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Bachelor Flat

Terry-Thomas

Born in Finchley in 1911, Thomas Terry Hoar-Stevens was destined to be a performer, and adopted at an early age the dress, style, persona and name that would bring him decades of stage, television and film fame. Dressing well and flamboyantly, growing a moustache to sit above the gap in his front teeth, using an upper class drawl, and putting his cigarette in a nine inch long holder, he was re-born as Terry-Thomas. On film, he was usually a mixture of dandy, bounder, cad, officer, and upper class silly ass. (For those old enough to have watched "Wacky Races", he was the model for Dick Dastardly).

He was performing and appearing as an extra in films before the war, but it was on his return from entertaining while in the army that his career really took off. He supported the legendary Sid Field in his long running (from 1947) West End revue, "Piccadilly Hayride", appearing in a number of sketches including his soon-to-be-trademark "Technical Hitch".

Road to Utopia
Make Mine Mink
Spanish Fly
Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines
From there it was a short step to the fledgling television industry, where he became the BBC's first headline comedian. Running from 1949, "How Do You View?" was the first real television comedy series, a seminal show in many ways. But made in the days before programmes were recorded, so no longer with us.

Then it was back to films, but this time as a fully fledged star rather than a struggling extra. First was his appearance in 1955's "Private's Progress" as Major Hitchcock - instantly recognisable as the character of which he was to play subtle variants for the next twenty years. This was followed by an unbroken run of classic British comedies, many made by the Boulting Brothers. It's hard to pick a favourite, but how about "School for Scoundrels", with T-T on top bounder form?

And then it was off to Hollywood, and status of stereotypical Englishman in many US and later international comedies. In the sixties, neither producers nor audiences could get enough of him. He was everywhere, including in the all-star comedy blockbusters such as "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" and "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines". His Sir Percy Ware-Armitage in the latter is perhaps the archetypal T-T performance, aided and abetted by his man-servant, Eric Sykes (sniggering Muttley-style).

The last great T-T bounder performance was in the 1976 sex comedy, "Spanish Fly", teaming him with Leslie Phillips and letting him call his valet an "absolute shower" and call out the coastguard from his yacht on account of a shortage of tonic water. By then he was already suffering from the Parkinson's Disease which would bring an early end to his film career, and ultimately his life in 1990. But that didn't stop him making one lasst great appearance as Dr Mortimer in the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore version of "The Hound of the Baskervilles".

Throughout his career he played variations on a theme, but the variations were good enough that he never became bored or boring. Whether in the leading role, a meaty supporting role, or a quick cameo, any T-T appearance can't help but make you smile, want to put on a cravate or bow tie and hiss "You rotter".