Jack Douglas

Born April 26, 1927;
Died December 18, 2008.

Jack Douglas, who was one of Britain's greatest comedy legends, has died aged 81. He appeared in eight Carry On movies and died at St Mary's Hospital, Newport, on the Isle of Wight, yesterday after a short illness. Born Jack Roberton, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, he was very much part of a traditional entertainment family which had been in showbusiness for more than 200 years. It was no real surprise when he ran away from home at the age of 11 to work as a lime boy at Feldman's Theatre, Blackpool. His father tracked him down and told the manager to give him all the dirty jobs to put him off, but in Douglas's estimation there were no such jobs and he never went back to school.

His father gave him an amazing 15th birthday present - the chance to direct a pantomime of his own at the Sunderland Empire. It was easy for the youngster as he had already worked alongside his father.

With no real plans to become a performer, Douglas was forced on to the stage in Kingston owing to the illness of one of the other performers. As the director, he knew the script. He had to team up with Joe Baker, one of the rising stars, and was so successful they formed a double act, with Douglas playing the straight man. They went on to appear on TV's Crackerjack, toured with singer Howard Keel and joined Cliff Richard for a Palladium pantomime.

Douglas's famous Alf Ippititimus character was born at Butlin's in Clacton. He was on stage and expected Joe Baker to come on dressed as a little boy. Baker was locked out and couldn't get into the theatre, so Douglas improvised by imitating a band leader he knew who had a twitch. From that moment, his life changed.

After 12 years together, Joe Baker left to seek fame in America and Douglas became a straight man for Bruce Forsyth, Arthur Haynes and Arthur Askey. He then gave up the business to run his own Blackpool restaurant but was tempted back by Des O'Connor and they teamed up for 12 years.

Their highlights included a show-stopping performance in the 1966 Royal Variety Show and an appearance on America's famous Ed Sullivan TV show. As a solo star, Douglas went on to appear in such TV series as The Shillingbury Tales, Sez Les and The Goodies. In 1985, he was the subject of This Is Your Life.

He first appeared in Carry On Matron for just 12 bottles of champagne. He was paid for the other seven movies and went on to enjoy world fame on the strength of Alf Ippititimus.

Douglas moved to Shanklin on the Isle of Wight following a summer season at Sandown Pavilion in 1996. In recent years, he had become renowned for his work with a number of charities. He leaves his partner, Vivienne Russell, son Craig, daughter Deborah and step-daughter Sarah.

 

 

This page was last updated on 29 June 2015

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