Dad’s Army: John Laurie ‘not impressed’ with iconic BBC series ‘Load of rubbish’

John Laurie thought Dad's Army wasn't going to be a success

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During a recent Channel 5 documentary, Dad’s Army fans were given an insight to the ups and downs of creating the iconic BBC series and took a look at what happened behind the scenes. The Secret Lives of Dad’s Army saw how the magnificent seven were cast, the rivalries that occurred and how the series came to an end. Scotsman Private Fraser star John Laurie reportedly was not impressed when reading the script after being approached to star in the show and had very little confidence in its success.

Despite it being 50 years since the BBC show first appeared on viewers screens, Dad’s Army still remains one of Britain’s most loved sitcoms.

John Le Mesurier, who had been chosen to play Sergeant Wilson, was seen as natural BBC material for the role and was the first to be cast.

Writer Jimmy Perry’s pick for the role of Captain Mannering, Arthur Lowe, was tainted by his association with ITV’s Coronation Street.

However, the popular soap had allowed him to display his talent for playing a character with a variety of accents and was soon snapped up and cast on the show.

The two linchpins of the cast were soon in place, and the attention turned to the rest of the ensemble.

Experienced Shakespearean actor John Laurie was approached to play wild eyes Scotsman Private Fraser, however, when he first saw the script, he wasn’t impressed.

His reaction was apparently the inspiration for his characters most favourite catchphrase: “We’re doomed, doomed!”

Graham McCann, author of Dad’s Army: The Story of a Very British Comedy, said: “During the script meeting that the actors had, John Laurie was going round to the writers saying, ‘This is a load of rubbish.

“This is not going to get past the first series’ and that sense of being doomed, they just built that into Fraser, and as a result, it really built up the part.”

The role of Lance Corporal Jones went to Clive Dunn, with the addition of Ian Lavender as Private Pike, Arnold Ridley as Godfrey, and James Beck as Walker, the magnificent seven were complete.

The first series of Dads Army was shot over the course of just a few weeks between April and May 1968.

But the BBC still had last-minute reservations about it’s prospects, and when the pilot episode was shown to a test audience, the feedback was largely negative.

The reaction to the series was accurately captured in BBC drama ‘We’re Doomed! The Dad’s Army Story’.

People watching the screening made comments such as “I thought it was just daft”, “I didn’t laugh out loud once” and “I thought it was rubbish!”.

Richard Webber, author of The Complete A-Z of Dad’s Army, explained: “Some thought that a group of old men, or primarily old men, in a comedy series wouldn’t really attract a big audience.”

 The BBC top brass also had other worries, as Richard continued: “There was a little bit of hesitancy at the BBC as to whether the series would be a success.

“Some people felt that perhaps it was taking the mickey out of Britain’s finest hour.”

The BBC were worried that people would interpret it as the efforts of the home guard being laughed at or ridiculed.

But despite the concerns, on July 31, 1968, the first episode was broadcast, including the now instantly recognisable theme tune sung by popular wartime entertainers Bud Flanagan.

In the opening few episodes, the on-screen rapport within the cast was immediately evident, but while the cast was gelling on screen, behind the screens, there were rumours of personality clashes.

Dad’s Army: Secret Lives & Scandal is available to watch on My5. 

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