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Scott, Terry (1927-1994)


Main image of Scott, Terry (1927-1994)

Terry Scott's 40-year comedy career, ranging across radio, theatre, television and cinema, delivered a brand of humour (a sort of naughty, bumbling schoolboy in long trousers) that for too long held him hostage to his own success. His was an undeniably bright comedy of its kind, with amusing and often quite inventive farcical situations, especially when teamed with a supportive co-performer.

He developed his cheeky schoolboy act (in Billy Bunterish school uniform) while performing in summer shows and holiday camps during the 1940s and 1950s (revived in the 1970s for a string of 'Curly Wurly' chocolate bar commercials). From the holiday camp circuit he teamed with Bill Maynard, leading to the variety/comedy sketch series Great Scott - It's Maynard! (BBC, 1955-56).

When Whitehall farce writer John Chapman entered television comedy with the sitcom Hugh and I (BBC, 1962-67), it partnered Scott with the frail and fussy Hugh Lloyd in a series of Laurel & Hardy-inspired misadventures and established his bungling television persona. Carefully retaining the complementary formula, the BBC followed with Hugh and I Spy (1968) and the peculiar The Gnomes of Dulwich (1969), the latter portraying them as a couple of garden gnomes delivering a cynical commentary on the human world around them.

In 1969 Scott began his long collaboration with June Whitfield, performing domestic comedy sketches on various themes and subjects in Scott On... (BBC, 1969-74). A Comedy Playhouse (BBC, 1961-74) pilot episode confirmed the Scott-Whitfield comic chemistry and launched Happy Ever After (BBC, 1974-78), a quintessentially British style of television comedy about an affectionately bickering middle-class suburban couple.

In the late 1970s the series was retitled Terry and June (BBC, 1979-87) and became, for its time, the BBC's epitome of middle-class suburbia. It was inevitable, however, that with the characters and the general format remaining unchanged for some eight years, it deteriorated into a poor imitation of itself. While the series had its legion of devoted viewers, content to accept the snugly familiar week after week (not unlike the frozen format of Last of the Summer Wine, a BBC viewer placebo since 1973), Terry and June's standard theme (an absurd domestic misunderstanding being resolved happily in the end) became the subject of criticism and parody. From another viewpoint, of course, the series may be seen to poke gentle fun at the very same people who made up its faithful audience. When the long-running series was discontinued by the BBC in 1987, shortly after an ill-judged interview in which Scott revealed his real-life marital problems, he suffered a nervous collapse.

Though mainly a television performer, he also gave sterling performances as a pantomime dame and appeared in eight Carry On films between 1958 and 1972, as well as two Brian Rix cinema farces, The Night We Got the Bird (1960) and Nothing Barred (1961), directed by D'Arcy Conyers.

For all the eloquent contempt subsequently heaped upon their sitcom, Scott and Whitfield were named by the Variety Club of Great Britain in 1978 as joint BBC television personalities of the year.

Tise Vahimagi

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From the BFI's filmographic database

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Carry On At Your Convenience (1971)Carry On At Your Convenience (1971)

Comedy about union unrest at the W.C. Boggs toilet factory

Thumbnail image of Carry On Camping (1969)Carry On Camping (1969)

Comedy in which various deluded people go on a camping holiday

Thumbnail image of Carry On Sergeant (1958)Carry On Sergeant (1958)

The first Carry On comedy pokes fun at the army and National Service

Thumbnail image of Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968)Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968)

Highly entertaining Empire spoof from the usual team

Thumbnail image of I'm All Right Jack (1959)I'm All Right Jack (1959)

Peter Sellers is a militant trade unionist in this peerless workplace satire

Thumbnail image of Dangermouse (1981-92)Dangermouse (1981-92)

The world's greatest secret agent - a mouse with an eyepatch

Thumbnail image of Terry and June (1979-87)Terry and June (1979-87)

Middle-class suburban sitcom that incensed the alternative comedians

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Thumbnail image of Whitfield, June (1925-)Whitfield, June (1925-)