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A Brief Profile of Jimmy Edwards

Photo credit: Chris Shaw (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Early Life

The British comedy actor Jimmy Edwards was born in Barnes, Surrey on 23 March 1920. The son of a mathematics professor, he was christened James Keith O’Neill Edwards. He had eight siblings, four brothers and four sisters. He was schooled at St Paul’s Cathedral School in Wimbledon and later attended St John’s College Cambridge. During his time at Cambridge, Edwards learned to play the trombone and joined the Footlight Drama Club.

During World War Two, Edwards served with the Royal Air Force. He received a commission in April 1942, serving with 271 Squadron. He took part in the D-Day landings of June 1944, however his plane was shot down at Arnhem, just a few months later. Edwards received serious facial injuries from the incident and had to undergo plastic surgery. He grew a large handlebar moustache to hide facial scarring from the procedure. His impressive whiskers were to become his trademark look. In 1945, Edwards was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery at Arnhem. He was demobbed from the RAF as a flight lieutenant soon after the end of WW2 in September 1945.

Acting Career

In 1946, Edwards made his stage debut at London’s Windmill Theatre. Later in the year, he launched his radio career with the BBC series ‘Take It From Here’, which ran for almost 12 years (1948 – 1960). He made his first TV appearance in 1947, with his film debuted following a year later in Trouble in the Air (1948). Between the mid-1950s to early 60s’ Edwards starred in a handful of British comedy films, notably Three Men in a Boat (1956) and Bottoms Up (1960). During the same period he also appeared in one of his most memorable TV roles as the rouge headmaster in Whack-O! (1956 -1960 and 1971 – 1972). On radio he featured in ‘Jim the Great’, ‘My Wildest Dream’ and ‘Does the Team Think’, a panel show created by Edwards.

Edwards also had an extensive TV career, which particularly flourished during the 1960s. In that decade, among others, he starred in The Seven Faces of Jim (1961), Six More Faces of Jim (1962), More Faces of Jim (1963), Bold As Brass (1963-64), I Object (1965), John Jorrocks Esq (1966), The Auction Game (1968) and Doctor in the House (1969-70).

One of Edwards last starring roles was in the class war TV sitcom The Glums (1979). It was adapted from the 1950s radio show Take It From Here, in which Edwards had also starred. As well as an extensive stage, radio and TV career, Edwards appeared in more than 20 films. His penultimate screen role was as a policeman in the TV movie It’s Your Move (1983). His very last screen appearance was in another TV film, Mr H. Is Late (1988).

Personal Life

Jimmy Edwards married Valerie Seymour in 1958. The marriage ended in divorce in 1969. Afterwards, the press reported that he had got engaged to the actress, singer and comedian, Joan Turner. However, nothing ever came of the supposed relationship. In 1978, Edwards, much to his annoyance, was outed by the press as being gay. It was a time when society was, on the whole, still quite hostile towards the idea of homosexuality.

Outside of acting, Edwards had a good number of interests. He was vice-president of the City of Oxford Silver Band, and an accomplished player of a number of wind instruments. He was also one of the founders and a lifelong member of the Handlebar Club. An association which required all its members to sport a handlebar moustache. He was also a keen polo player, as well as a devotee of fox hunting.

In the 1964 general election, Edwards stood as the Conservative candidate in Paddington North, though without success. His candidacy drew much media attention, though much of it was derisory.
One election he did win was that of the honorary Rector of the University of Aberdeen, serving three years during the 1950s. Edwards published two autobiographies: Take it From Me (1953) and Six of the Best (1984).


Jimmy Edwards died from pneumonia while in London on 7 July  1988, at the age of 68. He was buried at his home village parish church, St. Andrew and St. Mary the Virgin, in Fletching, East Sussex.

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