Clive Dunn, the British actor best known for his role on the sitcom “Dad’s Army,” passed away in Portugal on Tuesday, due to complications from an operation, Reuters reported. He was 92 years old.
Dunn’s agent, Peter Charlesworth, said that the actor would be “sorely missed” and called his death “a real loss to the acting profession.”
Dunn starred on the popular 1960s TV show as Jack "Jonesy" Jones, a former town butcher who serves as a platoon lance-corporal in the British Army during World War II. His character was known as much for being brave to the point of recklessness as he was for being eccentric, long-winded and extremely excitable. His most well-known catchphrase on the show was, “Don’t panic, don’t panic.”
Dunn’s “Dad’s Army” co-stars described him as a natural comic actor and a pleasure to work with. “Of course he was so much younger than the part he played," said Frank Williams, who played the Vicar on the show in an interview with BBC Radio Four. "It's very difficult to think of him as an old man really. But he was a wonderful person to work with -- great sense of humor, always fun, a great joy really."
Ian Lavender, who starred on the show as Private Pike, said of Dunn, "You never left Clive's presence from working without a smile on your face, and so inevitably working with him always was fun -- not necessarily hysterical, but just fun.”
"A word Clive used a lot was 'nice' -- 'I've had a very nice time, thank you', 'Did you have a nice time?' And he wanted everybody else to have a nice time as well," Lavender added.
His military role on “Dad’s Army,” the role that inevitably earned him the most fame, wasn’t entirely the stuff of fiction, however. Dunn had acted in a few small film roles just before World War II broke out, but he put his career on hold to serve in the British army. He served in Greece in the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars, before being captured by the Germans and spending four years in prisoner-of-war and labor camps in Austria.
Later, he worked in music halls and theatres, and he even recorded a single written for him by Herbie Flowers, called “Grandad,” which became a Number One hit. He followed up the song with an album spun off from one of his “Dad’s Army” catchphrases, called “Permission to Sing, Sir!”
Despite his comic contribution to the show, Dunn attributed the wide success of “Dad’s Army” to the writing. "Well, it was very well written wasn't it?” he once said in an interview. “You know, the story of these little old chaps deciding what they'll do if Hitler makes it over to Britain. We love people in authority making idiots of themselves. I'm so lucky because people would come up to me and say thank you for all those years of enjoyment."
But Roy Hudd, who starred alongside Dunn in a pantomime of "Cinderella," credited his improvisational skills for much of the production’s comic success.
"We had a marvellous time, he was in a world of his own. Clive, he was so eccentric," said Hudd. "He never really, really knew his lines terribly well, but what he said not even knowing his lines was funny. Funnier probably than the lines we ever gave him to say."