Frederick John Inman
28 June 1935
Preston, Lancashire, England
|Died||8 March 2007 (aged 71)|
|Television||Odd Man Out|
Are You Being Served?
Take a Letter, Mr. Jones
Grace & Favour
|Partner(s)||Ron Lynch (1972–2007)|
Frederick John Inman (28 June 1935 – 8 March 2007), known as John Inman, was an English actor and singer best known for his role as Mr. Humphries in Are You Being Served?, a British sitcom between 1972 and 1985. He was also well known character actor in the United Kingdom as a pantomime dame.
Born in 1935, he made his West End debut in the 1960s, and his television debut in an episode of A Slight Case of ... entitled The Enemy Within in 1965, next appearing in an episode of Two in Clover in 1970. After a successful pilot of Are You Being Served?, Inman played the campy Mr. Humphries in the sitcom from 1972 to 1985. This role made him a household name and won him awards, including BBC TV Personality of the Year. In his later years, Inman became a well known pantomime dame.
Inman was born in Preston, Lancashire, and was often said to be a cousin of actress Josephine Tewson, though she has denied they are related (they did, however, play half-siblings in the 1977 sitcom Odd Man Out). At the age of 12, Inman moved with his parents to Blackpool where his mother ran a boarding house, while his father owned a hairdressing business. As a child, he enjoyed dressmaking. He was educated at Cambridge House in Preston, and then a secondary modern school. Inman always wanted to be an actor, and his parents paid for him to have elocution lessons at the local church hall. At the age of 13 he made his stage debut in the Pavilion on Blackpool's South Pier, in a melodrama entitled Freda. Aged 15, he took a job at the pier, making tea, clearing up and playing parts in plays.
After leaving school, Inman worked for two years at Fox's, a gentlemen's outfitters in Blackpool, specialising in window dressing. Aged 17, he moved to London to join retailer Austin Reed in Regent Street. Four years later, he left Austin Reed to become a scenic artist with Kenneth Kendall's touring company at a theatre in Crewe, so that he could earn his Equity Card, required at the time for professional actors.
Inman made his West End debut in the 1960s when he appeared in Ann Veronica at the Cambridge Theatre. He appeared as the pop singer 'Willie' in Dennis Spencer's What a Racket at Manchester's Palace Theatre in December 1963 and appeared in Paula Stone's How Now Brown Cow at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, in late 1965. By 1975 his television fame was such that he was a starring attraction in the long-running Let's Get Laid at the London Windmill. The same year he appeared in Salad Days at the Windmill Theatre, and as Lord Fancourt Babberley in Charley's Aunt at the Adelphi Theatre in 1979. He also played in many summer shows, and established himself as a dame in pantomime, appearing regularly as one of the two ugly sisters alongside comedian Barry Howard. His other stage appearances included his own show Fancy Free and Pyjama Tops, My Fat Friend and Bedside Manners.
Inman made his television debut in the sitcom A Slight Case Of... in 1965, then in 1966 he appeared in two episodes of the BBC sitcom Hugh and I then in 1970 he appeared in one episode of the ITV sitcom Two in Clover. In 1972, he was asked by David Croft to play a part in a Comedy Playhouse pilot called Are You Being Served?. This was a sitcom set in a department store, written by Croft with Jeremy Lloyd, and based on the latter's experiences working at Simpsons of Piccadilly. Playing a minor role with only a few lines, he was soon asked to "camp it up", despite initial reluctance from the BBC to include such a camp character. The pilot was broadcast in September 1972. The broadcast was followed by the five episodes of the first series in early 1973. The first series showing opposite Coronation Street on ITV attracted little attention, but repeats later that year were very successful.
Inman played the camp Mr Wilberforce Claybourne Humphries and his earlier career in the clothes retail business was good preparation for this role in a menswear department. Inman developed a characteristic limp-wristed mincing walk, and a high-pitched catchphrase, "I'm free!", which soon entered popular culture. Inman reported that four or five members of the group Campaign for Homosexual Equality picketed one of his shows in protest as they believed his persona did not help their cause. Inman said that "they thought I was over exaggerating the gay character. But I don't think I do. In fact there are people far more camp than Mr. Humphries walking around this country. Anyway, I know for a fact that an enormous number of viewers like Mr. Humphries and don't really care whether he's camp or not. So far from doing harm to the homosexual image, I feel I might be doing some good". Both Inman and David Croft stated that the character was "just a mother's boy", and that his sexual orientation was never explicitly stated. Inman continued to play in live shows after his success as Mr. Humphries, and began to incorporate camp mannerisms to those performances too, once saying "Even when I'm not playing Mr Humphries, say at a summer season, I camp it up a bit. If I don't the audience are disappointed".
Are You Being Served? ran for 10 series until 1985. At its height, in the mid to late 1970s, it regularly attracted British audiences of up to 22 million viewers. Inman's portrayal of Mr Humphries won him the BBC TV Personality of the Year in 1976 and he was voted the funniest man on television by TV Times readers. The series also became popular in the United States, where Inman became a gay cultural icon. Once, in San Francisco, a passing cyclist spotted Inman and fell off his bicycle in surprise, crying "Mr Humphries, I love you!"
From 1980 to 1981, Inman also played Mr Humphries in the Australian version of Are You Being Served?, the only cast member of the original Are You Being Served? series to do so. He made many appearances on BBC TV's long running television show, The Good Old Days.
During the 69-episode, 13-year run of Are You Being Served?, Inman also appeared in the 1977 film of the series, in which the characters visited the fictional Spanish holiday resort of "Costa Plonka". Odd Man Out (1977), his own sitcom, Inman played the owner of a fish and chip shop who inherits half of a rock factory; and Take a Letter, Mr. Jones (1981), a sitcom in which Inman played Graham Jones, who is secretary to Rula Lenska's character Joan Warner. Inman also toured with his own shows, and he released several records, including "Are You Being Served, Sir?", which reached number 39 in the UK singles charts. This came from an LP of the same name, and was followed by two further albums: I'm Free in 1977 and With a Bit of Brass in 1978, the first two issued by DJM Records. The version of "Teddy Bears' Picnic" on the first album was regularly playlisted on BBC Radio 1/2 Saturday morning children's show Ed Stewart's Junior Choice in the late 1970s and included on the show's official BBC soundtrack album.
He made a cameo appearance in the film The Tall Guy (1989), and was one of five of the Are You Being Served? cast to be reunited in character for the sitcom Grace & Favour (titled Are You Being Served? Again! in the United States), which ran for twelve episodes in 1992 and 1993. Inman had a small part as Lady Capulet in the film Shakespeare in Love (1998) and appeared in the 1999 French and Saunders Christmas special. He appeared as Father Chinwag in the film The Mumbo Jumbo (2000).
After the end of Are You Being Served?, Inman became one of the nation's best known pantomime dames and appeared in over 40 pantomimes across the United Kingdom. He also toured Australia, starring in a number of productions including Bedside Manners (2003) and a revival of Are You Being Served? (2001) as a stage show at Twelfth Night Theatre, Brisbane. In 2004, Inman made additional television appearances in Doctors and Revolver.
He lived in a mews house in Little Venice for 30 years. On 23 December 2005, Inman entered into a civil partnership at Westminster Register Office with his partner of 33 years (at the time), Ron Lynch.
Inman suffered from poor health in his later years. He was hospitalised with bronchitis in 1993, and collapsed on stage in 1995. He was admitted to Paddington's St Mary's Hospital in 2001 after suffering breathing difficulties and spent three days in intensive care.
In December 2004, Inman was forced to cancel an appearance in a pantomime as he was reportedly suffering from a hepatitis A infection, contracted from contaminated food. Following this, he never worked again and it was claimed that he suffered complications from this infection for the rest of his life.
Inman died early in the morning of 8 March 2007, aged 71, at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, London, of the infection. His body was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium after a funeral on 23 March 2007.
It was reported in July 2007 that Inman had left nearly his entire estate, including more than £2.8m, to his civil partner Ron Lynch. The only other portion of his estate given to another, was a £5,000 bequest to the Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Fund.
|1965||A Slight Case of...||-||1 episode|
|1966||Hugh and I||-||2 episodes|
|1970||Two in Clover||Bowler||1 episode|
|1972–85||Are You Being Served?||Mr. Humphries||69 episodes|
|1977||Odd Man Out||Neville Sutcliffe||7 episodes|
|1980–81||Are You Being Served? (Australian TV series)||Mr. Humphries||16 episodes|
|1981||Take a Letter, Mr. Jones||Graham Jones||6 episodes|
|1989||Family Fortunes||Fanny the Ugly Sister||1 episode|
|1992–93||Grace & Favour||Mr. Humphries||12 episodes|
|1995||Call up the Stars||Frank Randle||TV Movie|
|1999||French and Saunders||Darth Sid||1 episode|
|2000||Full Mountie||Tailor||1 episode|
|2004||Revolver||The Antiques Dealer||5 episodes|
- Webber, Richard (1999). "I'm Free! - The Complete Are You Being Served?". Orion Books.
- Obituary, The Times, 9 March 2007
- Obituary Archived 5 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine, The Independent, 9 March 2007
- Moore, Charles (8 March 2007). "Obituary - John Inman". Daily Telegraph. London.
- "Encyclopaedia Search - Closed Shop". Tiscali. 2009. Archived from the original on 10 February 2009.
- John O'Callaghan 'What a Racket' London Guardian 3 December 1963 p. 7
- Philip Hope-Wallace, 'How Now Brown Cow' London Guardian 5 November 1965 p. 9
- 'Let's Get Laid' London Guardian 30 May 1975 p. 6
- "Comedy actor Inman dies aged 71". BBC. 8 March 2007.
- Shann, Rosalie. "His Biggest Fans are Adoring Women", TV Week, 27 January 1980, p. 13.
- "Obituary: John Inman". BBC. 8 March 2007.
- "Various - ed Stewart's Junior Choice".
- Obituary, The Guardian, 8 March 2007
- "Health scare for sitcom star Inman". BBC. 27 January 2001.
- "Actor Inman admitted to hospital". BBC. 9 December 2004.
- "John Inman dies, aged 71". Sky News. 8 March 2007.
- "John Inman dies". The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 March 2007. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
- "Stars say goodbye to John Inman". BBC. 23 March 2007.