Jimmy Edwards, DFC (23 March 1920 – 7 July 1988) was an English comedic script writer and comedy actor on both radio and television, best known as Pa Glum in Take It From Here and as the headmaster "Professor" James Edwards in Whack-O!
Edwards was born James Keith O'Neill Edwards in Barnes,
the son of a professor of mathematics. He was educated at London St
Paul's Cathedral School, at King's College
School in Wimbledon, London,
and later at St John's College, . Cambridge
He served in the Royal Air Force during World War II, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross. His Dakota was shot down at
1944, resulting in his sustaining facial injuries requiring plastic surgery—he
disguised the traces with the huge handlebar moustache that later became his
trademark. He was a member of the Guinea Pig Club. Arnhem
Edwards was a feature of
theatre in the immediate post-war years, debuting at 's Windmill Theatre in 1946 and on BBC
radio the same year. He later did a season with Tony Hancock, having previously
performed in the Cambridge Footlights review. He gained wider exposure as a
radio performer in Take It From Here, co-starring Dick Bentley, which first
paired his writer Frank Muir with Bentley's personal script writer Denis
Norden. Also on radio he appeared in Jim The Great and My Wildest Dream. London
Graduating to television, he appeared in Whack-O, also written by Muir and Norden, and the radio panel game Does the Team Think?, a series which Edwards also created. In
1960 a film version of
Whack-O called Bottoms Up was made, written by Muir and Norden. On TV he also
appeared in The Seven Faces of Jim, Six More Faces of Jim, and More Faces of
Jim, in guest slots in Make Room for Daddy and Sykes, in Bold As Brass, I
Object, John Jorrocks Esq, The Auction Game, Jokers Wild, Sir Yellow, Doctor in
the House, Charley's Aunt and Oh! Sir James! (which he also wrote).
He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1958 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC's Piccadilly 1 Studio.
Edwards also starred in The Fossett Saga in 1969 as James Fossett, an ambitious Victorian writer of penny dreadfuls, with Sam Kydd playing Herbert Quince, his unpaid manservant, and June Whitfield playing music-hall singer Millie Goswick. This was shown on Fridays at 8:30 pm on LWT; David Freeman was the creator.
In December 1958, Jimmy Edwards played the King in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella at the London Coliseum with Kenneth Williams, Tommy Steele,
Yana and Betty
Marsden. In April 1966, Edwards performed at the last night of 's Tivoli Theatre. His final words
closed a long tradition of Australian music hall. "I don't relish the
distinction of being the man who closed the Tiv. Music hall's dead in Melbourne . Now
this one's dead, there's nowhere to go. I'll either become a character comedian
or a pauper." Britain
Edwards frequently worked with fellow comedian Eric Sykes, acting in the short films written by Sykes: The Plank (1967), which also starred Tommy Cooper; alongside Arthur Lowe and Ronnie Barker in the remake of The Plank during 1979; and in Rhubarb (1969), which again featured Sykes. The films were unusual in that although they were not silent, there was no dialogue other than various grunts and sound effects.
Edwards and Sykes also toured
with their theatrical farce Big Bad Mouse which, while keeping more or less to
a script, gave them rein to ad lib, involve the audience, and generally break
the "fourth wall". Sykes was replaced by Roy Castle in later runs of
the show both in its three-year residency at the Shaftesbury Theatre in UK London's West End and also extensive tours of the Middle
East and .
Edwards also starred in the stage revival of Maid of the Mountains. Australia
Jimmy Edwards published his autobiography, Six of the Best, in 1984, as a follow-up to Take it From Me. Among his interests were brass bands, being a vice-president of the City of
was an accomplished player of both the tuba and euphonium. Edwards was one of
the principal founders, and a lifelong member, of the Handlebar Club, in which
all the members had such moustaches. He was also a keen amateur polo player and
played at Ham Polo Club. Oxford Silver Band
Edwards was a lifelong Conservative and in the 1964 general election stood as a candidate in Paddington North, without success. He was a devotee of fox hunting at Ringmer, near Lewes. He also served as Rector of Aberdeen University for three years during the 1950s, a university that has a history of appointing celebrities and actors as their honorary rector.
He was married to Valerie Seymour for eleven years. During the 1970s, however, he was publicly outed as a lifelong homosexual, much to his annoyance. After the ending of his marriage, there were press reports of his engagement to Joan Turner, the actress, singer and comedienne, but these came to nothing and were suspected to be a publicity stunt by both of them. His home was in Fletching, East Sussex, and he died in London in 1988 at the age of 68 from pneumonia.