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Time runs out for a veteran Time Lord

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1996-05-21 Daily Express.jpg


Time runs out for a veteran Time Lord

VETERAN actor Jon Pertwee, who seemed as indestructible as is Dalek-battling alter-ego Dr Who, died of a heart attack yesterday.

He was 76, but his energy, enthusiasm — and that famous shock of hair — belied the years with the time-defying ease of his most famous TV creation.

His German-born wife Inge, 57, his children and his many show-business friends were all said to be shocked by his unexpected death.

Pertwee, who was also known to millions of young fans as TV's lovable scarecrow Worzel Gum-midge, died while holidaying with his wife at the Connecticut home of American friends.

Inge's son Sean Pertwee, 32, and daughter Dariel — both the children, in the family tradition, are actors — were yesterday preparing to fly out to be with her.

"Inge is very upset," said Jo Evans, the actor's personal assistant of 35 years. "I am sure it will be some days before they think of a funeral.

"Jon had heart problems, but he saw a specialist in London only recently and he was given the OK." She explained that Pertwee and his wife — he was married once before, to Upstairs, Downstairs star Jean Marsh — were on a fortnight's holiday in the U.S. when he died in the early hours.

Yesterday his closest friends in showbusiness, broadcaster David Jacobs and his Worzel Gummidge co-star Una Stubbs, said they were stunned at his sudden death.

Una, who played Aunt Sally in the ITV children's show, was in tears as she said: "I am absolutely shocked and saddened and my thoughts are now with Jon's wife and children.". Jacobs said: "It is too terrible for words. Jon was one of the funniest men Britain has ever produced, one of the great character actors. He was marginally eccentric, he lived life to the full.

"I loved him as a friend, he was my dear old mate, I have so many memories."

Ironically Pertwee's death coincides with publicity for the long-awaited television return of Dr Who — Paul McGann stars in a big budget Bank Holiday special next week.

Pertwee played the time-traveller from 1970 to 1974, replacing Patrick Troughton before handing over to Tom Baker.

Although Baker was the Time Lord for a longer period, Pertwee remains perhaps the most memorable of Doctors — and certainly the dandiest dresser.

He gave up the elegant ruffles and velvets to take on the very different role of turnip-headed scarecrow, Worzel.

But not before taking a final swipe at his old adversaries, the Daleks.

He said they were put together with a sink plunger, an egg whisk and 24 tennis balls and described them as "ridiculous".

"But for some reason people just love the Daleks," he added. "I'll get into trouble saying it but I just couldn't stand them." Last night Tom Baker, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, who all played Dr Who in his various guises, spoke of their admiration for Pertwee.

And EastEnders star Barbara Windsor, another Worzel Gum-midge co-star, said: "I only saw Jon on TV a couple of weeks ago and he looked great — so fit and healthy. He was very talented, a great character actor."

EVEN before putting on the Doctor's cloak, Pertwee was a household name thanks to his radio appearances on shows such as The Navy Lark.

He was' born in 1919 into a London theatrical family and was earmarked for showbusiness almost from birth.

His father Roland was a writer, his elder brother Michael became a screenwriter and playwright — and cousin Bill Pertwee became the warden in Dad's Army.

Pertwee entered RADA in the mid-1930s, but was asked to leave.

He later appeared in harmlessly saucy films like Carry On Cleo. His last TV appearance was just two weeks ago — presenting a Dalek to a young. Dr Who fan on Cilia Black's Surprise Surprise.

Young rebel with a talent for survival


NO ONE could possibly say that Jon Pertwee was bland. He knew exactly what he wanted and took great pains to let all his associates know what it was — to be an individual and an actor.

That is why he was expelled from Sherborne public school in Dorset. And because of his refusal to play the part of "a wind" whilst in RADA he was also expelled from that noble establishment.

As he found out some years later, in this respect he was in the very, best of company. Actor Charles Laughton, lower lip curling, once asked him: "I understand you were thrown out of RADA?"

Jon, ashamed, replied: "Yes, I'm afraid I was."

Laughton beamed: "Splendid fellow! So was I. You're bound to be a great success." And he was. But his first engagement in repertory — meaning at that time a different play every week didn't last long.

A coolness developed between him and the leading man, thanks to Jon shaking hands with him on the first night with a raw egg in his hand. Although the audience found it uproarious, the leading man wasn't best pleased. And so exit Jon.

More rep followed. He lived in digs at £3 10s a week, met the first love of his life — and had a memorable meeting on Brighton Pier with the exiled Abyssinian Emperor Haile Selassie.

Following this, Jon played opposite such subsequently famous names as the sexy. Tallulah Bankhead. Then came films in 1939 followed by the Second World War and Jon joined the Navy.

His days in the service culminated in a determined sense of survival and gave him a deep respect for human life which was reflected in his post-war career.

It was in the Navy that he was to meet his best and lifelong friend, broadcaster David Jacobs. They have been inseparable ever since.

After the war Jon resumed his acting career, appearing in such radio successes as Waterlogged Spa and Up The Pole. Then in 1958 a chance meeting with the head of BBC light entertainment led to the pilot show of The Navy Lark, which began in April 1959 and ran for 18 years.

The most enduring of all Jon's successes, The Navy Lark is still a best-seller and has an, enormous following in America. Jon played a bewildering number of parts, and with Leslie Phillips and a talented cast, the show, written by myself and Lawrie Wyman, became and still is a household name.

This in turn led to Jon becoming the most popular Dr Who, followed by his incredible portrayal of the scarecrow Worzel Gummidge in the popular TV. series.

There'll never be another Jon Pertwee.

George Evans was a close friend of Jon Pertwee. He is the author of The Navy Lark and inventor of the Worzel Gummidge language. He wrote countless scripts for Pertwee.

Caption: ADMIRED: He was born into a showbusiness family

Caption: WHO'S WHO: Pertwee, left, as Worzel with Una Stubbs and as the Dalek-hating Doctor

Caption: GRIEVING: Wife Inge

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  • APA 6th ed.: Quinn, Thomas (1996-05-21). Time runs out for a veteran Time Lord. Daily Express p. 13.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Quinn, Thomas. "Time runs out for a veteran Time Lord." Daily Express [add city] 1996-05-21, 13. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Quinn, Thomas. "Time runs out for a veteran Time Lord." Daily Express, edition, sec., 1996-05-21
  • Turabian: Quinn, Thomas. "Time runs out for a veteran Time Lord." Daily Express, 1996-05-21, section, 13 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Time runs out for a veteran Time Lord | url= | work=Daily Express | pages=13 | date=1996-05-21 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=22 April 2024 }}</ref>
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