Monday 18 December 2017

Remembering Jack Douglas

I was reminded on Twitter the other evening by that font of all knowledge Morris Bright that 18 December sees the anniversary of the death of the comedian and actor Jack Douglas. Jack passed away nine years ago today at the age of 81. 

By the time Jack joined the Carry On team in late 1971 for his cameo role as the expectant father in Carry On Matron, he was a veteran of comedy and the entertainment world. Although not having found a regular niche in films until the Carry Ons, Jack had spent many years on stage all over the country, principally in his long partnership with Joe Baker. Together they toured the world, playing in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. They also appeared regularly on the children's television series Crackerjack. 

Jack went on to form a similarly profitable double act with Des O'Connor, appearing with him on O'Connor's ATV series and even performing at the Royal Variety Show. It was through this association that Jack developed his famous character Alf Ippititimus, a persona which would dominate his Carry On career. It was a shame that Jack really got into his stride with the Carry Ons as they were beginning to falter. Following his cameo in Matron, Douglas was invited back to play in top and tail scenes in the pub with Sid and Joan in Carry On Abroad. Indeed Jack was the only actor to join the Carry Ons and appear in every single film from their debut. 

As with the likes of Jim Dale before him, Jack gradually grabbed larger parts (as it were) as he continued to impress Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas. Despite finding him a fascinating raconteur and obviously admiring his showbiz pedigree, I never really cared for his Alf character. I didn't enjoy his role as the hotel porter in Carry On Girls, although as you may know, Girls is hardly a favourite of mine to begin with. Better was his double act with Kenneth Williams in Carry On Dick in 1974. Douglas was also effective in Carry On Behind, working really well with newcomer Windsor Davies as a latter day version of the Sid James and Bernard Bresslaw character from Camping six years earlier.

Jack appeared in England, Emmannuelle (for once losing the twitching completely) and finally, in a very small cameo role in Columbus in 1992. He was also extremely prominent in the 1975 ATV Carry On Laughing series, appearing in the majority of the half hours and starring in several alongside the likes of Kenneth Connor and Peter Butterworth. He appeared in the last two Carry On Christmas specials in 1972 and 1973 and spent 18 months at the Victoria Palace theatre with Sid, Kenneth Connor, Barbara Windsor et al in the revue Carry On London. Despite coming late to the Carry Ons, he embraced the phenomenon wholeheartedly!

Later credits included roles in the film The Shillingbury Blowers and the series that followed, The Shillingbury Tales. Other later films included What's Up Nurse in 1977, Bloody Kids in 1980 and the Cannon and Ball vehicle The Boys in Blue in 1984 (which co-starred his Emmannuelle colleague Suzanne Danielle). A regular in pantomime throughout his career, although he pretty much stopped acting after Columbus in 1992, he continued to be a familiar face at reunions and get togethers and was always keen to talk to fans about his time making the Carry Ons. He took part in many interviews on television and radio and even recorded several DVD audio commentaries in the early 2000s. 

Jack Douglas was a trouper who had experienced almost every aspect of the business since he was a young boy. He worked tirelessly to keep the spirit and the memory of the Carry Ons alive and always spoke fondly of his late, great colleagues such as Sid James and Joan Sims. One of the most impressive stories I've heard about Jack was his involvement in arranging a charity gala for Terry-Thomas in the late 1980s. Very sadly Terry had been suffering from Parkinson's Disease and with his health deteriorating, this comedy great was found to be living in poverty. Jack together with many other wonderful volunteers put together an all star gala which took place at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in April 1989. It raised a lot of money for charity and enabled Terry's final days to be spent in comfort, receiving the medical care he so desperately needed. I think that's the measure of the man Jack Douglas was. 

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