(23 March 1920 - 7 July 1988) U.K.
Comedy writer and actor
James Keith O'Neill Edwards, DFC, was an actor on radio and television. He was born in Barnes, Surrey, the son of a professor of mathematics. He was educated at St Paul's Cathedral School, at King's College School in Wimbledon and at St John's College, Cambridge.He served as a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, winning the DFC ( Distinguished Flying Cross). He flew a Dakota in WW11, an aircraft for which he retained a great affection. His Dakota was shot down at Arnhem in 1944, resulting in facial injuries requiring plastic surgery - he disguised the traces with the huge handlebar moustache that became his trademark.
Edwards was a feature of London theatre in post-war years, debuting at London's Windmill Theatre in 1946 and on BBC radio the same year. He later did a season with Tony Hancock, having previously performed in the Cambridge Footlights review. He gained wider exposure as a radio performer in Take It From Here, co-starring Dick Bentley, which first paired his writer Frank Muir with Bentley's script writer, Denis Norden. Also on radio he featured in Jim the Great and My Wildest Dream. In December 1958, Jimmy Edwards played the King in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella at the London Coliseum. In April 1966, he played at the last night of Melbourne's Tivoli Theatre. His final words closed a tradition of Australian music hall. Edwards frequently worked with Eric Sykes, acting in short films that Sykes wrote.
He published his autobiography, Six of the Best , in 1984, as a follow-up to Take it From Me . He was vice-president of the City of Oxford Silver Band, and an accomplished player of tuba and euphonium. He was founder and a lifelong member of the Handlebar Club, in which all the members had such moustaches. He played at Ham Polo Club. Roy Plomley interviewed him for Desert Island Discs on 1 August 1951.
Edwards was a lifelong Conservative and in the 1964 general election stood for Paddington North, without success. His candidacy drew wide media attention, much of it derisive, although the local party insisted they had chosen "Jimmy Edwards the man" rather than the comedian. As a result of this failed candidacy he took to introducing himself as "Professor James Edwards, MA, Cantab, Failed MP". He was a devotee of fox hunting at Ringmer, near Lewes. He was rector of Aberdeen University for three years in the 1950s, a university with a history of celebrities and actors as honorary rector.
He was married to Valerie Seymour for 11 years. During the 1970s, however, he was outed as a homosexual, to his annoyance. After the ending of his marriage, press reports spoke of his engagement to Joan Turner, the actress, singer and comedian, but the reports were suspected to be a mutual publicity stunt. During the 2015 Gold documentary Frankie Howerd: The Lost Tapes Edwards was mentioned by Barry Cryer as one of several performers of the post-war era forced to conceal their homosexuality due to prevailing norms. He lived in Fletching, East Sussex and died from pneumonia in London at the age of 68.
Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia