Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

What the Doctor ordered

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Your Place in the Cosmos Volume II, 1988

2002-10-17 Stage.jpg


There is only one word to describe Jon Pertwee's career as an actor — amazing. When one thinks of Pertwee, the mind turns automatically to Dr Who. There were seven of them in all in the series which ran from 1963 to 1989. The rather dour William Hartnell was the first, followed by the quirky Patrick Troughton. Pertwee, the best of the lot, followed in 1970, bringing an 'action man' dimension to the intrepid Time Lord. He had four more successors before the series ended.

But Dr Who lives on. There are still conventions popping up all over the world. Pertwee even made history at one held in Minnesota by becoming the first actor in the world to be immortalised in heaven. A society called Friends of the Doctor bought the rights in 1986 to redesignate a star in the constellation Orion as Jon Pertwee. It is registered in the copyright office of the Library of Congress in America.

Not satisfied with being the stellar Dr Who, a few years later Pertwee became another juvenile icon. The space traveller dropped to earth and became a scarecrow — Worzel Gummidge.

Worzel spoke with a soft, stuttering Somerset dialect. He was so busy thinking, he had to have two heads, donning them separately where appropriate — particularly where his pretty enamorata Aunt Sally was concerned.

Being a consummate character actor, Pertwee revelled even in these only fairly satisfactory parts, giving each of them a special individual fillip. He elevated them to a TV art form. He was the busiest actor in the business and never stopped working. He played substantial roles in more than 50 full-scale films — including three Carry Ons — and enjoyed himself in any number of cameo roles.

He starred in cabaret, circuses, stage musicals, commercials, voiceovers, finally achieving recognition in a Royal Variety show — though the next week he could be appearing at a Butlins holiday camp playing his guitar and filling in with an assortment of mild jokes he obviously enjoyed telling as much as his audience enjoyed listening to.

It was perhaps inevitable that Pertwee would become a member of the profession. His father Roland, a former actor, became a governor of RADA and had for a time been chief scenario writer for Warner Brothers studios in Hollywood. His elder brother Michael was a noted playwright.

The Pertwees were originally French Huguenots, the Perthuis de Laellevault, with 'quite a pedigree. According to a recent biographer Bernard Bale, even claiming descent from eighth century Emperor Charlemagne. They were forced to flee to England for their lives in the 1600s after being mercilessly persecuted on the continent for their faith.

Jon's first marriage to actress Jean Marsh, though idyllic in the beginning, turned into a pretty grim affair. After two years she ran away and left him. Years later, still legally married to Marsh, he fell in love with Ingeborg, a lovely blonde German girl with a Swedish name. They set up house for a while until he located his runaway wife and a swift divorce was arranged.

They married and spent the next 38 years together with their growing family. Ingeborg was with him holidaying in Connecticut in 1996 when he died of a heart attack in his sleep. He was 77.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Blumenfeld, Simon (2002-10-17). What the Doctor ordered. The Stage p. 10.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Blumenfeld, Simon. "What the Doctor ordered." The Stage [add city] 2002-10-17, 10. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Blumenfeld, Simon. "What the Doctor ordered." The Stage, edition, sec., 2002-10-17
  • Turabian: Blumenfeld, Simon. "What the Doctor ordered." The Stage, 2002-10-17, section, 10 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=What the Doctor ordered | url= | work=The Stage | pages=10 | date=2002-10-17 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 March 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=What the Doctor ordered | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=23 March 2023}}</ref>