in 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 script writer, Denis Norden. Also on radio he appeared in Jim The Great and My Wildest Dream.

He appeared in Whack-O on television, also written by Muir and Norden, and the radio panel game Does the Team Think?, a series which Edwards created. In 1960 a film of Whack-O called Bottoms Up was written by Muir and Norden. On TV he appeared in The Seven Faces of Jim, Six More Faces of Jim, and More Faces of Jim, Make Room for Daddy and Sykes, in Bold As Brass, I Object, John Jorrocks Esq, The Auction Game, Jokers Wild, Sir Yellow, Doctor in the House, Charley's Aunt and Oh! Sir James! (which he also wrote).

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1958 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC's Piccadilly 1 Studio.

Edwards starred in The Fossett Saga in 1969 as James Fossett, an ambitious Victorian writer of 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 8:30pm on LWT; David Freeman was the creator.

Stage and film[edit]

In December 1958, Jimmy Edwards played the King in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella at the London Coliseum with Kenneth Williams, Tommy Steele, Yana and Betty Marsden. In April 1966, he played at the last night of Melbourne's Tivoli Theatre. His final words closed a 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."[2]

Edwards frequently worked with Eric Sykes, acting in short films that Sykes wrote: The Plank (1967), which also starred Tommy Cooper; alongside Arthur Lowe and Ronnie Barker in the remake of The Plank in 1979; and in Rhubarb (1969), which again featured Sykes. The films were not silent but had no dialogue other than grunts. He also appeared in the The Bed Sitting Room (1969) as Nigel, a man who lives in a left luggage compartment after being mistaken for a suitcase.

Edwards and Sykes toured UK theatres with their farce Big Bad Mouse which, while scripted, let them ad lib, involve the audience and break the "fourth wall". Sykes was replaced by Roy Castle in later runs in its three-year residency at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London's West End and in tours of the Middle East and Australia. Edwards also starred in the stage revival of Maid of the Mountains.

Private life[edit]

Jimmy Edwards published his autobiography, Six of the Best, in 1984, as a follow-up to Take it From Me. He was vice-president of the City of Oxford Silver Band,[3] and an accomplished player of tuba and euphonium. He was founder and a lifelong member of the Handlebar Club, in which all the members had such moustaches. He played at Ham Polo Club. Roy Plomley interviewed him for Desert Island Discs on August the first 1951.

Edwards was a lifelong Conservative and in the 1964 general election stood for Paddington North, without success. He was a devotee of fox hunting at Ringmer, near Lewes. He was rector of Aberdeen University for three years in the 1950s, a university with a history of celebrities and actors as honorary rector.

He was married to Valerie Seymour for 11 years. During the 1970s, however, he was outed as a homosexual, to his annoyance. After the ending of his marriage, press reports spoke of his engagement to Joan Turner, the actress, singer and comedienne, but the reports were suspected to be a mutual publicity stunt.[4] He lived in Fletching, East Sussex, and died from pneumonia in London in 1988 at the age of 68.

A Brighton & Hove bus is named after him.[5]

Selected filmography[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Symons, Jane (13 November 2012). "Military advances: How warfare has led to healthcare developments". Express. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  2. ^ Van Straten, F. (2003) Tivoli p. 233. Lothian Books, Melbourne, Australia. ISBN 0-7344-0553-7
  3. ^ Oxford Mail. 17 January 1966.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Edwards's outing
  5. ^ "Names on the buses 648 Jimmy Edwards". Brighton & Hove (bus company). Retrieved 27 June 2014. 

External links[edit]

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