Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Nimmo, Derek (1930-1999)

Actor, Presenter

Main image of Nimmo, Derek (1930-1999)

On-screen comedy portrayals of well-meaning but bumbling clerics - such as Peter Sellers in Heavens Above! (d. John Boulting, 1963) or Leslie Phillips in ITV's Our Man at St. Mark's (1963-65) - always tended to slide toward the coy when not collapsing into the snigger. Light comedy stuff like this always stood or fell by what it could achieve in terms of charm and charm is an indefinable magic that either comes naturally or doesn't come at all. When Derek Nimmo achieved his greatest television success as the hapless chaplain Noote in the popular sitcom All Gas and Gaiters (BBC, 1967; 1969-71), his strangely endearing performance - all stumbling sincerity and round-about speech - fascinated the viewing nation and brought him instant fame. His particular brand of charm also typecast his television presence.

After years in repertory theatre during the 1950s, finally making his West End stage debut in 1957 (Jean Anouilh's farcical comedy The Waltz of the Toreadors), he embarked on a long and successful career in London theatre comedies. Early TV roles, such as in the BBC's The World of Wooster (1965-67) and Blandings Castle (1967), afforded him the opportunity to perfect his Wodehousian 'silly ass' persona. Radio unveiled an obverse element when he became a long-lasting contestant on the BBC show Just A Minute in 1967 (alongside such acerbic panellists as Clement Freud and Kenneth Williams), revealing a sharp sense of wit and fast thinking.

On television, however, he cornered the market in playing celibate twits, progressing from All Gas and Gaiters to Oh Brother! (BBC, 1968-70), as the accident-prone novice monk Brother Dominic, and Oh, Father! (BBC, 1973), now as an inept curate. Other sitcoms also called upon his amiable bumbler character (BBC's Sorry I'm Single, 1967, and My Honourable Mrs., 1975; ITV's Life Begins at Forty, 1978-80, and Third Time Lucky, 1982) before he returned to type as a twitchy, traditionalist dean of a cathedral at loggerheads with Robert Stephens' newly-appointed radical bishop in Hell's Bells (BBC, 1986).

Along the way, he also managed to find time to host his own chat shows, If It's Saturday, It Must Be Nimmo (BBC, 1970) and Just a Nimmo (BBC, 1974-78), though it was apparent that this form of spotlight produced a certain unease. He was awarded the Variety Club Show Business Personality of the Year, 1971, and the unanalysable Benedictine After Dinner Speaker of the Year, 1990.

Tise Vahimagi

More information


From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Hard Day's Night, A (1964)Hard Day's Night, A (1964)

The Beatles star in one of the defining films of the Swinging Sixties

Thumbnail image of Heavens Above! (1963)Heavens Above! (1963)

Comedy of clerical misunderstanding starring an on-form Peter Sellers

Related collections

Related people and organisations