Obituary: Jeremy Lloyd OBE, actor and writer

Jeremy Lloyd, who has died aged 84. Picture: Getty
Jeremy Lloyd, who has died aged 84. Picture: Getty
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Born. 22 July, 1930, in Essex. Died: 23 December, 2014, in London, aged 84.

Having established himself as a fine comedian – notably in the acclaimed Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in in Los Angeles – Jeremy Lloyd was acknowledged in the 1970s as being one of Britain’s foremost writers of sitcoms. Many were co-written with David Croft and two have passed into television history: Are You Being Served? (1972-85) was set in an oddball department store with some zany assistants, and ’Allo ’Allo! (1982-92) took place in France during the Second World War with strange goings-on between the bungling German occupiers and the equally erratic French Underground. Both captured the stereotypical view that the British have of foreigners and, arguably, told the viewer more about the British than the foreigner.

In his autobiography Croft warmly praised Lloyd for his contribution to the partnership: “Jeremy is a most remarkable writing partner: wonderful comedy simply pours out of him. We couldn’t get it written down fast enough and we did half the casting together as we wrote.”

John Jeremy Lloyd was the son of an army colonel and a mother who had danced with Fred Astaire but spent much of his youth in Manchester where he was evacuated.

Because of ill-health he lodged in a home for retired soldiers and Lloyd adopted the upper-crust accent that was to be useful throughout his acting career.

On leaving school he took a variety of jobs – one of which was serving in the gentleman’s clothing department of Simpson’s in London’s Piccadilly. It was to prove a most useful (and profitable) experience.

Lloyd had a hankering for writing from his youth and boldly rang the film director Earl St John at home. He was so surprised at such effrontery that he invited Lloyd for tea.

They discussed a film script that Lloyd had written. St John agreed to make the movie and cast the pop star Adam Faith along with Sid James and Spike Milligan in What a Whopper! Lloyd’s name was made and with his long blond hair, suave manner and handsome appearance he was one of the leading dandies of Swinging London.

His professional life also went into overdrive and he contributed to scripts for Morecambe and Wise, Bruce Forsyth, Dickie Henderson and Harry Secombe.

As an actor – too often cast as the goofy toff – he appeared in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (1965), The Wrong Box (1966) with John Mills, Michael Caine and Peter Cook and a cameo appearance in the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night. In 1974 he was a British Army officer in Murder on the Orient Express with a star cast.

Such was his fame as a comedian that he joined the cast of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in – the cult show in the US in the late 1960s which had Goldie Hawn with a host of Hollywood stars (including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis) dropping by.

Lloyd returned to London and was cast in a BBC sitcom, It’s Awfully Bad For Your Eyes, with Joanna Lumley. The show was not going well but the two soon married. Lumley later commented: “He was witty, tall and charming. We should have just had a raging affair.” Croft was brought in to rethink the show and worked on it with Lloyd. “We thought we could do something about the first three or four minutes – just to make the audience laugh … and the viewers.”

It was while they were working on that script that Lloyd mentioned he had written an outline for Are You Being Served? based on his experience at Simpson’s.

It was shown in 1972 and was an instant hit. It ran for more than 13 years, became a stage show and had audiences of over 22 million.

Lloyd wrote a spin-off for Molly Sugden called Come Back Mrs Noa. It, and a later sitcom Oh Happy Band!, were rare flops. In 1982 Lloyd and Croft hit the jackpot with ’Allo ’Allo! – a programme that captured life in occupied France and dealt with a serious subject in a thoroughly frivolous manner.

It ran for ten years and catch phrases abounded, such as the gendarme’s repeating of “Good moaning” and the wonderful “Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once.”

Lloyd was also behind the hit record of Captain Be in 1980.

He escorted many of the beauties of the era such as Diana Rigg and Charlotte Rampling. He was thrice married and is survived by his last wife Lizzy Moberley, whom he married in October.

ALASDAIR STEVEN