Thomas Terry Hoar-Stevens (14 July 1911 – 8 January 1990) was a distinctive English comic actor, known as Terry-Thomas. He was famous for his portrayal of disreputable members of the upper classes, especially cads, the trademark gap in his front teeth, cigarette holder, dressing gown, and such catch-phrases as "You're an absolute shower!" and "Good show!"
Early life and career
Born Thomas Terry Hoar-Stevens
in Glenfern House, Nether Street, Finchley
, and educated at Ardingly College
, Thomas worked in cabaret
and as a film extra
before finding success as an entertainer during World War II
. After the war, he worked in TV, radio and variety, but it was during the mid-1950s that he developed his famous persona
, first in his television
series, How Do You View?
, and then in films. His performance as Major Hitchcock in John and Roy Boulting
's Private's Progress
) gave birth to his catchphrase
, "you're an absolute shower", and made him a favourite in British comedy films for the next decade. He reprised the role of Hitchcock in I'm All Right Jack
), and appeared in several of the Boultings' other films, including Lucky Jim
and Brothers in Law
Although Terry-Thomas was renowned for his caddish persona, he was a gifted voice actor with a range of accents in his repertoire. It was reported that the voice actor Ivan Owen based his voice for Basil Brush on Terry-Thomas's voice.
He played a variety of exuberant, malevolent and silly characters during the 1960s, and became famous for his portrayal of the archetypal cad, bounder, and absolute rotter. (Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines
; Monte Carlo or Bust
; Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon
). In the 1970s he reprised his character from the first two of the films above along with Eric Sykes
to make high quality cinema and TV advertisements for Benson and Hedges
In 1966, he played a notable but very different role as an RAF airman travelling through occupied France -and nicknamed "Big Moustache" by his French helpers- in the French film La Grande Vadrouille, which for over forty years remained the most successful film in the history of cinema in France.
He was married twice. His first marriage was to Ida Patlanski
, from 1938 to 1962, and he was married to Belinda Cunningham
from 1963 until his death. He had two sons.
In 1971 Thomas was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease
, and by 1977, he had retired. In 1989, writer and broadcaster Richard Hope-Hawkins, and actor Jack Douglas
, organised a benefit concert for Thomas, after discovering he was living in virtual obscurity and ill health. The gala, held at London's
Theatre Royal, ran for five hours, Phil Collins
topping the bill along with 120 artistes. Michael Caine
was the gala chairman. The show raised over £75,000 for Thomas and the Parkinson's Disease Society. He was a second cousin of the actor, Richard Briers
, who because of Terry-Thomas's Parkinson's disease, became President of the Parkinson's Disease Society
Terry-Thomas died in 1990 at the age of 78 in Busbridge Hall nursing home, Godalming, Surrey. His funeral service was held at Saint John the Baptist Church. He was cremated at Guildford Crematorium.
A new biography of Terry-Thomas titled 'Bounder' and written by author Graham McCann will be released in September 2008.