Jon Pertwee: Worzel Gummidge

The children's television show, Worzel Gummidge, was a big hit in the late 1970s. First screened in 1979, the kids' sitcom followed the adventures of scarecrow Worzel and his friends on the farm.

Pertwee was best known for his role as the smooth time-traveller Dr Who between 1970 and 1974, so the role of a bumbling scarecrow, who likes a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake, couldn't have been more different for the RADA-trained actor.

Background

The series was based on the children's books by British fiction writer Barbara Euphan Todd - first published by Puffin Books in 1936. The books had been adapted for radio and TV several times and were first broadcast on the radio before World War II, during Children's Hour on the BBC.

Worzel Gummidge stories were also read on the children's TV series, Jackanory, in 1967 and again in 1974, but it was Pertwee who made the role his own, in the screenplay written by Willis Hall and Keith Waterhouse. The series was made by Southern Television and was broadcast on the ITV network.

Pertwee was 60 when he took on the role of the scarecrow who comes to life on Scatterbrook Farm. Worzel spends his days standing in a field scaring birds away from the crops, but has a secret life after befriending two children, John and Susan, who have come to stay during the summer holidays.

After he has been mischievous and causes trouble, he suddenly becomes lifeless and appears to be a normal scarecrow, causing the children to get chastised, as it appears it was they who have been naughty.

Cast

Starring opposite Pertwee was British actress Una Stubbs as Aunt Sally, the living fairground doll. The screenplay differed from the books, in that Aunt Sally was Worzel's older aunt in the books, but she was his love interest in the TV series.

Geoffrey Bayldon, famous for his role in another '70s children's TV series, Catweazle, played the Crowman, who had made Worzel and some of his scarecrow pals.

Other well-known actors of the era who appeared in Worzel Gummidge included Fawlty Towers star Connie Booth, who took over the role of Aunt Sally in series four. Bill Maynard played the local police officer, Sergeant Baynard, while Joan Sims played well-to-do Mrs Bloomsbury-Barton.

John and Susan were played by child stars Jeremy Austin and Charlotte Coleman. The latter went on to star in the popular film, Four Weddings and a Funeral, as Scarlett.

Different heads

One of the most curious things about Worzel Gummidge was that he could change his head, depending on the occasion! Apart from his regular, everyday head, he had a "handsome head", which he begged the Crowman to make, so that he could find a wife.

However, when his dating plan backfires, Worzel is taught a valuable lesson - that it's better to be handsome on the inside, rather than the outside.

His true love interest is Aunt Sally, but although she exploits his attraction for her - by persuading him to do strange jobs, such as freeing her from a washing machine - she has no intention of ever returning his love.

Worzel also has a "clever head", which unfortunately he loses at one point! However, after searching for it, Worzel finds it at a nearby school. When he puts it on, he becomes so clever that a teacher proclaims he's a genius when she bumps into him.

He had a selection of mangel wurzel, turnip and swede heads, which he could change at will, each one producing different personality traits. They would allow him to perform specific tasks and he would swap them about, depending on his situation.

In April this year, it was reported in the press that the BBC was planning a new series of Worzel Gummidge, with Mackenzie Crook, 46, star of The Detectorists, lined up for the title role. The project was said to be in its "very early stages".

Worzel need never lose his head again!

Solent Plastics provides a wide range of storage solutions for the UK and worldwide market. If Worzel Gummidge had used our plastic storage boxes, he would have known exactly where to find his spare heads and he might never have lost his clever head in the first place!

Contact us on 01794 514478 or email sales@solentplastics.co.uk for further details of our storage solutions.

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