Acclaimed television executive John Howard Davies is being profiled in a special tribute on BBC Two tomorrow evening. John Howard Davies: A Life in Comedy will be followed by a night of programming dedicated to some of his best-loved works.
Davies first found fame as a child actor, landing the lead in David Lean's 1948 film Oliver Twist, before briefly pursuing a career as an actor. It was later, having completed military service and while working as a comedy producer and director, that he had a hand in some of the most well-loved and iconic British sitcoms, including Only Fools And Horses, The Goodies, Fawlty Towers, Monty Python, Yes Minister and Mr Bean.
John Howard Davies, pictured in 1983
Davies' comedy hits are well-known, but less so was his enthusiasm for his Welsh heritage. An accomplished rifle shooter, he had represented Wales and captained the national shooting team.
Although born in London, in an interview with Aled Jones for BBC Radio Wales he expressed his deep affection for Wales: "The whole lot of my family were Welsh... we were from north Wales but I was born in Paddington, so I can hardly call myself a proper Welshman in one sense, but I feel very Welsh when I go to Wales."
He descended from a long line of showbiz stock including his father, successful screenwriter Jack Davies, and his great great grandmother who, according to Davies, was the first woman to be shot out of a cannon.
Like so many English-born Welshmen before him, Davies confessed, "as soon as I cross that bridge, I'm afraid, a [Welsh] accent appears from absolutely nowhere," though he admitted it had an unfortunate tendency to "lurch into Pakistani."
Although never a household name, John Howard Davies has been recognised as a towering figure in British sitcom history. Tomorrow night's tribute sees him hailed by writers and performers including John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis as one of the masters of television comedy.
Watch John Howard Davies: A Life In Comedy on BBC Two Wales at 7.45pm tomorrow night, Saturday 7 January. Following the tribute there's the chance to watch some examples of his work, with episodes of The Good Life, Steptoe and Son and Fawlty Towers being shown, as well as an episode of Comedy Connections, which tells the inside story of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Browse the BBC Two online schedule for details.