Roland Pertwee

Roland Pertwee
Born Roland Pertwee
(1885-05-17)17 May 1885
Died 26 April 1963(1963-04-26) (aged 77)
Occupation Writer, Playwright, Director, Actor
Nationality British United Kingdom
Period 20th century

Roland Pertwee (17 May 1885 26 April 1963) was an English playwright, film and television screenwriter, director and actor. He was the father of Doctor Who actor Jon Pertwee and fellow playwright and screenwriter Michael Pertwee. He was also the second cousin of actor Bill Pertwee and grandfather of actors Sean Pertwee and Dariel Pertwee.

Early Years

In 1918, following the end of World War I, Pertwee retired from the British Army and began to pursue a career in the burgeoning British film industry. From the 1910s to 1950s, he worked as a writer on many British films, providing either the basic story or full screenplay. He was one of numerous writers working on the script of A Yank at Oxford starring Robert Taylor and Vivien Leigh, the film in which his son Jon made his screen debut, and on Caravan.


While he seemingly preferred writing, he acted in ten films (1915–45) and directed Breach of Promise (1942), which he also wrote.

His play Heatwave, written in collaboration with Denise Robins, was produced at the St James's Theatre, London, in 1929.[1]

In 1954, he and his elder son Michael created The Grove Family - generally regarded as being the first soap opera on British television[2] - for the BBC. Having previously written an episode of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Presents, this marked Pertwee's second and final foray into television writing. Like many BBC television productions of the era, it was broadcast live. At its height, the series had drawn in almost a quarter of British people who owned a television. Reportedly, Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother was a great fan. A film version, entitled It's a Great Day, was produced in 1955, likewise written by the Pertwees.

He also wrote a number of works of juvenile fiction, most prominently the The Islanders series, which serves up typical Boy's Own adventure with a strong field sports theme. The Islanders (1950) and Rough Water (1951) tell the adventures of three boys with the run of a sporting estate in the wild Devon countryside during a summer holiday. The third book, Operation Wild Goose (1955), takes place some years later, on a trip to Iceland, where the boys come up against Russian spies, in between landing fat salmon. A further book, An Actor's Life For Me (1953), features just one of the Islanders boys, Nick, as he follows his parents onto the stage.

Pertwee wrote two short stories, "The River God" and "Fish Are Such Liars" which are now considered classics and have been anthologized in the book, Fisherman's Bounty, edited by Nick Lyons, and originally published by Crown in 1970, then by Fireside in 1988.

Later Years and Death

Following the cancellation of The Grove Family in 1957, Pertwee retired from writing. He died in April 1963, three weeks before his 78th birthday.

Selected works

Partial filmography



Plays turned into films


  1. Robins, Denise, Stranger Than Fiction (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1965, autobiography)
  2. "Grove Family, The (1954–57)". BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  3. in a short (15 min) and a long (35 min) version, see IMDb. As prose The voice that said Goodnight., in Crime stories from the 'Strand', ed. Geraldine Beare, London 1961; in German: Die Stimme, die 'Gute Nacht' sagte. Transl. Richard Fenzl, in Classical Detective Stories - Klassische Detektivgeschichten, Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag dtv, Munich 1993, p. 198 - 243
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