John Laurie

For the Canadian mountain, see Mount John Laurie. For the soldier and political figure in Nova Scotia and England, see John Wimburn Laurie.
John Laurie

John Laurie as Private Frazer in Dad's Army
Born John Paton Laurie
(1897-03-25)25 March 1897
Dumfries, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
Died 23 June 1980(1980-06-23) (aged 83)
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, England, United Kingdom[1]
Cause of death Emphysema
Resting place Ashes scattered at sea
Occupation Actor
Years active 1921–1979
Spouse(s) Florence Saunders (1924–1926) (her death)
Oonah Todd-Naylor (1928–1980)
(his death)
Children 1

John Paton Laurie (25 March 1897 23 June 1980) was a Scottish actor. Throughout a long career, Laurie performed a wide range of theatre and film work. He is perhaps best remembered to modern audiences for his role as Private Frazer in the sitcom Dad's Army (1968–1977). Laurie appeared in scores of feature films with directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Powell, and Laurence Olivier. He was also a stage actor (particularly in Shakespearean roles) and speaker of verse, especially of Robert Burns.[2]

Early life

John Paton Laurie was born in Dumfries, Dumfriesshire[3] to William Laurie (1856–1903), a clerk in a tweed mill and later a hatter and hosier, and Jessie Ann Laurie (née Brown; 1858–1935). Laurie attended Dumfries Academy, then enrolled at a grammar school before abandoning a career in architecture to serve in the First World War as a member of the Honourable Artillery Company. Upon his demobilisation,he trained to become an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London and first acted on stage in 1921.[4]

Acting career

A prolific Shakespearean actor, Laurie spent much of the time between 1922 and 1939 playing parts, including in Hamlet, Richard III, and Macbeth at the Old Vic or Stratford-upon-Avon. He featured in Laurence Olivier's three Shakespearean films, Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948), and Richard III (1955).[5] He and Olivier also appeared in As You Like It (1936). During the Second World War, Laurie served in the Home Guard.[6]

I’ve played every part in Shakespeare, I was considered to be the finest Hamlet of the twenties and I had retired, and now I’m famous for doing this crap.

John Laurie comment on Dad's Army recalled by Ian Lavender.[7]

Laurie's early films included Juno and the Paycock (1930), directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The actor's breakthrough third film was Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1935) in which he played a crofter. Other roles included Peter Manson in Michael Powell's The Edge of the World (1937), Clive Candy's batman in Powell and Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), a gardener in Medal for the General (1944), the farmer recruit in The Way Ahead (1944), and the brothel proprietor in Fanny by Gaslight (1944). In the film I Know Where I'm Going! (1945), another Powell and Pressburger production, Laurie had a small speaking part in a céilidh sequence for which he was also credited as an adviser. In the next decade he played the repugnant Pew in Disney's Treasure Island (1950), Angus in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951), and Dr. MacFarlane in Hobson's Choice (1954).[8]

Laurie's role as Private Frazer, the gaunt-faced, intense, pessimistic undertaker, and British home guard soldier in the BBC sitcom Dad's Army (1968–1977) remains his best known television role,[9] although he featured in many British series of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s including Tales of Mystery, Doctor Finlay's Casebook, and The Avengers.[10]

Laurie starred as Mad Peter in the Hammer film The Reptile (1966), and later appeared in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), the Disney film One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing (1975), and The Prisoner of Zenda (1979).[3] One of his last appearances, looking slightly frail, was in Return to the Edge of the World (1978), in which Michael Powell revisited his earlier film of forty years before.[11] Laurie's final work was in the BBC Radio 2 comedy series Tony's (1979) along with Victor Spinetti and Deborah Watling.[12]

Personal life

Laurie was married twice; his first wife, Florence Saunders, whom he had met at the Old Vic, died in 1926. His second wife was Oonah Veronica Todd-Naylor, with whom he had a daughter. He died aged 83 from emphysema in the Chalfont and Gerrards Cross Hospital, Chalfont St Peter.[13] His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea.[14]

Partial filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1929 Juno and the Paycock Johnny Boyle
1934 Red Ensign Forsyth Uncredited
1935 The 39 Steps John the crofter
Her Last Affaire Robb
Tudor Rose John Knox Uncredited
1936 Born That Way Mc Tavish
East Meets West Dr Fergusson
As You Like It Oliver
1937 The Windmill Mons. Coutard
Farewell Again Private McAllister
The Edge of the World Peter Manson
Jericho Hassan Also known as Dark Sands
There Was a Young Man Stranger
1938 A Royal Divorce Joseph Bonaparte
The Ware Case Henson, the gamekeeper
1939 The Four Feathers The Khalifa
1940 Laugh It Off Jock
Convoy Gates
1941 Dangerous Moonlight Wing commander
The Ghost of St. Michael's Jamie
1943 The Gentle Sex Alexander Balfour, Scots corporal
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Murdoch
The Demi-Paradise British sailor
The Lamp Still Burns Mr Hervey
1944 The Way Ahead Luke
Fanny by Gaslight William Hopwood
Henry V Jamy
1945 The Agitator Tom Tetley
The World Owes Me a Living Matthews
Great Day Scottish sergeant
I Know Where I'm Going! John Campbell
1946 School for Secrets Dr Jock McVitie
Gaiety George MacTavish
1947 The Brothers Dugald McLeod/Alistair MacDonald
Jassy Tom Woodroofe
Uncle Silas Giles
Mine Own Executioner Dr James Garsten
1948 Hamlet Francisco
Bonnie Prince Charlie Blind Jamie
1949 Floodtide Joe Drummond
1950 Treasure Island Blind Pew
1951 Happy Go Lovely Jonskill
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman Angus
Laughter in Paradise Gordon Webb
1952 Saturday Island Grimshaw
Tread Softly Angus McDonald
1953 The Fake Henry Mason
The Great Game Mac Wells
Love in Pawn McCutcheon
1954 Hobson's Choice Dr McFarlane
Devil Girl from Mars 'Jamie' Jamieson
The Black Knight James, the servant
Destination Milan Walter McHarry
1955 Richard III Lovel
1957 Murder Reported Mac North - Editor
Campbell's Kingdom Mac
1958 Next to No Time Abercrombie, Scottish Director
Rockets Galore! Capt. MacKechnie
1960 Kidnapped Ebenezer Balfour
1961 Don't Bother to Knock Taxi driver
1963 Siege of the Saxons Merlin
Ladies Who Do Dr MacGregor
1964 Eagle Rock Mr. McTavish Voice
1966 The Reptile Mad Peter
1967 Mister Ten Per Cent The Scotsman
1971 Dad's Army Private Frazer
The Abominable Dr. Phibes Darrow
1975 One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing Jock
1979 The Prisoner of Zenda Archbishop

Partial television credits

Year Title Role Notes
1952 The Three Hostages Insp. MacGillivray Four episodes
1961-1963 Tales of Mystery Host / Algernon Blackwood 29 episodes
1962-1969 The Avengers Various Four episodes
1963 Steptoe and Son The Vet Episode "Wallah, Wallah Catsmeat"
1965 Z Cars Dr Ferguson Episode "Partners"
Emergency-Ward 10 Professor Corliss Six episodes
1968-1977 Dad's Army Private Frazer 80 episodes, recurring role
1971 Jackanory Storyteller Five episodes


  1. GRO Register of Deaths: JUN 1980 19 1081 CHILTERN/B - John Paton Laurie, DoB = 25 Mar 1897
  2. "iTunes - Music - John Laurie". Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  3. 1 2 "John Laurie". BFI. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  4. "BFI Screenonline: Laurie, John (1897-1980) Biography". Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  5. Hal Erickson. "John Laurie - Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  6. Matt Goddard (14 November 2012). "Dad's Army uncovered: 35 things you need to know about the BBC comedy classic". mirror.
  7. Ian Lavender Birmingham Press Interview Retrieved 10 March 2013
  8. "John Laurie - Movies and Filmography - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  9. "BBC - Archive - Dad's Army at 40 - Letter from John Laurie". Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  10. "John Laurie". CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  11. "BFI Screenonline: Return to the Edge of the World (1978)". Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  12. "Tony's". RadioTimes. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  13. The Times, death notice, 25 June 1980
  14. "John Laurie (1897 - 1980) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 2016-01-11.

External links

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