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Worzel Gummidge (1979-81)

Courtesy of Endemol Worldwide Distribution Ltd

Main image of Worzel Gummidge (1979-81)
Southern TV for ITV, 25/2/1979-12/12/1981
31 x 30 min in 4 seasons, plus 1 Christmas Special
WritersKeith Waterhouse
 Willis Hall
CreatorBarbara Euphan Todd
DirectorsJames Hill
 David Pick
ProducerJames Hill

Cast: Jon Pertwee (Worzel Gummidge), Charlotte Coleman (Sue Peters), Jeremy Austin (John Peters), Una Stubbs (Aunt Sally), Geoffrey Bayldon (Crowman), Mike Berry (Mr Peters), Megs Jenkins (Mrs Braithwaite), Norman Bird (Mr Braithwaite), Michael Ripper (Mr Shepherd), Norman Mitchell (PC Parsons)

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The adventures of Worzel Gummidge - a tatty old scarecrow come to life.

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"He says and does the things that all of us would like to do, but are too shy, self-conscious and respectful to. Being rude to those in authority, being selfish... there is something of Worzel in all of us." So said Jon Pertwee of the character he most loved to play, scarecrow Worzel Gummidge.

The character first appeared in the novels of Barbara Euphan Todd, became a radio star in the 1940s and briefly came to television for the serial Worzel Gummidge Turns Detective (BBC, 1953). After the death of Todd in 1976, screenwriters Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall bought the rights, hoping to make a movie version and attracting Pertwee to the idea of the lead. With British moviemaking in the doldrums, the team took the concept to television, where it quickly became a hit.

The series invented Worzel's Zummerset dialect Worzelese and his interchangeable character heads, also replacing Worzel's written love interest Earthy Mangold with Aunt Sally (Una Stubbs), a snobbish coconut-shy with delusions (she had been Worzel's real aunt in the books). The fated relationship between the two formed the heart of the series - Worzel always kind and considerate and she thoughtlessly spurning his advances unless there was a cup o' tea an' a slice o' cake in it for her.

The series was broadly a comedy of cake fights and falls into rivers with guest stars ranging from Barbara Windsor to Billy Connolly, but it - and Worzel himself - always possessed a humanist nobility. It was shot entirely on film and possessed an occasionally macabre visual sense.

Ending after four successful series, Worzel returned six years later in a New Zealand co-production, Worzel Gummidge Down Under (Channel 4, 1987-89) but failed to catch the imagination as before, airing in a Sunday morning slot inaccessible to family audiences.

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
1. Two Aunt Sallys (2:18)
2. Blow hot and blow cold (4:10)
3. When Sally met Sally (3:44)
Complete episode: 'Will The Real Aunt Sally?' (25:50)
Coleman, Charlotte (1968-2001)
Cribbins, Bernard (1928-)
Pertwee, Jon (1919-1996)
Sims, Joan (1930-2001)
Stubbs, Una (1937-)
Children's Entertainment and Comedy
Children's TV in the 1970s