Obituary: Clive Dunn

image captionClive Dunn achieved fame playing parts much older than his years

Clive Dunn played old men for most of his long acting career and was best known as Lance Corporal Jones, the butcher in Dad's Army.

With his cries of "Don't panic, don't panic", "They don't like it up 'em" and "Permission to speak, Captain Mainwaring", he became one of the series' best-loved characters.

Before that he played Old Johnson, the butler, in ITV's Bootsie and Snudge with Alfie Bass and Bill Fraser.

In most of his stage appearances he played an old person. He once played the father of Thora Hird who, in real life, was 10 years older than himself.

He even became a recording star in 1971 when his record, Grandad, reached number one in the charts. "It sold 90,000 copies in one day," he said. "I bought a house with it."

Clive Dunn was born into a family of performers; his grandfather, father and mother all trod the boards. By the age of 15 he had made his debut in the Will Hay film Boys will be Boys, as an extra.

In his memoirs, Permission to Speak, he described how he embraced fascism briefly while at public school in the 1930s.

Like many of his schoolmates, he joined Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists because "it seemed patriotic". He rejected them once he detected their anti-Semitism.

image captionDunn (L) not panicking with the rest of the cast of Dad's Army

Dunn trained at the Italia Conti School and made his professional debut as a flying dragon in Where the Rainbow Ends.

His acting career was interrupted by World War II. At the age of 20, he was captured by the Germans while serving in the army in Greece and spent four years as a prisoner of war.

He ended up as a medical orderly and, with a modicum of German, became the prisoners' representative.

In his autobiography, he recalls feeling that both his fellow prisoners and his German guards were victims. "I felt sorry for them", he said.

"They didn't really have much more than we had ourselves. Some of the nicest chaps I met were German guards."

War taught him to distrust authority and to rail at injustice. He became a lifelong socialist.

He returned to the stage after demobilisation and took jobs singing, dancing and making people laugh. His part in Bootsie and Snudge made him well known to TV audiences.

He was a regular on Michael Bentine's It's a Square World.

image captionClive Dunn as he appeared in Grandad, which ran from 1979 to 1984

Then came Dad's Army which, apart from almost continuous re-runs on television, was also broadcast on radio and made into a full-length film and a stage production with music.

Clive Dunn was in them all. He put the series' popularity down to good writing and the fact that people love authority figures making idiots of themselves.

In a later series, My Old Man, Clive Dunn played a pensioner uprooted from his home and moved to a council estate.

In the children's TV series Grandad, which ran from 1979 to 1984, he played an elderly school caretaker.

In 1978 Dunn made his opera debut in an English National Opera production of Die Fledermaus. He also appeared in the West End, in An Italian Straw Hat.

Clive Dunn was a talented artist and several portraits of his fellow actors appeared in his autobiography.

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