It Ain't Half Hot Mum

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It Ain't Half Hot Mum
It Aint Half Hot Mum television comedy.jpg
Created by Jimmy Perry & David Croft
Written by Jimmy Perry & David Croft
Directed by David Croft
Graeme Muir
Bob Spiers
Ray Butt
Paul Bishop
John Kilby
Starring Michael Bates
Windsor Davies
Melvyn Hayes
George Layton
Don Estelle
Donald Hewlett
Michael Knowles
Christopher Mitchell
John Clegg
Stuart McGugan
Kenneth MacDonald
Mike Kinsey
Dino Shafeek
Babar Bhatti
Opening theme Meet the Gang
Ending theme Land of Hope and Glory
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 8
No. of episodes 56 (list of episodes)
Production
Producer(s) David Croft
Graeme Muir
Running time 30 minutes
Release
Original channel BBC1
Original release 3 January 1974 (1974-01-03) – 3 September 1981 (1981-09-03)

It Ain't Half Hot Mum is a BBC television sitcom, about the adventures of a Royal Artillery Concert Party, broadcast on the BBC between 1974 and 1981, and written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft. It was set in India and Burma, during the last months of the Second World War, starting just after V-E Day in 1945.

It Ain't Half Hot Mum was the second of the two sitcom series co-written by Perry and Croft set in the Second World War, the first being Dad's Army (1968–1977).

Plot[edit]

Set during the Second World War (in the period just after the German surrender when the Allies were trying to finish the war by defeating Japan in Asia), the show focuses on a group of British soldiers stationed at the Royal Artillery Depot in Deolali, India (where soldiers were kept before being sent to fight at the front lines). The main characters are performers in the base's Concert Party, which involved putting on comic acts and musical performances (similar to those seen in a music hall) for the other soldiers prior to their departure for the front lines. The soldiers in the Concert Party all love this particular job, as it keeps them out of combat duty (though some do harbour dreams of becoming world-famous actors when they leave the army).

The main characters include: Gunner "Lofty" Sugden, a short, fat soldier who wears a pith helmet and possesses an incredible singing voice; Gunner "Parky" Parkin, a young recruit who, though eager, is slightly bumbling and has very little aptitude for the theatre; Gunner "La-de-dah"/"Paderewski" Graham, a bald-headed and intelligent Oxford graduate who plays the piano; Gunner "Atlas" Mackintosh, a masculine, short-tempered Scotsman who specialises in feats of strength; Gunner "Nobby" Clark, a not-very-bright soldier who does bird calls and whistling acts; and Gunner "Nosher" Evans, a soldier who does a paper-tearing act, and also tends to eat a lot, spraying food whenever he speaks. Rounding out the enlisted crew are Bombardier "Solly" Solomons, a soldier from London who is a former theatrical agent, a Jew; and Gunner "Gloria" Beaumont, an effeminate, cowardly soldier who specialises in performing female roles in drag (as there are no women assigned to the Concert Party). Beaumont is later promoted to Bombardier after Solly is demobbed and sent back to Britain.

The soldiers are under the command of Battery Sergeant Major "Shut Up" Williams, a belligerent Welshman who has spent almost all of his life as a professional soldier. In turn, Williams reports to the two officers in charge of the Concert Party: Captain Ashwood and Lieutenant-Colonel Reynolds. Both Ashwood and Reynolds are characterised as coming from upper-class backgrounds. Ashwood, the younger officer, is rather stupid and slightly excitable, while Reynolds is older and more worldly-wise and sensible. While often bemoaning the rough conditions of Army life, both Ashwood and Reynolds realise that keeping their Concert Party administrative duties (and thus remaining behind friendly lines) is infinitely preferable to combat duty at the front line.

A small contingent of Indian and Burmese soldiers are also usually found alongside the Britons: Bearer Rangi Ram, who acts as their butler and porter, displaying an outwardly obsequious nature that hides a very savvy intelligence; he is a good friend of the concert party and helps them out when they are in trouble; Muhammad, the idealistic char wallah who, in the traditional role, carries an urn of hot tea and a box of pastries for everyone to purchase, and Rumzam, the lazy punkah wallah whose job it is to fan the officers, who is often kicked and told off by everyone.

While both the enlisted men and the officers are extremely reluctant to give up their relatively cushy assignment behind the lines, Sergeant Major Williams hates being assigned to the Concert Party. Williams resents not only the lack of an active combat role, but also having to be in charge of men who perform what he considers to be effeminate duties (often deriding them as "poofs"), instead of being able to command men he considers to be "real soldiers". As a result, Williams is routinely found shouting orders at the men (both soldiers and native workers) in the manner of a drill sergeant, delighting in putting the enlisted men through endless drills, parades and PT sessions. His ultimate goal, and the focus of many of his schemes, is to have the Concert Party disbanded, and the men sent off to join other troops fighting at the front. However, the soldiers usually find a way to get out of these schemes (often with the unwitting help of the two officers), and so are able to continue performing their Concert Party duties. However, the Concert Party eventually finds themselves transferred to the village of Tin Min, Burma, which is located very near the front line.

While Williams heaps scorn and derision upon all the enlisted men, he reserves particular contempt for Gloria (who he considers to be the most effeminate of the lot), Graham (who he mocks for having a "posh" accent and university education), and Lofty (because of his height, weight and general lack of military bearing). The sole, and notable, exception to Williams' usual callous treatment of the troops is Gunner Parkin, who is revealed early in the series to possibly be Williams' illegitimate son. As a result, Williams routinely compliments Parkin and praises him for even the most minor of successes, and often goes to great lengths to defend Parkin to the officers whenever he bungles a task. Williams also routinely excuses Parkin from participating in any event that might be even the least bit dangerous, even when Parkin himself has eagerly volunteered to participate. At times this means Williams must intervene to foil a scheme that he himself came up with to disband the Concert Party, when it becomes evident Parkin will get into the same trouble as the rest of the men. For his part, Parkin does not take advantage of his potential relationship with Williams (even after learning that Williams thinks he is Parkin's father), preferring instead to be treated as just another member of the Concert Party; for their part, the Concert Party happily keeps Parkin around, not only because they consider him to be a "nice bloke", but because they know Williams will be reluctant to send the Concert Party into danger if his (alleged) son is likely to have to go with them.

Cast[edit]

Actor Character Duration
Michael Bates Bearer Rangi Ram Series 1 - Series 5
Donald Hewlett Colonel Charles Reynolds Series 1 - Series 8
Michael Knowles Captain Ashwood Series 1 - Series 8
Windsor Davies Battery Sergeant Major Tudor Bryn 'Shut up' Williams Series 1 - Series 8
George Layton Bombardier 'Solly' Solomons Series 1 - Series 2
Melvyn Hayes Gunner/Bombardier 'Gloria' Beaumont Series 1 - Series 8
Don Estelle Gunner 'Lofty' Harold Horace Herbert Willy Sugden Series 1 - Series 8
Christopher Mitchell Gunner 'Parky' Nigel Parkin Series 1 - Series 8
John Clegg 'La-dee-da' Gunner 'Paderewski' Jonathan Graham Series 1 - Series 8
Stuart McGugan Gunner 'Atlas' Mackintosh Series 1 - Series 8
Kenneth MacDonald Gunner 'Nobby' Clark Series 1 - Series 8
Mike Kinsey Gunner 'Nosher' Evans Series 1 - Series 8
Dino Shafeek Char Wallah Muhammad Series 1 - Series 8
Babar Bhatti Punkah Wallah Rumzan Series 1 - Series 6

Reception[edit]

Critics viewed the casting of the white actor Michael Bates as the Indian bearer Rangi Ram as an example of blackface,[1] a perception that may have contributed to the programme being very rarely repeated on British television.[2] "All Michael Bates [...] wore was a light tan", protested Jimmy Perry in a 2013 interview with the journalist Neil Clark, an admirer of the series.[3]

The show's producers had been very averse to the idea of casting a white actor to play one of the Indian characters, but were forced to relent owing to the lack of high-profile Indian actors available at the time. Since the Anglo-Indian Bates,[4] a prominent character actor of the time, was born in India and spoke Hindi before learning English, he was cast in the role as a trade-off between giving the series greater credibility and giving the character a degree of Indian authenticity.[1]

Characters[edit]

Commanding Officers[edit]

Lieutenant-Colonel Reynolds is the most senior member of the concert party and enjoys their shows immensely. He thinks army life in Asia is very hard, while all he does is sit around sipping pink gin and dining with the elite. He is having an affair with Daphne Waddilove-Evans, whose husband, Major Waddilove-Evans, has left for the Punjab. He is the stereotypical British Army Officer, very stiff upper lip and prim and proper. Captain Ashwood's utter stupidity does occasionally infuriate him, but he is effectively good-natured and tries to avoid leaving the easy life he has at any cost. Reynolds is revealed to be a solicitor.

Captain Ashwood is an even bigger fan of the concert party than Colonel Reynolds, especially when they dress up as girls. He is not very bright, and often unknowingly ruins other people's plans, especially the Sergeant Major's. His catchphrase is "It's a tricky one, sir", which he says in reply to Colonel Reynolds asking for his opinion when the concert party runs into a particular problem. He occasionally writes skits for the concert party, which they reluctantly accept, as they are, on the whole, absolutely awful. He has absolutely no military bearing in him, which makes it very easy for the Sergeant Major and the others to manipulate him into using his authority to achieve their own ends. He is known for his stupidity, high-pitched voice, and love of gardening.

The Sergeant Major is the only real, professional soldier among the concert party and its officers. He is somewhat bigoted in his views, making every effort to bully the Indian camp staff and remind everyone of British supremacy in Asia. He has only one goal in life, namely, to get his soldiers posted up the jungle (and into combat) as fast as he can. Williams has a cunning and fierce pirate-like look. He is disgusted by the fact that his soldiers prance about on the stage wearing dresses and make-up all the time, and frequently calls them a "bunch of poofs". He is sometimes portrayed as a stereotypical "devious" Welshman, using cunning schemes to turn events in his favour. He dislikes all members of the concert party equally, apart from Parkins, who he believes to be his son. He has a particular loathing for "Lah-De-Dah" Gunner Graham, owing to his university heducation, although Williams will praise Graham for it if it serves his purposes. Williams often mispronounces long words, turning "hysterical" into "hystorical, or "historectical", "misapprehension" into "mishappropriation", and "ignorant" into "higorant". When he leaves the army, Williams plans on marying a widow who owns a pub.

Concert party[edit]

'Solly' is a showbiz man who always plays the male leads in the concert party's shows and is also the party's producer. He is a very intelligent individual and often has some sort of devious plot to avoid being posted or getting one over on the Sergeant Major. His father was a pawnbroker in Bond Street and he is a Jew. He left at the end of Series 2 when he was demobbed back to England.

'Gloria' Beaumont is a very effeminate person who cannot handle the violence, heat and mosquitoes of army life in India too well. He considers himself an artiste, and doesn't believe he should be in the Army, often trying to emphasize his show-business angle and ignore the "soldier" parts of his job. He has a passion for show business and always dresses up as famous film stars during the concert party shows, especially as Ginger Rogers. He later succeeded Bombardier Solomon's rank when George Layton left the series. Gloria is an enormous coward. He is known throughout the company as being camp if not homosexual. This is seen in one of the episodes where Rangi says "Bombadier Beaumont is...." and makes the limp wrist gesture symbolic throughout Britain as meaning gay. Muhammad says "Bombadier Beaumont is Flyswat???". To which Ramzan goes "(STRING OF URDU/HINDI) Homosexual". To which Rangi says "Stop being such clever dicky."

  • Gunner 'Lofty' Harold Horace Herbert Willy Sugden (Don Estelle)

'Lofty' is a soldier whose appearance can be summarized by means of quoting the Sergeant Major: "Is it a mushroom? No. Is it a soldier? No. It's Gunner Sugden." Lofty is the tiny, rotund lead singer of the concert party usually seen in an old-fashioned pith helmet, and has an amazing tenor voice which even the Sergeant Major cannot resist when he sings. Unfortunately, he is always picked out by the Sergeant Major as a "volunteer" when there is a particularly nasty or dangerous task to be carried out.

'Parky' is the youngest member of the concert party and has tried everything to become part of them, including being a ventriloquist, comedian, and singer, although he is very clumsy and never does anything right. The Sergeant Major has reason to believe that Parkins is his son (Williams had a relationship with Parkin's mother Edith in Colchester), which is why he treats him much better than he treats the others, and keeps telling him he has "a fine pair of shoulders", and becomes very selective about Parkins' achievement - praising him when he does something right and ignoring when Parkins makes huge blunders. An example of such a situation comes when Parkins is appointed as Battery clerk - since he has no exploitable talent for the concert party - and, having misunderstood an order from the Sergeant-Major, proceeds to have the Officer's Mess demolished. (Sergeant-Major Williams had told him to "remove the mess by the Officer's lines", referring to a pile of old beds that were to be discarded, and he destroyed the officer's mess. Then Colonel Reynolds tells him to order 200 tent pegs and he orders 200 tents.) Parkins references the show's title in the first ever episode when he signs off a letter to his mother with the words "I've been in India now two days, and it ain't half hot, Mum." Parkins was born on 2 October 1924, making him 21 years old. At the end of series one, Parkins and the rest of the concert party discover what the Sgt Major believes, and Parkins is then welcomed into the party, as the Sgt Major would want to stop it being sent into battle as long as Parkins is a member.

  • 'La-De-Dah' Gunner 'Paderewski' Jonathan Graham (John Clegg)

Gunner Graham is the concert party's pianist. His appearance - bald and bespectacled - marks him out as a stereotypical boffin. He has a university degree in English literature and is very clever, speaking with a very upper class accent. This is why the Sergeant Major always mockingly repeats what he says, as well as mockingly addressing him as Mister La-De-Dah Gunner Graham. Graham often has difficult and ingenious plans to solve the concert party's problems, but these plans never seem to work and often result in his saying "oh well, bang goes that theory". The others (even the Sergeant Major and the Officers) often rely on his intelligence to get them out of awkward situations.

'Atlas' Mackintosh does the strong man act in the show, which involves tearing telephone directories in half. He is rather short-tempered, especially when Beaumont calls him a "great, big, butch, hairy haggis". He is very masculine, and is a bit of a contradiction to what Beaumont thinks is right for the concert party. Nevertheless, Mackintosh always tries his best and copes with what is given to him.

'Nobby' Clark does a whistling act in the show, and can do excellent bird impersonation. He is not particularly clever, and often makes nonsense comments or observations about situations they find themselves in.

'Nosher' Evans does a paper tearing act. He is always eating something (and once stayed on punishment in the Canteen four hours after he was relieved as he was enjoying himself) resulting in him spraying the contents of his mouth all around him when he speaks.

Natives[edit]

Rangi Ram is the concert party's native bearer, and very proud to be of service to the army. He feels so connected to them that he often talks about "we British". The Sergeant Major shouts at him more than at anyone else, but Rangi is also the one he confides in when he wants to talk about problems. Rangi often provides the audience with an "old Hindu proverb" at the end of the episode, such as "There is an old Hindu proverb which say that if you see two eyes looking at you in the dark, it is not always a Tiger. It might be two one-eyed Tigers!" He is a devious individual, who can often manipulate the situation for his own ends (usually money). Though he often speaks of himself as British, he will show divided loyalty when his Indian aspect is under threat - when asked to burn the Indian flag by the Sergeant Major, he refused.

Muhammed the char wallah walks around the camp all day, selling tea from his urn. We can also hear him sing the musical interruptions between the scenes, which are mostly popular American hits, accompanied by a sitar. At the end of the credits he starts to sing "Land of Hope and Glory" only to be interrupted by the Sergeant-major shouting "SHUTUPPP!!!". .

Rumzan the punkah wallah always sits outside the officers' quarters, pulling a string that is attached to a large fan indoors. He comments on everything in Urdu, and always adds a few words in English at the end. Rangi often tells him to "sit up straight while you are punkah-ing" and not to "be such Clever Dickie". He is far more intelligent than the others give him credit, and much of what he observes early on is often borne out in the end, but no-one notices.

Series and episodes[edit]

DVD releases[edit]

All 8 Series have been released on DVD region code 2 by 2|entertain. All eight series have also been released in region 4. A Complete Series Collection Box Set containing all 8 series of the show was released on 4 October 2010.

Master copies of the fourth and sixth episodes of series one ('A Star is Born' and 'It's a Wise Child') were lost after first broadcast and have not been recovered. VHS copies recorded at home by a viewer in Australia were found in 1988. They are not of broadcast quality, but are included as extras on the series 1 DVD.

DVD Title Code No. of discs Year No. of episodes Release date
Region 2 Region 4
Complete Series 1 CCTV 30213 1 1974 8 5 September 2005 2 March 2006
Complete Series 2 CCTV 30227 1 1975 8 10 October 2005 5 October 2006
Complete Series 3 CCTV 30269 1 1976 6 13 February 2006 7 March 2007
Complete Series 4 CCTV 30295 2 1976 8 1 May 2006 5 September 2007
Complete Series 5 CCTV 30328 1 1977 6 31 July 2006 5 March 2008
Complete Series 6 BBCDVD 2645 1 1978 7 9 June 2008 4 September 2008
Complete Series 7 BBCDVD 3008 1 1980 6 24 August 2009 3 September 2009
Complete Series 8 BBCDVD 3047 1 1981 7 5 October 2009 4 March 2010
Complete Series 14 CCTV 30532 5 1974–1976 30 30 October 2006 N/A
Complete Series 18 BBCDVD3329 9 1974–1981 56 4 October 2010 N/A

Songs[edit]

Because It Ain't Half Hot Mum was a sitcom about a concert party, many old music hall, musical and traditional songs were performed by the actors, including:

Don Estelle and Windsor Davies recorded an in-character performance of Whispering Grass that was number one in the British singles chart for three weeks from 7 June 1975.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b See comments by actor Renu Setna in the documentary on Comedy Connections "It Ain't Half Hot, Mum" (#5.3), original air date: 26 January 2007
  2. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (3 February 2003) "Some like it hot" The Guardian —Stuart Jeffries interviewed Jimmy Perry, creator of Dad's Army
  3. ^ Neil Clark "Jimmy Perry turns 90: a tribute to the genius behind Dad's Army", telegraph.co.uk, 20 September 2013
  4. ^ Peter Nichols Diaries, 1969-1977, London: Nick Hern Books, 2000, p.133
  5. ^ UK Chart Stats

External links[edit]