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28 October 2014

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Whack-O!

Jimmy Edwards as the Headmaster

These days it'd be hard to make a long-running series based on a schoolmaster who took pleasure in thwacking his charges and swindling everyone. Fortunately, in olden days sense prevailed.

Whack-O! featured the wonderful Jimmy Edwards as Professor James Edwards. Prof Edwards is one of the great characters of sitcom, an unapologetic, scheming drunk, who constantly runs rings around his fellow masters and thinks nothing of cheating and manipulating charges and colleagues alike.

Teachers v Pupils is standard fare throughout film and TV, but usually it's like St Trinians - we're on the side of the kids.

Whack-O! brilliantly realised that adults wanted to see a teacher prevail, particularly when the teacher in question was a charming sociopath.

Jimmy Edwards as the Headmaster

Watching the series now is a little painful in one respect - we're too sensitive to find canings amusing - but it's right on the money in other ways, mainly because finding over privileged kids vile hasn't gone out of fashion.

Frank Muir and Denis Norden between them brought 45 episodes of Whack-O! into being, and the series ran successfully from 1956-1960.

The only problem might have been that they thought they were making a monster, whereas in fact they were making a monster so grotesque you couldn't help loving him.

Despite the fact that times changed for the world, Whack-O! continued into the film Bottoms Up, and was relaunched in 1971 in colour.

A series out of its time, it never recaptured its former glory, and whilst sketches such as the fantastic Rowan Atkinson/Richard Curtis outing 'Fatal Beatings' pushed the idea into even more extreme directions, whole series that tried to make light of the odd pupil-beating haven't been able to catch the wave in a more sensitive and correct time.

Cast

Jimmy Edwards
Headmaster, Professor James Edwards
Arthur Howard
Assistant Headmaster Oliver Pettigrew
Julian Orchard
Assistant Headmaster Oliver Pettigrew
Kenneth Cope
F D Price-Whittaker
John Garside
G D St J Dinwiddie
Arthur Bush
L B Hackett
Tony Sympson
R D Spelthorne
Norman Bird
S A Smallpiece
Barbara Archer
Matron
Elisabeth Fraser
Matron
Charlotte Mitchell
Matron
Victor Baring
M Aristide Beaumarie
Edwin Apps
L J Halliforth
Peter Greene
L J Halliforth
John Lewis
R Palmer
Michael Stainton
G Perkins
Peter Glaze
R P Trench
Christopher Hodge
Mr Snaith
John Forbes-Robertson
Mr Tuppington
Frank Raymond
Mr Cope-Willoughby
Gordon Phillott
Mr Dinwiddie
Harold Bennett
Mr Dinwiddie
Brian Rawlinson
Mr Proctor
John Legg
Mr Proctor
Keith Smith
Mr Forbes
Philip Howard
Schoolmaster
John Scott
Schoolmaster
John Stirling
Lumley
John Hall
Taplow
Gary Warren
Taplow
Robert O'Leary
Phipps
Jimmy Ray
Crombie
Derek Needs
Phillpot
Paul Norman
Potter
Stephen Portch
Hoyle
David Spooner
Hoyle

Crew

Frank Muir
writer
Denis Norden
writer
Robert Gray
script editor
Douglas Moodie
producer
Eric Fawcett
producer
Douglas Argent
producer

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