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'Allo 'Allo!

'Allo 'Allo! was a long-running British sitcom broadcast on BBC1 from 1982 to 1992 comprising eighty-five episodes. It was created by David Croft, who also wrote the theme music, and Jeremy Lloyd. Lloyd and Croft wrote the first 6 Series. Series 7 onward was written by Lloyd and Paul Adam. Croft and Lloyd were also responsible for the popular sitcom Are You Being Served?. In 2004, Allo 'Allo came 13th in Britain's Best Sitcom. A reunion special, comprising new material, archive clips and specially-recorded interviews, was broadcast on 28 April 2007 on BBC Two.

Main Plot

Set during World War II, 'Allo 'Allo! tells the story of René Artois, a French café owner in the village of Nouvion (the town square was based on a courtyard at Lynford Hall, Norfolk where the pilot episode was shot). Germans have occupied the village and stolen all of its valuable artefacts. These include the first cuckoo clock ever made and a painting of The Fallen Madonna by Van Clomp (known to those who have seen it as The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies). The commandant of the town has decided to keep them for himself after the war and forces René to hide the painting in his café. Hitler also wants the painting for himself, and sends Herr Otto Flick of the Gestapo to the town to find it. Flick, in turn, conspires to keep it for himself. The paintings are duplicated by a forger, get mixed-up and put in knockwurst sausages. One is sent to Hitler on an ammunition train which gets blown up, one is hidden and the other is eaten for dinner by Flick himself.

At the same time, the café is being used as a safe house for two brave but clueless downed British airmen. René is forced to work with the all-women Resistance, who would otherwise shoot him for serving Germans in his café. The far-fetched plans of the Resistance to get the airmen back to England, which always fail (except at one point when a truckload of British Airmen mixed with disguised German Generals, in that case it wasn't successful in bringing their two Airmen back to England as the truck was filled to capacity), are one of the main running gags of the series. As part of these plans, the Resistance have placed a radio in the bedroom of René's mother-in-law. This secret communication device between London and the resistance (codename "Nighthawk") is hidden under the bed, and incoming messages are signalled by triggering the light bulbs concealed in the bed-knobs, leading the elderly mother-in-law to cry "Ze flashing knobs!" The title of the show is inspired by the way the French say hello on the telephone ("allô" is the normal French way of greeting someone over a remote communication system).

René is also trying to keep his affairs with his two waitresses secret from his wife. In addition, the women-only Communist Resistance members are plotting against René for serving Germans and working with the Gaullist Resistance. Ironically, the Communist Resistance only blow things up for money. The only reason that they do not shoot René is that their leader is in love with him, a fact he has to hide from both his wife and his waitresses. Furthermore, the seemingly gay German Lieutenant Gruber is also continually flirting with René. These situations are even more humorous by the fact that René is not exactly the best looking man in France, is hardly a hero, and is often forced by his wife to do missions and secret operations. One memorable situation was when Edith pointed a gun at René to stop him from running away to hide with his cousin (when interrupted by the Colonel and the Captain, he said that his wife was proposing to him).

René's death at the hands of a German firing squad was faked in an early episode, and throughout most of the show's run, he has to pose as his own twin brother, and to convince his wife to marry him again in order to regain ownership of his café. In the meantime, René's wife is wooed by Monsieur Alfonse, the village undertaker, who is torn between his love for her and his admiration for René whom he considers to be a true hero of France.

These few plot devices provide the basic storyline throughout the entire series, on which are hung classic farce set-ups, physical comedy and visual gags, amusingly ridiculous fake accents, a large amount of sexual innuendo and a fast-paced running string of broad cultural clichés. Each episode builds on the previous ones, often requiring one to have seen the previous episode in order to fully understand the plot. At the start of each subsequent episode, René would summarise the plot to date to the audience in a gag based on the "As you remember..." device commonly used in serials. In re-runs, local TV stations have shuffled the episodes, making the plot synopses useful. A recurring theme within individual episodes is that of independent plots aiming for a common objective ending up cancelling out each other's effectiveness. It has also been noted that 'Allo 'Allo! seems to parody the drama series Secret Army, following a similar plot and with characters that are very similar to the drama.

Characters

The characters in the series are fairly one-dimensional, as most have a catchphrase, gimmick or saying which became easily recognisable throughout the series.

Major Characters

  • René François Artois (Gorden Kaye) - The local café proprietor, whilst trying to remain impartial, René has been brought into the war on both sides. The Germans are threatening to shoot him if he does not secretly hide stolen valuable paintings; the Resistance are using his café as a safe-house for shot down British airmen; and on top of that, he is trying to keep his passionate love affairs with the café serving girls secret from his wife. When caught in the arms of another woman, René uses the phrase "You stupid woman!" This would be followed by a convoluted explanation, which Edith always believes, resulting in an apology from her. René does not care much for his mother-in-law, often referring to her as a "silly old bat!"
  • Edith Melba Artois (Carmen Silvera) - René's wife, and the café's resident cabaret performer. However, her singing is so bad and tuneless (as René was heard once to comment "my wife, who cannot carry a tune in a bucket..."), the locals stick cheese in their ears to block out the terrible sound. Whilst René refers to her as stupid, she is also the subject of much romantic wooing by the local undertaker, Monsieur Alfonse and the Italian, Captain Alberto Bertorelli. Whenever she finds René embracing one of the café's waitresses, she always asks "René! What are you doing with your arms around that serving girl?" However, on one occasion in a later series, Edith asks Yvette, the waitress, to explain the situation instead.
  • Madame Fanny La Fan (Rose Hill) - Edith's mother. She lives in the attic of the café, which is also the place where the British airmen and the Resistance's radio (complete with "Ze flashing knobs") are hidden. When she wants attention, she bangs her walking stick on the floor and cries out "Will nobody hear the cries of a poor old woman?" She is partial to a glass of gin, and occasionally fills in for her daughter as part of the café cabaret; though her singing is just as bad (if not worse).
  • Yvette Carte-Blanche (Vicki Michelle) - A waitress at the café. She is in love with René, and wants to elope with him, but is unable due to René having to stay loyal to his wife. She is also responsible for entertaining the German officers, upstairs at the café with the wet celery and the flying helmet. In her intimate moments with René, she throws her arms around him and rumbles an elongated, deep growl of "Ooooooh, René." Often clinched in the kitchen: "I was just hanging up ze knockwurst when I remembered all the happy times we had in 'ere."
  • Maria Recamier (Francesca Gonshaw) (series 1 to 3) - Another waitress at the café. She too is in love with René. She has no idea that Rene also loves Yvette, and also believes that Rene should run away with her. When she speaks she has the tendency to spit when she gargles her "r"s. She gets "lost in the post" in the episode 'Camp Dance'.
  • Mimi Labonq (Sue Hodge) (series 4 to 9) - The extremely short replacement waitress for Maria. She is also a secret agent for the Resistance who has a bloodthirsty hate of the Germans, with a secret mission to kill the “German swines” often after wooing them - her address on her card was "straight up the stairs first on the left past the linen cupboard". She also has a bit of a fancy for René.
  • Michelle "of the Resistance" Dubois (Kirsten Cooke) - Leader of the local French Resistance, she is responsible for coming up with elaborate plans to help the British airmen escape, and plots for blowing up German ammunition trains and lorries. Whenever she concocts a plan, she gathers everyone around and issues her invariable instruction of "Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once" followed by issuing the vital information. Whenever her plans are thwarted by someone else's stupidity, she rebukes that person "You fool!" She pretended to fall in love with René, but only to stop him leaving the Resistance.
  • Monsieur Roger LeClerc (Jack Haig) (series 1 to 5) - The Resistance's forger, master of disguises and café piano player. He is responsible for delivering various goods of batteries, bombs and radio equipment to the café. This duty is undertaken by LeClerc in a variety of disguises ranging from being an onion seller to being a lost mountain hiker. Upon delivery LeClerc always says "It is I, Leclerc"; accompanied by a raising of his glasses, presumably to reveal his identity. He seemed to think he was good at disguise even though he was always instantly recognisable no matter what he wore. He is also the childhood sweetheart of Madame Fanny, and would often pop up out of her bed whenever Fanny said, "Ze flashing knobs!" only to be pushed back down.
  • Monsieur Ernest LeClerc (Derek Royle, series 6; Robin Parkinson, series 7 to 9) - The character was introduced after the sudden death of Jack Haig (the actor who played Roger Leclerc). He had many of the same characteristics as his brother, and was also the childhood sweetheart of Madame Fanny. The switch of characters was explained by claiming that Roger had attempted to get his brother out of prison, and ended up taking his place there. When Royle died after only one season, the series' producers chose to replace him with a younger actor under old-age make-up, perhaps remembering their 'sequence of funerals' as they replaced the oldest member of staff in their earlier series Are You Being Served.
  • Monsieur Alfonse (Kenneth Connor) - "Alfonse, undertaker, swiftly and with style." He is in love with Madame Edith; often wooing her with flowers and the prospect of living above the mortuary. He has a serious heart condition, causing his "dicky ticker" to go in to overdrive upon the revealing of women's underclothing. He often aids the resistance. When he heard that René was to remarry Madame Edith he challenged him to a duel. During the stand-off René ran away only to be hit in the coal-scuttle he was wearing under his shirt. Edith had sold tickets and had done the catering so was not amused. After returning disguised as a woman, René was proclaimed by Alfonse as the Hero of the Resistance - "The bravest transvestite in all France". Alfonse was later to have remarried them himself in his capacity as Deputy Mayor only to faint due to his "dicky ticker". He had set up a tunnel from his mortuary to the British POW camp to smuggle in the airmen. Funds for the Resistance were borrowed from him but forged by LeClerc on their return, unfortunately leading him to feel generous and spend it massively in a party at the café!
  • Major-General Erich Von Klinkerhoffen (Hilary Minster) - A ruthless commander. He always threatens to have French peasants shot when the resistance attacks the German army. He occupies a rather grand chateau where he is wooed by the serving girls to aid a Resistance mission to steal the knockwurst, joined by Private Helga Geerhart on behalf of the Gestapo and even an attempt by Lieutenant Hubert Gruber, Helga stood to attention in her undergarments as Gruber burst in dressed like Oscar Wilde and the gramophone she was playing striptease music on wound down. The General just said "Wind up the gramophone, and if you don't like the one by ze bed there is a spare one in ze wardrobe!" He is later implicated in a plot to blow up Hitler. This was a miss-heard conversation by the Gestapo of a plan for a birthday party with Hitler's painting at the head of the table and the "blowing-up" was actually cases of balloons.
  • Colonel Kurt Von Strohm (Richard Marner) - The town German commandant. He is kept occupied by hiding valuable local paintings and antiques, which he will sell after the war. He frequently visits the cafe, where the waitresses provide him with much entertainment. He always gets René to do his dirty work, threatening him with the line "Otherwise I will have you shot!" Hans - "He would, he did it before!" Overweight, stumbling and greedy, the Colonel had promised René a cut in the profits but was quick to take them away. "Ve are vinning zer var. I am a German officer and I can shoot anyone I like!" Hans mimed expanding head motions behind his back.
  • Lieutenant Hubert Gruber (Guy Siner) - A German officer on leave from the Russian front, with a crush on René. He is also responsible for forging certain pieces of art. He has the effeminate manner of a stereotypical homosexual, and a "little tank", driven by the unseen Clarence. Despite his overtly camp behaviour, however, it is revealed in the very last episode of the series that he eventually married Helga and they had numerous children.
  • Captain Hans Geering (Sam Kelly) (series 1 to 4, series 7) - Original assistant to Colonel Von Strohm, he is lenient for a German officer (e.g. he is not shocked to find out that his uniform is being made by a Jewish tailor), he also frequently visits the café, where the waitresses provide him with much entertainment. He is mistaken as a British Airman in 'Camp Dance' and sent to England. He returns briefly in one episode of season 7, having accidentally become a trusted member of British intelligence, who is astonished that his friends Rene and Edith were actually the mysterious 'Nighthawk', and is very happy in his new life. He was noted for his odd pronunciation of Colonel. It usually sounded like "Colon-Nell". Whenever the Germans have to give a salute to the Führer, Geering often heralded the Führer by saying "-tler!" instead of the full salute, when said incredibly fast, this sound like 'clop', it was humorous because if there was a whole group of Nazis, they would be several 'Heil Hitlers' followed in the background by a 'clop'. In a 2007 BBC special about 'Allo 'Allo! Kelly said "Hans was just too lazy to say the whole sentence" However, he does say the full "Heil Hitler" except with an exaggerated emphasis on the "-tler!" Rumours that actor Sam Kelly, a Jew, refused point blank to give the regular salute, are apparently false. Indeed, in the second series episode Herr Flick's Revenge and the third series episodes Flight of Fancy and Pretty Maids All in a Row, the Hans Geering character gave the full "Heil Hitler" salute. Kelly also went on to play Hitler himself in Stalag Luft in 1993.
  • Captain Alberto Bertorelli (Gavin Richards, series 4 to 6; Roger Kitter, series 7) - An Italian who has come to the local town, as Mussolini has joined in the war. He has an eye for the ladies and is known as a womaniser, often using the phrase "Da Beautiful Liedee I kissa de hand" When the salute to the Führer is given, Bertorelli instead says "Heil-a Mussolini;" and when things go wrong he always says "What a mistake-a to make-a!" His Italian troops are a complete mess and always run away. In greeting, he kisses everybody except Gruber whom he knows about and shakes his hand from far away. Famously asked about his medals: "The first row are for service in Abyssinia. The second row are for service in North Africa." The last row? "They are for servicing Fiats!" Later he put on a big feast for Madam Edith and was seen to put some of the olive oil on his hair.
  • Herr Otto Flick (Richard Gibson, series 1 to 8; David Janson, series 9) - The local Gestapo officer who tries to show as little emotion as possible. Dressed in a long leather double-breasted coat over a pinstriped suit, with a wide-brimmed leather hat, leather gloves and octagonal steel-rimmed glasses. He fancies the equally blonde Helga Geerhart, whom he will marry after the war. He is the godson of Heinrich Himmler. He is known for his considerably exaggerated limp, and his frequent use of the word 'Gestapo' as an adjective: "My powerful Gestapo binoculars", "My Gestapo staff car", etc. Herr Flick often hits von Smallhausen on the head with his cane, often saying "Wrong!" When Flick wants Helga to kiss him he will say to her in a stern manner "You may kiss me!" In the episode Pigeon Post, it is revealed that he has the same taste in undergarments as Helga. Inviting Helga to the Gestapo dance, he explained their song: "You put your right boot in! You take your right boot out! You do a lot of shouting and you shake your fists about! You light a little smokie and you burn down zer town! Zat's vot it's all about! Ahh...Himmler, Himmler, Himmler..." The change of actors in the final season was explained by Flick having had plastic surgery done on him to avoid capture by the approaching Allied forces.
  • Private Helga Geerhart (Kim Hartman) - The Colonel's secretary, and lover of Herr Flick. She is well built, and known for a tendency to take off her clothes for usually tenuous reasons, showcasing a vast range of erotic lingerie. This could be seen as a parody of Jane, a British comic strip character popular during World War II who was always losing her clothes, and constantly being captured or found in lingerie. She says: "When he's like this I always find it's best to strip off and ask questions later." When inquiring how they are going to be together after the war, he says: "I will take you for long walks on a short lead." "You make me feel like a wild animal." "The feeling is mutual." Helga's attempts to seduce Herr Flick usually have no effect on him. Typically these attempts include a particularly vigorous kiss. When announcing visitors to the Colonel's office, Helga always yells at the top of her voice, for example, "GENERAL ERICH VON KLINKERHOFFEN!" and "GO A-VAY!" After several orders she looked quite breathless.
  • Herr Engelbert Von Smallhausen (John Louis Mansi) (series 2 to 9) - Herr Flick's assistant. Dressed exactly like Herr Flick but only half as tall. He also copies his exaggerated limp. He often suggests stupid plans and ideas, only for them to be put down by Herr Flick. He once delivered an out-of-date ransom note from the Resistance saying "It was tied around a brick and thrown at my head - I have only just regained consciousness!" He once turned up at Herr Flick's dungeon banging on the door without success. The door then exploded and he entered over the wreckage to say sorryfully "I lost my key!" He is often put on spying missions and to eavesdrop on the radio, but he likes listening to Tommy Handley. When hypnotised (while Herr Flick was trying to hypnotise Helga) he revealed that his real name is Bobby Cedric Von Smit,
  • Officer (Captain) Crabtree (Arthur Bostrom) (series 2 to 9) - A British spy posing as a French police officer. Unfortunately, he has a terrible grasp of French, which means that sometimes he is quite incomprehensible, most famously noticeable in his usual greeting: "Good moaning!". Despite his almost incomprehensible speech, the Germans never seem to suspect him. To quote a notable example: "I was pissing by the door when I heard two shats. You are holding in your hind a smoking goon. You are clearly the guilty potty!" Another, during an air raid, is: "They have had a direct hot on the pimps!" "The pimps?" "The pimps! The pimps in the pimping station! No water is being pimped through the poops!" Another fine example: "The troon carrying the sissage has been bummed by the RAF. There are little pissers all over the track." To repair the airmen's air balloon: "You must get your hands on silk knockers. At least farty, maybe fifty." And: "I am mauving in a ginger fashion becerrs my poloceman's pints are full of dinamote!" He then unbuttoned his flies and slowly pulled out several large knockwurst in front of the watching café. After the introduction of Crabtree into the show, Yvette would frequently announce him as "That idiot British Officer who thinks he can speak French". He says: "I admit my Fronch cod be butter." Another brilliant example came when Officer Crabtree mistook Captain Alberto Bertorelli for a German officer, addressing him with a raised hand and: "Hoel Hiteler!" instead of "Heil Hitler!" When Captain Bertorelli pointed out he was actually an Italian, Officer Crabtree responded with: "Hael Missuloni!" instead of "Hail Mussolini!". The character was largely inspired by British Prime Minister Edward Heath's dreadful French accent.
  • RAF Flight Lts. Fairfax and Carstairs (John D. Collins and Nicholas Frankau) (series 1-7, series 9) - Two British airmen trying to get back to England, having been shot down over France. After sticking their heads out from where they are hiding, they say "Hello!" with an exaggerated British accent. At the start of a conversation when talking to one another, Fairfax or Carstairs always starts speaking with the words."I say Fairfax/Carstairs..." On discovery of the tunnel to the British POW camp, all the cafe staff were trapped there including the Resistance and the hostage German officers who then all had to adopt exaggerated British accents as POWs, with large moustaches and flying helmets including the women. On inspection by the German camp guards, they stood to attention saying clichés like "Toodle pip! Good Show! Bang on! Old fruit!" Coming to Geering's turn he let out his frustration at his own commanders by starting the famous British song "Hitler has only got one...". Humour is also derived from the fact that, the French cannot understand what the British airmen are saying (and vice-versa) when the show is spoken in English.

Recurring Characters

  • General Leopold von Flockenstuffen (Ken Morley) (series 5-7) - A German general, whose sexuality is along the same lines of Gruber. At one point, he has to take over command of the district when Von Klinkerhoffen is considered to have gone completely mad.
  • Denise Laroque (Moira Foot) (series 5) - Original leader of the Communist Resistance and childhood sweetheart of René.
  • Louise (Carole Ashby) (series 5-9) - Later leader of the Communist resistance; she is also in love with René.
  • The Fallen Madonna (With The Big Boobies) by Van Clomp - A valuable portrait whose location, and genuineness, is a key concern to the various other characters, the original changing hands regularly as well as various fake copies. Other antiques (such as a painting referred to as "The Cracked Vase With The Big Daisies by Van Gogh", essentially one of the "Sunflower" paintings) occasionally crop up in the series, but "The Fallen Madonna" regularly recurs throughout the whole run, though often hidden in sausages or other guises. No-one ever knew who had the original. Once, Herr Flick managed to get hold of three copies and commented, "I have three paintings with six big boobies!"

The late Lord Bath was a big fan of 'Allo 'Allo and in 1992, created a BBC exhibition in his ancestral home Longleat, in return, the BBC made a copy of the painting of the Fallen Madonna which may still be seen today.

Languages

With four different languages (French, German, Italian and English) spoken by the characters, representing this to the audience could have been tricky. The programme uses the device of representing each language with English spoken in a theatrical foreign accent.

For example, an exchange between French-speaking characters, conducted in English with a French accent, is totally incomprehensible to the English airmen until Michelle switches to Bertie-Wooster-esque "top hole, old chap" style banter in an upper-class English accent. The English undercover officer Crabtree, in the permanent disguise of a French-speaking gendarme, speaks abominable French. His mangling of French vowels is represented by similarly distorted English, most famously his customary greeting catch phrase of "good moaning"; many of his distortions come out as innuendoes, such as "I was pissing by the door, and I thought I would drip in". The Germans, generally, speak English in a more guttural way than the French. Bertorelli, the Italian captain, speaks English in a nasal tone, generally adding an "-a" at the end of certain words; for instance in his catchphrase, "What a mistake-a to make-a!". Other examples included "We drop-a the bolls", "I kiss-a your hand-a". Curiously, in spite of the difficulties in communicating with the English characters, the French, Germans, and Italians all appear to understand each other's languages perfectly.

When one particular plan calls for Herr Flick and Von Smallhausen to impersonate English Airmen, a phonographic record is used by these German characters to learn the 'nuances' of English. This essentially consists of the non-word sounds approximating "Faffah, fah-fah fah-fah faah. Faffah, fah-fah fah-fah faah..." suitably voiced with the signature 'upper-class English accent' employed in the programme. Within the scope of the on-screen action, it is a surprisingly effective masquerade.

In one episode, René is actually forced to speak German (not to be confused with an earlier episode in which he infiltrates the Gestapo headquarters). He achieves this by simply speaking as he normally would, but noticeably more high-pitched, which may be a gag concerning the way the Germans talk (like the French but at a lower pitch).

The last few series introduced a new gag, where Colonel Von Strohm and Lieutenant Gruber are put in situations where they have to speak in a strange manner. In one episode, the two try to learn Spanish, which is basically "German" with high-pitched voices and mangled consonants. In another, they are forced to wear "suicide teeth" – large bulky dentures containing poison - making them garble their speech to avoid releasing the poison. In yet another episode, Von Strohm and Gruber are posing as Frenchmen, and are forced to speak French. This comes out as another set of non-words sounding like "Woffel woffel, woffel woffel".

Episodes

After the Pilot aired in December 1982, a full-length series of six episodes was subsequently commissioned and aired from September 1984 onwards. Series two, three and four followed annually, comprising six episodes each.

Series five was commissioned with a view to syndicating the show in America. As a result, twenty-six episodes aired between September 1988 and February 1989. The attempts to air the show in America failed (although the series later became popular on PBS), and so series six had only eight episodes commissioned, which aired from September 1989 onwards.

In January 1990, Gorden Kaye suffered serious head injuries in a car crash brought on by gale-force winds. This delayed the start of the seventh series, which consisted of ten episodes airing from January 1991 onwards. Series 8 (7 episodes) followed in January 1992, and the final series of six episodes aired later that year from September onwards.

Two Christmas specials were also made. The first was a 45-minute episode which followed Series 2 in 1985, and the second was also a 45-minute episode, screened at Christmas 1991, preceding Series 8.

In 1994, the BBC broadcast The Best of 'Allo 'Allo!, a compilation of clips from the series, linked by new scenes featuring Gorden Kaye and Carmen Silvera, in which René and Edith reminisce about the events of the war.

On 22 March 2007, a one-off special episode entitled The Return of 'Allo 'Allo! was filmed in Manchester, and was broadcast on 28 April 2007 at 9 pm on BBC 2. The storyline involves René writing his memoirs after the war, and the events from the final episode in 1992 have been overlooked. The new scenes were interspersed with clips from the original series and new interviews. The actors who reprised their roles were: Gorden Kaye, Vicki Michelle, Sue Hodge, Kirsten Cooke, Arthur Bostrom, Guy Siner, Robin Parkinson, John D. Collins and Nicholas Frankau. Jeremy Lloyd wrote the new material.

Also in this reunion show, the BBC revealed that a German cable company had approached them with a view to showing 'Allo 'Allo! in Germany. This would be the first time that the series will have been screened there, largely due to German law regarding Nazi symbolism (salutes, swastikas, "Heil Hitler" greetings etc.). On 8 March 2008 the BBC announced that German channel ProSiebenSat1 had bought the screening rights for all eight series, which are to be overdubbed into German.

Cultural references

The show's premise was not to make fun of the war but to spoof war-based film and TV dramas, and in particular a BBC1 drama Secret Army, which ran from 1977 to 1979 and dealt with the activities of Belgian "escape line" workers who returned crashed allied pilots to Britain, based at a café in Brussels. Many of the elements and characters of Secret Army are directly mirrored and even some of the actors reappear in '! These are Richard Marner, Guy Siner, John D Collins, Hillary Minster and David Beckett.

Some inspiration was also drawn from patriotic black-and-white British melodramas of the 1940s. The French village setting is reminiscent of 1972's Clochemerle whilst Rene's intermediary role between the Germans and the Resistance reflects a comic version of Rick from Casablanca (as well as directly matching the proprietor of the café in Secret Army).

Two of the BBC's earlier wartime-based comedies - Dad's Army and It Ain't Half Hot Mum - were also written by David Croft in partnership with Jimmy Perry. Several actors from 'Allo 'Allo! also appeared in these series: Carmen Silvera, Rose Hill, Jack Haig, Joy Allen, Michael Stainton, Robert Aldous, John Leeson, John D. Collins and Robin Parkinson in Dad's Army, and Robin Parkinson, Gorden Kaye, John D. Collins, Iain Rattray and Eric Dodson in It Ain't Half Hot Mum.

The Shelburne Escape and Evasion Line (Operation Bonaparte) of WWII has some similarities to this series. More than 300 airmen and agents escaped through this line.

Music

Due to the nature of having a café cabaret in the plot, music was often performed on the show. This would usually take place with Madame Edith singing, and either Lt. Gruber or LeClerc at the piano. Occasionally, Gruber would sing and play the piano at the same time. Characters could also be seen whistling or humming tunes at certain points in the plot.

The theme tune

David Croft and Roy Moore composed the show's theme tune. It is performed at the start and end of each episode, and features a French-style melody performed on an accordion. The title of the theme tune is London Calling; but according to Guy Siner who plays Gruber, the first lyrics are:

'Allo 'Allo, we meet again,
And just as before...

Then, we hear the rest of the lyrics as a part of a cabaret in episode 3 of the first season:

We loved, we parted as fate had arranged;
Now there you stand and nothing has changed.
And so it goes, the same refrain, the final encore,
You are my love, my only love,
Once more!

Other music

The café cabaret music would usually take the form of 1930s film and show tunes - reminiscent of the way period songs were also used in Secret Army.

Most popular was "Louise", from the film Innocents in Paris; which featured a number of times, and was even sung in the "broken-French" language of the character Crabtree. Gruber would sing a number such as "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" from Show Boat or "(I Got a Woman Crazy For Me) She's Funny That Way" by Neil Monet & Richard A. Whiting. He would gaze at René in a slightly lustful manner; replacing lyrics such as "woman" and "she" with "boy" and "he". He caused a particular sensation with his absolutely straight version of Noel Coward's "Mad About The Boy".

Naturally, the "La Marseillaise" and the German National Anthem "Deutschland, Deutschland" would feature from time to time. Helga would also sometimes strip to a rather raunchy version of the latter tune.

Captain Bertorelli could be seen singing "'O Sole Mio (It's Now or Never)"; and the British airmen in a prisoner of war camp could be seen singing "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball"

Je t'aime

In 1986, Gorden Kaye and Vicki Michelle released a version of the hit song Je t'aime... moi non plus. The characters of Yvette and René could be heard embracing each other, whilst the familiar musical Je t'aime melody played in the background. The song got to number fifty-seven in the UK Singles Chart.

See the Café René Music webpage for more information on the music used in 'Allo 'Allo!

Stage Show

As well as the long running TV series, the show gave rise to a successful touring stage-show featuring most of the TV cast. The stage show ran from 1986 to 1992, including three London stage runs as well as international tours.

In January 1990, Gorden Kaye suffered serious head injuries in a car accident so in a London Palladium production his understudy, John Larson, played the part. Kaye still has a dent in his forehead from a piece of wood that smashed through the car window. Gorden initially wanted to end the television show after his accident, but was convinced by Jeremy Lloyd to continue in his role as René. In Australia, Gorden Kaye's part was played by Australian comedian/impressionist Max Gillies (later, Gorden Kaye repaid the favour when he took over Max Gillies' role in another play in Australia, when Max Gillies was not able to take part).

The show was last performed for a summer season at Bournemouth's Pier Theatre in 1996.

In 2007 Gorden Kaye, Sue Hodge and Guy Siner reprised their respective roles in a production of the stage show in Brisbane Australia. They were joined with well-known Australian actors Katy Manning as Yvette, Steven Tandy as Colonel Von Strohm, Jason Gann as Herr Flick, Chloe Dallimore as Private Helga Geerhart and David Knijnenburg as Officer Crabtree. There are rumours that the show will be touring the UK in 2008, featuring Gorden Kaye and Ken Morley.

The theatrical version has also been released for amateur theatre companies in the UK and elswhere.

DVD releases

Australian releases

Roadshow Entertainment, under licence from the BBC, began releasing the series on DVD in 2006. In Australia, three box-sets have currently been released and single releases for series 6, 7 and 8 (Series 8 contains the 1991 Christmas special). The 9th series and both "Best of 'Allo' Allo!" and the "Return of 'Allo 'Allo!" have yet to be released on DVD in Australia.

DVD Name Release dates
'Allo 'Allo! - Series 1 & 2 2006-08-6
'Allo 'Allo! - Series 3 & 4 2006-07-9
'Allo 'Allo! - Series 5 2007-07-2
'Allo 'Allo! - Series 6 2007-07-11
'Allo 'Allo! - Series 7 2008-03-4
'Allo 'Allo! - Series 8 2008-07-8
'Allo 'Allo! - Series 9 TBA

Roadshow Entertainment - Search DVD Index.

UK releases

Universal Playback, under licence from the BBC, began releasing the series on DVD in 2002. In the UK, five box-sets with series 1-7 have currently been released. The 8th and 9th series, the 1991 Christmas Special, and both the "Best of 'Allo' Allo!" and the "Return of 'Allo 'Allo!" have yet to be released on DVD within the UK. Amazon.co.uk and Play.com both have December 26 2008 as the release date for the box set with series 8 and 9.

The UK releases have episode titles superimposed over the openings of the episodes (series 1-4). The American releases, on the other hand, have no on-screen episode titles, which is the way the shows were originally transmitted.

DVD Name Release dates
'Allo 'Allo! - Series 1 & 2 2002-08-19
'Allo 'Allo! - Series 3 & 4 2004-02-16
'Allo 'Allo! - Series 5 Volume 1 2006-10-23
'Allo 'Allo! - Series 5 Volume 2 2006-12-26
'Allo 'Allo! - Series 6 & 7 2008-08-18
'Allo 'Allo! - Series 8 & 9 2008-12-26

North American releases

In January 2004, BBC Worldwide began releasing the show themselves onto DVD in North America, beginning with Series 1. The releases have continued on a somewhat irregular basis (approximately twice-yearly).

DVD Name Release dates
'Allo 'Allo!: The Complete Series 1 2004-01-20
'Allo 'Allo!: The Complete Series 2 2005-03-15
'Allo 'Allo!: The Complete Series 3 2005-08-16
'Allo 'Allo!: The Complete Series 4 2006-01-24
'Allo 'Allo!: The Complete Series 5 Part 1 2006-07-25
'Allo 'Allo!: The Complete Series 5 Part 2 2006-07-25
'Allo 'Allo!: The Complete Series 6 2007-01-16
'Allo 'Allo!: The Complete Series 7 2008-01-15
'Allo 'Allo!: The Complete Series 8 2008-05-06
'Allo 'Allo!: The Complete Series 9 2008-10-07
'Allo 'Allo!: The Best of (1994) TBA
'Allo 'Allo!: The Return of (2007) TBA

References

See also

External links

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