Clive Dunn, Dad's Army actor, dies aged 92

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Actor Clive Dunn, best known for his role as Lance Corporal "Jonesy" Jones in Dad's Army, has died aged 92.

He died in Portugal on Tuesday from complications following an operation.

Dunn - whose famous catchphrases included "Don't panic, don't panic" and "They don't like it up 'em" - became a recording star in 1971 when his record, Grandad, reached number one.

Frank Williams, who played the Vicar on Dad's Army, said he was always "great fun" to be around.

"Of course he was so much younger than the part he played," he told BBC Radio Four. "It's very difficult to think of him as an old man really.

Image caption,
Dunn's autobiography, Permission to Speak, was titled after one of Jonesy's catchphrases

"But he was a wonderful person to work with - great sense of humour, always fun, a great joy really."

Born in London in January 1920, Dunn studied at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts.

He made his first forays into acting in the 1930s, appearing alongside Will Hay in Boys Will Be Boys in 1935 and Good Morning Boys in 1937.

His acting career was interrupted by World War II, during which he spent four years as a German prisoner.

The actor would later say that Dad's Army, which ran from 1968 to 1977, was his revenge on his former captors.

The much-loved showfeatured the exploits of a Home Guard platoon formed to protect the seaside village of Walmington-on-Sea from possible German attack during World War II.

Media caption,
Speaking on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs in 1971 Clive Dunn explained how he always ended up playing old men.

Co-star Ian Lavender, who played Private Pike, said: "You never left Clive's presence from working without a smile on your face, and so inevitably working always was fun - not necessarily hysterical, but just fun.

"A word Clive used a lot was nice, 'I've had a very nice time thank you', 'did you have a nice time?'. And he wanted everybody else to have a nice time as well."

As well as Dad's Army, Dunn also appeared in such TV shows as Bootsie and Snudge, My Old Man and Grandad.

His last screen credit came playing the Shakespearean clown Verges in a 1984 TV version of Much Ado About Nothing.

He spent his last three decades in Portugal, where he occupied himself as an artist painting portraits, landscapes and seascapes until his sight failed.

Image caption,
Dad's Army cast member Frank Williams (centre) said Dunn was "a great joy" to work with

Dunn, who was awarded an OBE in 1975, spent much of his acting life playing characters older than himself.

Even at 19 he played a doddery old man in a production of JM Barrie's play Mary Rose.

Comedian Roy Hudd starred with him in pantomime Cinderella in Bournemouth, in which Dunn played the Baron.

"We had a marvellous time, he was in a world of his own Clive, he was so eccentric," remembered Hudd.

"He never really, really knew his lines terribly well, but what he said not even knowing his lines was funny. Funnier probably than the lines we ever gave him to say."

Dunn was also a regular on Michael Bentine's madcap sketch show It's a Square World.

"It was one of the things Clive was so brilliant at," added Hudd.

"He played all sorts of characters and strange things. I remember him playing a bird in a tree and he was brilliant because he spoke like a bird, he moved like a bird. He was a terrifically offbeat actor, when you got Clive you got value for money."

Dunn's agent, Peter Charlesworth, said he would be "sorely missed" and that his death was "a real loss to the acting profession".

Dunn's final interview appeared in the most recent issue of The Oldie magazine, which made him its cover star.

Writer Paul Bailey travelled to Dunn's cottage in Portugal in early September in order to speak to him.

He told BBC News the 92-year old was "almost completely blind and hard of hearing" but still loved "a good joke and a glass of wine".

"I asked him a fairly silly question: 'What is it like to be 92?'" he said. "He replied, 'The same as it was to be 91'."

Mr Bailey said Dunn was "very stoic" when talking about his time as a PoW during the war. "He joked about it in a very English, self-deprecating way."

Image caption,
A cartoon of Dunn appears on the cover of the latest edition of The Oldie

Speaking to the actor in his artist's studio, Mr Bailey said Dunn's great sadness was that his failing eyesight meant he could no longer indulge in his passion for painting.

Broadcaster Stephen Fry has also paid tribute, saying he was "saddened to hear of the death of Clive Dunn, the immortal Corporal Jones from Dad's Army".

Referring to Dunn's hit song Grandad, Father Ted writer Graham Linehan tweeted: "I love that he recorded this, then lived another 41 years."

"I had assumed that because he looked 85 at 40 that Clive Dunn was immortal," remarked comedian David Baddiel on his Twitter feed.

Tony Pritchard of the Dad's Army Appreciation Society said Dunn had attended various conventions organised with the society and was "immensely popular" with its members.

"I met him many times over the years," he told BBC Radio Gloucestershire. "He was just a nice chap. He always had a joke to tell and was full of humour."

Dunn is survived by his wife Priscilla Morgan and their two daughters, Jessica and Polly.

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