Thursday, 8 November 2012

RIP Clive Dunn

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Once again I must draw a veil of sadness over proceedings and mourn the loss of another beloved actor. This time it is the turn of Clive Dunn, most famous for playing Corporal Jones in Dad's Army, who passed away this week at the age of 92.

Normally when I write these obituaries, I take the time to paint a portrait of a person's career, recommending lesser-known works which can be watched as a form of tribute. But on this occasion this isn't possible, since my knowledge of Dunn's wider career (what there is of it) is limited. In truth, the only other performance of his that I have seen is his very brief appearance in The Magic Christian, which I discussed on The Movie Hour podcast on Lionheart Radio last September (listen here).
Instead, my sadness for Dunn's death comes from nostalgia, something that I generally try to avoid or mitigate in my reviews. When I was growing up Dad's Army, together with Scrapheap Challenge, were a fixture of Sunday evening TV. While I still enjoy the series together, and have taken the time to explore Arthur Lowe's career a little further, when I was a child it was Dunn's character who made me laugh the most. I loved his energy, his optimism and and how he would always come up with suggestions, even though most of them were completely unhelpful.
Back in July I wrote an article for WhatCulture! about how comedy has become generally more mean-spirited, and that we seem to spend more time laughing at people than laughing with them. You can read the article in full here, but in short, Dunn's passing serves as a small reminder of past comedy traditions. The reason Clive Dunn became immortalised, in his own small way, was that he created a character which tapped into the spirit at the heart of classic British comedy. Corporal Jones is another in a long line of lovably incompetent underdogs, characters who are flawed and often inept but who always inspire us to root for them. Sure, he was funny, but he was funny because we cared so much about him.
If you want to honour Dunn's passing, a Dad's Army marathon of some description will do very nicely. But also take the time to remember why his character became so loved in the landscape of British comedy. Above all else, just remember: don't panic. RIP.

Daniel

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