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Major David John Croft OBE (born David John Andrew Sharland; 7 September 1922 – 27 September 2011)

He was an English writer, producer and director. David Croft is particularly noted for producing and co-writing a string of popular BBC sitcoms with Jimmy Perry and Jeremy Lloyd. He was the creator of the Allo Allo series along with Lloyd.

Early life Edit

Croft was born into a showbiz family: his father, Reginald Sharland (1886–1944), had a successful career as a radio actor in Hollywood, and his mother, Annie Croft (1896–1995), was a famous stage actress. His first public appearance was at the age of seven, when he was seen in a commercial which aired in cinemas.[1] After that, his acting career in films "began and ended"[2] with his uncredited appearance as Perkins in the film Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939).

Education Edit

Croft was educated at two independent schools: at Durlston Court Preparatory School in Swanage, followed by Rugby School in Warwickshire. At Durlston Court, he overlapped with the school's only other distinguished old boy, Tony Hancock (b. 1924).[3] The boys attended Sunday services at St. Aldhelm's Church, and Croft later gave that name to the church in Dad's Army. He enlisted in the Royal Artillery in 1942. He served during the Second World War in North Africa, India and Singapore. After contracting rheumatic fever in North Africa, was sent home to convalesce and then underwent officer training at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.

Life and career Edit

Croft was posted to India, arriving as the war in Europe ended, and was assigned to the Essex Regiment, rising to the rank of Major. When his military service ended he began working in the entertainment industry, as an actor, singer and writer.[4] Croft met Freddie Carpenter, who produced many pantomimes for Howard & Wyndham across the UK, resulting in Croft writing scripts such as AladdinCinderella and Babes in the Wood. Through his lifelong friend, composer/conductor Cyril Ornadel, Croft met the producer Fiona Bentley, who had obtained rights to adapt and musicalise a number of Beatrix Potter stories.[5] Croft wrote the scripts and lyrics for a series released on His Master's Voice Junior Record Club, narrated by Vivien Leigh and starring several singer-actors and actresses including Barbara Brown, Graham Stark and Cicely Courtneidge.[6]David Croft himself played a number of roles, including Timmy Willie in Johnny Town-Mouse,[7] Kep in Jemima Puddle-Duck,[8] and Old Brown in Squirrel Nutkin.[9]

Croft relocated to the Northeast of England to work at Tyne Tees Television, where he produced many editions of the variety show The One O'Clock Show. For Tyne Tees Croft also directed and produced the admags Ned's Shed and Mary Goes to Market, as well as producing his first sitcom, Under New Management, set in a derelict pub in the North of England.[10]

After leaving Tyne Tees Television to work at the BBC in the mid-1960s, he produced a number of the Corporation's popular sitcoms such as Beggar My NeighbourFurther Up Pompeii! and Hugh and I. It was while producing Hugh and I that he was introduced to actor Jimmy Perry, who handed him an unsolicited script for a pilot called The Fighting Tigers about the British Home Guard during the Second World War. Croft liked the idea. The two men co-wrote nine series of the show, which was retitled Dad's Army, as well as a feature film and a stage show based on it.[11]

While Dad's Army was still running, Croft began to co-write Are You Being Served? with Jeremy Lloyd. He was to continue both writing partnerships for the rest of his career in several hit series including It Ain't Half Hot MumHi-de-Hi! (with Perry) and 'Allo 'Allo! (with Lloyd). He then started up You Rang, M'Lord?, a show that spoke of policies and unfairness in 1927. His last full series Oh, Doctor Beeching!, broadcast from 1995 to 1997, was co-written with Richard Spendlove. He created a television pilot in 2007, entitled Here Comes The Queen, with Jeremy Lloyd. This starred Wendy Richard and Les Dennis, but the show did not develop further.[12] Of these, It Ain't Half Hot Mum "was David’s and my favourite", Jimmy Perry told journalist Neil Clark in 2013.[13]

As a producer, Croft's regular practice was to signal the end of an episode with the caption "You Have Been Watching ...", followed by vignettes of the main cast.

Personal life Edit

Croft married theatrical agent Ann Callender on 2 June 1952, and they had seven children and sixteen grandchildren.[14][15] He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1995 when he was surprised by Michael Aspel outside BBC Television Centre.

David Croft died in his sleep on 27 September 2011, at his home in Portugal aged 89.[16] His widow Ann died on 11 June 2016.

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