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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 March 2007, 11:04 GMT
Obituary: John Inman
John Inman in Grace and Favour
Mr Humphries became one of the country's best-loved characters
John Inman, who has died in a London hospital aged 71, belonged to an era of comedy which shunned satire for broad slapstick and sexual innuendo.

But any criticism of Mr Humphries, the camp, sharp-tongued sales assistant in Are You Being Served? was overwhelmed by public popularity.

Inman won BBC TV personality of the year in 1976 and was voted funniest man on television by TV Times readers.

The show attracted up to 22 million viewers and his shrill "I'm free!" hardly faded from the public's imagination.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I bet everyone in heaven is laughing non-stop today; one of the funniest men to grace our TV's and stage.
Alan Darbyshire, Wigan

Fans favourite

Frederick John Inman was born on 28 June, 1935, in Preston, Lancashire.

At the age of 13 he appeared at the South Pier in Blackpool and he went on to make hundreds of stage and screen appearances.

Inman's West End debut was in the musical Ann Veronica at the Cambridge Theatre, followed by a stint as Lord Fancourt Babberley in Charley's Aunt at the Adelphi Theatre.

But he also performed in more than 40 pantomimes and was one of the country's best-loved pantomime dames.

Are You Being Served? began life as part of the BBC's Comedy Playhouse strand. But disruption to the 1972 Munich Olympics meant it was moved to fill gaps in the prime time schedule.

John Inman and Frank Thornton
Are You Being Served? ran for 13 years

He stayed for its entire 13-year run, alongside Wendy Richard, who went on to play Pauline Fowler in EastEnders, as well as Molly Sugden, Frank Thornton and Trevor Bannister.

Seven years after the final episode, five of the characters returned for a sequel - Grace And Favour - in which they tried to run an old house as a hotel.

Inman also appeared in ITV's Odd Man Out as Neville Sutcliffe, the owner of a Blackpool fish and chip shop who inherited his father's factory, but the show only ran for seven episodes in 1977.

John was one of the wittiest and most inventive actors I've ever worked with
Wendy Richard

He next starred alongside Rula Lenska as a male secretary in Take A Letter, Mr Jones for six episodes in 1981.

More recently, he returned to the BBC for Revolver, a 2004 sketch show in which he played an antiques-shop owner who got carried away when explaining the history of objects for sale.

At the end of that year Inman, who suffered from hepatitis A, cancelled the opening of a London pantomime because of the disease.

In December 2005 he and his partner of 35 years, Ron Lynch, took part in a civil partnership ceremony at London's Westminster Register Office.


SEE ALSO
Comedy actor Inman dies aged 71
08 Mar 07 |  Entertainment
In pictures: John Inman
08 Mar 07 |  In Pictures

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