Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Don’t panic! They’re turning Dad’s Army into a film. Don’t panic!

One of the very greatest of all sit-coms may be headed for the big screen (again). Do you think that’s wise, sir?

Mon, Apr 28, 2014, 23:56


Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time that Dad’s Army became a film. Back in 1971, at the apex of the show’s success, a rather strange big-screen production was released. As was often the case, the very fact that the piece was shot on film made it look rather odd to contemporaneous eyes (nowadays, with big HD TVs and high production values, the difference would be much less significant). This was the beginning of an almighty trough for the British film industry — the lowest point in its history — and adaptions of TV series were just about the only things that made money. Dad’s Army and Porridge generated perfectly watchable films. Are You Being Served?, On the Buses and (more surprisingly) Steptoe and Son did not. All made staggering amounts of money. Indeed, the appalling On the Buses became the second-highest grossing film of 1971.

Actual signed sketch of John Le Mesurier from my actual house.

Anyway, none of this has much to do with the terrifying news that a new Dad’s Army film is in the works. (Incidentally, I love all the comments beneath the Daily Telegraph report getting annoyed about PC-gone-mad, ethnically sensitive casting before the project has even been officially announced). The word on the street is that Toby Jones will play Captain Mainwaring and Bill Nighy will play Sergeant Wilson. If it happens, let’s hope they find cameos for the few surviving cast members: Ian Lavender, Frank Williams, Pamela Cundell. I bow to nobody in my devotion to this masterpiece (see above), so I am understandably wary of any such suggestion. The problem seems to me that, more than any other show I can name, Dad’s Army was created by its large ensemble cast. The writing by David Perry and Jimmy Croft was superb. But its USP was its corralling of an unparalleled series of character actors. We shall never see the likes of John Le Mesurier, Arthur Lowe, Arnold Ridley and John Laurie again. It was their interplay that made the series. Of course, there are a great many fine character actors teaming about the industry today. But, unless they attempt impersonations, they will end up delivering something that — even if enjoyable — will have an entirely different flavour.

Never mind. It’ll probably never happen. Such things rarely do.