Private Joe Walker
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|Private Joe Walker|
|Dad's Army character|
|First appearance||The Man and the Hour|
|Last appearance||Things that Go Bump in the Night|
|Portrayed by||TV Series: James Beck
Radio Series: James Beck
Stage Shows: John Bardon
|Occupation||Black market spiv|
|Affiliated with||Home Guard|
Private Joe Walker is a fictional black market spiv (or Wholesales Supplier, as he politely puts it) and Home Guard platoon member portrayed by actor James Beck on the BBC television sitcom Dad's Army. James Beck died suddenly in 1973, and is featured in just under three-quarters of the episodes. Despite this, the character of Walker was possibly one of the most prominent and popular in the show. Following his character's departure the series attempted to replace him with a war reporter called Private Cheeseman (played by Talfryn Thomas) who had made a previous cameo appearance in My British Buddy.
Walker was the second youngest member of the platoon, the youngest being Pike. A pleasant and amiable (if slightly shifty) personality, Joe Walker is nevertheless a constant thorn in Mainwaring's side as he doesn't share his idealism and makes cheeky and witty interruptions during his serious lectures. However, despite this he is good-natured and loyal to his commanding officer and platoon comrades, and is a valuable asset to the platoon, due to his many "business" connections and his ability to mysteriously conjure up almost anything that is rationed or no longer in the shops due to the War - and he will also have it in vast supply (for a price). He also demonstrates keen improvisational skills and cunning; as a result, owing to these attributes and his cheerful willingness to use tactics that Mainwaring might not consider to be 'cricket', he is usually responsible for getting the platoon out of many of the scrapes that they find themselves in. He is constantly on the lookout for opportunities to make a few bob, and can normally be found trying to sell such things as petrol coupons and black market foodstuffs to his platoon comrades, usually at high prices and from dubious sources.
Walker considers himself a ladies' man, and his recurring girlfriend Shirley (played by Wendy Richard) is seen in several episodes. In the platoon, he mostly associates with Jones, Pike and Frazer. Despite merely being a Private, Walker clearly has some form of influence over the platoon, not least due to his black-market dealings which have got them out of (and into) numerous scrapes. Moreover, when Frazer is temporarily promoted to Captain in If the Cap Fits..., he selects Walker as his Sergeant.
He is supposedly allergic to corned beef, and this is given as the reason why he has not been called up for the regular army, although it is generally assumed that he has found a way to dodge the rules. This allergy was exposed in the episode The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker, which has since been lost from the BBC's archives. He was conscripted, only to be discharged when it was found that corned beef fritters were the only rations left for the soldiers to eat. Although a superficially implausible explanation for Walker's discharge it is actually possible to have an allergy to certain types of corned beef but not beef itself as a result of various antioxidants that may be used in the curing process.
Walker's final appearance was in the episode Things That Go Bump in the Night, where the platoon spent the night in a mysterious house. In fact he is only seen in the location shots, filmed some time before the studio recording. Beck was ill for the recordings of both this episode and the next, The Recruit, in which the story suggested that Walker had "gone to the smoke" (a then-common expression for London) to "do a deal". After Beck's death, Walker was never mentioned again in the show after this (though the character survived the war; the very first episode begins with a scene set in 1968, as Mainwaring, now an alderman, launches his "I'm Backing Britain" campaign - Walker is seen as one of the town worthies present at the launch).
In the radio adaptations of the series, Graham Stark stood in until Larry Martyn gave his portrayal of Walker for subsequent shows. In 1976 John Bardon played Walker in the stage production. Jimmy Perry originally intended to play the part himself, but was advised against it by David Croft.