1912: English actor John Le Mesurier (born John Elton Le Mesurier Halliley) was born today. He is perhaps best remembered for his comedic role as Sergeant Wilson in the BBC television situation comedy Dad’s Army (1968–77). A self-confessed “jobbing actor”, Le Mesurier appeared in more than 120 films across a range of genres, normally in smaller supporting parts.
Initially acting on the stage in the 1930s, he accepted an offer to work with Alec Guinness in a John Gielgud production of Hamlet. During the Second World War, Le Mesurier was posted to British India, as a captain with the Royal Tank Regiment. He returned to acting and made his film debut in 1948, starring in the second feature comedy short Death in the Hand. He undertook a number of roles on television in 1951 including Educating Archie alongside Tony Hancock.
Le Mesurier had a prolific film career, appearing mostly in comedies, usually in roles portraying figures of authority such as army officers, policemen and judges. In 1971 Le Mesurier received his only award: a British Academy of Film and Television Arts “Best Television Actor” award for his lead performance in Dennis Potter‘s television play Traitor; it was one of the few lead roles he played during the course of his career.
He took a relaxed approach to acting and felt that his parts were those of “a decent chap all at sea in a chaotic world not of his own making”. Le Mesurier was married three times, most notably to the actress Hattie Jacques. He died on 15 November 1983, aged 71, from a stomach haemorrhage, brought about by a complication of cirrhosis of the liver.