Sitcom master David Croft dies

Writer of Dad's Army and Allo Allo

David Croft, co-creator of a string of classic sitcoms including Dad’s Army and 'Allo 'Allo and has died at the age of 89.

He died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Portugal, his family has announced.

His speciality was nostalgia-based sitcoms, and other shows include It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Are You Being Served and Hi-de-Hi. His last series was Oh Doctor Beeching in 1993.

Croft was awarded an OBE in 1978 for services to television and in 2003 the lifetime achievement award at the British Comedy Awards.

A statement posted on his website today said: ‘The family of comedy legend David Croft OBE are sad to report that David died peacefully in his sleep at his house in Portugal earlier today.

’He was a truly great man, who will be missed by all who had the great fortune of knowing and loving him.’

And in reference to the credits that came up at the end of all his shows, they added: ‘We know that he would of been proud that you had all been watching.’

It Ain't Half Hot Mum actor Melvyn Hayes called Croft a ‘genius’ and ‘a privilege to work with’.

And other comedy stars took to Twitter to pay their tributes.

James Corden said: ‘What an incredible career he had. May he rest in peace.’

Mark Gatiss from the League Of Gentlemen said: ‘Flags at half mast in Walmington-on-sea tonight. Farewell to the great David Croft.’

Jack Whitehall said: ‘Very sad news about David Croft Dads Army very popular in the @fatherwhitehall household!’

Croft was born on September 7, 1922 as David John Sharland, son of actors Annie Croft and Reginald Sharland.

Following in their footsteps, he appeared in a cinema commercial at the age of seven. He had an uncredited role as a greengrocers boy in the 1939 film Goodbye, Mr. Chips – but that was the extent of his film career.

He served as a Royal Artillery officer in the war, posted to North Africa, India and Singapore where he rose to the rank of Major – experiences which gave him the material for the wartime comedies Dad’s Army, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and ‘Allo ‘Allo.

After the war, he met pantomime producer Freddie Carpenter and scripted several hit shows for him, as well as woking with composer Cyril Ornadel to write around 300 songs for BBC Variety, plus the scripts for a series of Beatrix Potter musical adaptations, which became hit records.

He then went into TV, joining Associated Rediffusion as Head of the Light Entertainment Script Department in 1955 before a brief stint as a producer with Tyne Tees Television in 1959.

But it was the BBC where he would find his home, starting as a producer and director on a wide range of hit comedies including The Benny Hill Show, Steptoe and Son, Up Pompeii and Beggar My Neighbour, which is where he met Jimmy Perry.

They formed a writing partnership that spawned Dad’s Army, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Hi-De-Hi and You Rang, M’Lord?

For other hits he collaborated with Jeremy Lloyd, producing and writing Are You Being Served? ‘Allo ‘Allo, Grace and Favour, Come Back Mrs Noah [which starred Mollie Sugden in space] and, Oh Happy Band [Harry Worth's last TV series, in which he played the leader of a colliery brass band].

Croft also produced and directed TV shows in Australia for Channel 7 and in Los Angeles for CBS and Paramount.

In a 2004 interview, he explained: ‘I am not naturally a funny person, I am a fairly serious type.

He said that was the reason he never really worked in Hollywood: ‘In America, they have a group of writers sitting around a table trying top each other's gags. You need to be a flamboyant character to succeed like that.’

At the time he said he was a fan of My Hero, but less sure about The Office: ‘It's a wonderful performance, but will we be seeing it in ten years' time?’

Published: 27 Sep 2011

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