Born in London in 1923, Jimmy Perry was fascinated by variety theatre from an early age. The story goes that when his father asked him what he wanted to do when he left school and got the reply that his son was set on the idea of becoming a famous comedian, Perry senior retorted, ‘You stupid boy!’ After army service, Perry trained at RADA and from 1954 to 1965 ran a repertory company at the Palace theatre Watford with his wife Gilda. He made his first appearances on television in two comedy series, HUGH AND I and BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR. At this time David Croft was a producer of comedies at the BBC and, when Jimmy Perry had an idea about writing a sitcom about the Home Guard, he approached Croft with the outline. The two of them soon began to write together and the legendary series DAD’S ARMY was born.
Perry had drawn on his memories and experiences as a teenager in the Home Guard for DAD’S ARMY and now further ransacked his wartime service as part of a Royal Artillery concert party in India for IT AIN’T HALF HOT MUM, supplemented of course by co-writer Croft’s own army experiences. He had also spent time as a Redcoat at Billy butlin’s legendary holiday camps and Croft had a brief career introducing shows for Butlin’s too, all of which provided the basis for the comedy classic HI DE HI, which won a BAFTA FOR Best comedy Series in 1984. It ran for eight years from 1980 to 1988 and was immensely popular.
Jimmy had another comedy hit with David Croft - YOU RANG, M’LORD? – also for the BBC. Apart from the four hit shows he wrote with David, Jimmy Perry also wrote THE GNOMES OF DULWICH, LOLLIPOP LOVES MR. MOLE, ROOM SERVICE and HIGH STREET BLUES (unusually co-written with Robin Carr as, other than his famous collaborations with David Croft, Perry tended to write alone). His encyclopaedic knowledge of variety resulted in his writing and presenting a number of shows and series on the subject. He also wrote all the theme songs to the shows he wrote with David Croft. Perry’s autobiography entitled A STUPID BOY APPEARED IN 2002.
Jimmy Perry was awarded the OBE in 1978 for services to television and been awarded the BAFTA Fellowship and the Writers Guild Lifetime Achievement Award.