There are only a handful of individuals that any one of us crosses paths with, either directly or indirectly, who have an impact on so many lives. John Howard Davies was one such individual. You may not know the face, unless you happen to have a DVD of the 1948 classic David Lean film, Oliver Twist, where a 9 year old John played Oliver, but you definitely should know the name.
Even if you don’t recognize the name, I would venture to say, there are very few on the planet that don’t know John’s work. John was producer/director of such classic British comedy series as The Goodies, Steptoe and Son, Fawlty Towers, Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, The Good Life, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Blackadder (pilot) and Mr. Bean to name but a few. As Head of Comedy for the BBC from 1977-1982, John was responsible for launching the likes of Yes Minister, Not the Nine O’Clock News, To the Manor Born, Only Fools and Horses and ‘Allo, ‘Allo. If that wasn’t enough, it was on to Thames Television in 1985 where he was instrumental in the early days of Men Behaving Badly, starring Martin Clunes, Neil Morrissey and Caroline Quentin.
Over the past several years, those of us involved in the production of a number of British comedy retrospective specials for PBS have had the incredible good fortune to spend quality time with John, who was one of the kindest, most giving of his time, individuals who wanted nothing more than to share insights from his life’s work and, hopefully, pass along thoughts to the next generation of producer/directors, actors/actresses…and viewers, as to how he spent almost 50 years making people laugh.
In this first clip from our 2005 production of Fawlty Towers Revisited, John recalls the filming of, perhaps, the funniest sequence of any British comedy ever.
Next up, during our 2010 interview for Behind the Britcom: From Script to Screen, John talks about what he looked for in a comedy script and what makes a good sitcom from his days as both a producer/director and as commissioner of comedy when he was Head of BBC Comedy.
While John passed away on Monday, his work will live on forever. No one will ever be able to put a price on the number of smiles or amount of laughter that John brought to the world over the years. Personally, we will never forget the last time we got together at the Nags Head for a pint (or two) listening to and watching John smile while talking about his life, his kids and his family. Thanks, John. The next pint is in your honor.