James "Jimmy" Perry, OBE (20 September 1923 – 23 October 2016)
24 October 2016
It is with sadness that we hear of the death of Dad's Army creator and our former Theatre Manager/Artistic Director James 'Jimmy' Perry.
It is with sadness that we learn of the passing of James “Jimmy” Perry, OBE, who died on 23 October 2016 at the age of 93.
Though Jimmy was best known to the general public for his work as a TV comedy scriptwriter, most famously as the creator of legendary comedy Dad’s Army, he and his wife Gilda also had a memorable tenure as joint actor-managers of The Palace Theatre Watford from 1956 to 1965.
Jimmy made his acting debut at Watford Palace in “One Wild Oat” in March 1951 and his first play as co-manager was “See How They Run” in September 1956. The Perrys’ tenure was marked by much financial anxiety, as repertory theatre struggled to compete with the growing popularity of television in the 1960s. Yet it was also marked by Jimmy and Gilda’s optimism and passion for the theatre, as demonstrated by their regular practice of standing in the foyer to greet the audience for each performance. Under the Perrys, the theatre’s repertoire catered to its audience’s appetite for the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie and her ilk. They also presided over significant renovations of the theatre in 1958.
Sadly the theatre’s finances, despite periods of improvement, had declined enough in 1964 that the Council was spurred to debate the theatre’s future. However, passionate arguments defending the theatre and its importance to Watford persuaded the Council to take over the running of the theatre. According to their final letter to patrons, the Perrys’ time at the helm saw the theatre put on “over three hundred plays, eight pantomimes, eight musical productions and various odd shows.”
After an emotional farewell, Jimmy found success in his new career, having his big break as a screenwriter with the debut of Dad’s Army in 1968.