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Terry-Thomas (1911-1990)


Main image of Terry-Thomas (1911-1990)

Terry-Thomas (born Thomas Terry Hoar-Stevens) was a jobbing cabaret artiste before wartime work in the "Stars in Battledress" troupe made his name, postwar he appeared in variety and on radio and TV as a stand-up comedian and impressionist, playing himself in early films such as Helter Skelter (d. Ralph Thomas, 1949) where he performed his famous "Technical hitch" sketch.

It was the Boultings who encouraged Terry-Thomas to develop a screen persona, as the blustering Major Hitchcock in Private's Progress (1956) and its sequel I'm All Right Jack (1959), whose exasperated harangue, "You're an absolute shower!" became a national catch-phrase. In Carlton-Browne of the FO (1958) he was the quintessential upper-class "silly-ass", a sad relic of a vanished world.

In Blue Murder at St Trinian's (d. Frank Launder, 1957), The Naked Truth (d. Mario Zampi, 1957), Too Many Crooks (d. Zampi, 1959) and School for Scoundrels (d. Robert Hamer, 1959) that famous gap-toothed smile, military moustache, dandified attire and rich, fruity voice with its "Oh, good show" banter, made him the definitive postwar cad or rotter, constantly scheming to avoid his creditors or ensnare some hapless heiress.

American audiences also enjoyed his caricatured upper-class Englishman and he appeared in several Hollywood films in the 1960s and co-productions such as Those Magnificent Men... (Ken Annakin, 1965).

Terry-Thomas's career was curtailed when he contracted Parkinson's disease in 1971, reducing him to occasional appearances, as in The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones (d. Cliff Owen, 1976).

Autobiographies: Filling the Gap (1959), Terry-Thomas Tells Tales with Terry Daum (1990). Biography: The Complete Terry-Thomas by Robert Ross (2002).

Andrew Spicer, Encyclopedia of British Cinema

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Carlton-Browne of the F.O. (1959)Carlton-Browne of the F.O. (1959)

Classic Foreign Office satire with Peter Sellers and Terry-Thomas

Thumbnail image of Green Man, The (1956)Green Man, The (1956)

Comedy thriller with Alastair Sim as an eccentric assassin

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 Lucky Jim (1957)Lucky Jim (1957)

Adaptation of the satirical Kingsley Amis novel about a disaffected lecturer

Thumbnail image of School for Scoundrels (1959)School for Scoundrels (1959)

Alastair Sim teaches Ian Carmichael how to be a cad like Terry-Thomas.

Thumbnail image of Music Box, The (1957)Music Box, The (1957)

ITV variety show from the Jack Hylton stable

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