Jon Pertwee was born on the 7th July 1919 into a strong theatrical background. His father, Roland Pertwee, was a writer who contributed to many television shows including the soap opera The Grove Family, along with his brother Michael who became a playwright and his cousin Bill is now a well known actor best remembered for his role of Hodges in Dad's Army .
Jon began his career by attending RADA, but was always proud of the fact that he never stayed. In one of his many stories that Pertwee would later re-tell the principal Kenneth Barnes told him he "had no talent whatsoever and should chose another career".
Once Jon had left RADA he spent years working in the repertory companies up and down the country. Then when the second world war came about Jon had to put the acting on hold and signed up with the Navy. It was a decision that nearly cost him his life since whilst spending his time on board the HMS Hood the ship was bombed and sunk killing most of it's crew.
Whilst Jon was working for the Admiralty he was sent down to check up on some Radio shows that were being recorded to make sure they were suitable for broadcasting. This was the beginning of a long friendship with Eric Barker. Jon appeared in Waterlogged Spa which subsequently led onto The Navy Lark . He played many parts in both shows and this led him to be known as 'the man of a thousand voices' .
As well as his work on Radio, Jon worked extensively in the West End in shows such as A Funny Thing Happened on The Way To The Forum and There's A Girl In My Soup.
It was in the sixties that Jon was asked by Peter Rogers to join the Carry On team. Jon liked to do his own thing and wasn't terribly keen in being categorized so only agreed to small cameos where he was unrecognisable. In an interview just before his death Jon recalled asking Peter Rogers why he had been asked to join the team. The answer came back that they were looking for someone who could control Kenneth Williams !
When you look at the roles Jon played in the Carry On's.. they were all very well conceived with great character acting ranging from the deaf sheriff in Cowboy to the mad scientist in Screaming.
Jon became most recognisable as The Doctor in the BBC TV series Doctor Who, a role he played for five years. When leaving the show he moved straight into another hit on the opposite channel chairing the quiz show Whodunit. Again straight after this he began working on the idea of a childrens television show which of course became the instant success known as Worzel Gummidge. Despite problems with the production side of the show he played the lovable scarecrow on and off for ten years. He always confessed that the part was his favourite and was planning to do a cartoon version shortly before his death.
Jon always regretted that he did not become more of a character actor, and in many ways felt typecast as the 'funny man'. When the chance to appear in Virtual Murder came a long (a BBC fantasy series- similar in content to the Avengers) he jumped at the chance, and proved that he could indeed play the character roles as well as comedy !
One of Jon's ambitions was to appear in cameo roles in some of the big name movies. He just missed out with Eric Idles Baron M. but was thrilled to hear from his agent that he was wanted for a cameo in the latest Gerard Depardieu film. When he eagerly tore open the envelope containing the script the next morning he was shocked to read the title "Carry On Columbus" . It was a film he was eager to forget !
Jon's final work returned him to the world of Doctor Who. The radio series in which he resumed the role of The Doctor was aired some four months before his death on May 20th 1996. It was a great to shock to everyone. Jon had been on holiday in America, resting before resuming a tour of his one-man show in Britain. His death deprived the world of a great story teller with a wicked sense of humour, but more importantly a great professional.