Dad's Army Wiki
John Laurie
Born 25th March 1897
Died 23rd June 1980 (aged 83)
First appearance The Man and the Hour
Last appearance Never Too Old
Series 1 - 9
Episode count 80

John Paton Laurie (25th March 1897 – 23rd June 1980) was a Scottish actor best remembered for his role as Private James Frazer in the popular British sitcom Dad's Army from 1968 to 1977. Laurie also appeared in scores of feature films under famous directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Powell and Laurence Olivier, and was also a succesful stage actor (particularly of Shakespearean roles) and voice artist.


Early life and army career[]

John Paton Laurie was the son of William Laurie (1856 – 1903), a clerk in a tweed mill and later a hatter and hosier, and Jessie Ann Laurie (née Brown; 1858 – 1935), and was born in Dumfries, Scotland. He was a pupil at Dumfries Academy - then a grammar school - but abandoned a career in architecture to serve in the First World War. Laurie was left particularly haunted by his experiences; later in his life, he once asked Jimmy Perry to stop showing a piece of film of the war (part of a piece Perry was filming about First World War veterans), saying "Turn it off, son. I can't watch it." Laurie served with the Honourable Artillery Company during the war.

Acting career and marriages[]

After the war, Laurie trained to become an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, first acting on stage in 1921. He married Florence Saunders, who he met at the Old Vic in 1924, but she died in 1926. He remarried in 1928, to Oonah V. Todd-Naylor, with whom he had a daughter.

Prolific in Shakespearean roles, Laurie spent much of the time between 1922 and 1939 playing parts in Shakespeare plays such as Hamlet, Richard III and Macbeth. He featured in his friend Laurence Olivier's three Shakespearean films, Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948) and later Richard III (1955). He also acted in films such as Alfred Hitchcock's Juno and the Paycock (1930), and The 39 Steps (1935), also directed by Hitchcock.

WWII, further acting career and Dad's Army[]

During the Second World War, Laurie served in the Home Guard, making him the only actor out of the main seven in Dad's Army who could draw from his own personal experience. He also continued his acting career, and in the film I Know Where I'm Going! (1945) - a Powell and Pressburger (who Laurie had worked with previously) production - he had a small speaking part in a céilidh sequence for which he was also credited as an adviser. In the next decade he played the repugnant Pew in Disney's Treasure Island (1950), Angus in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951), and Dr. MacFarlane in Hobson's Choice (1954).

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John Laurie as Private Frazer


A sketch of John Laurie as Private Frazer by James Beck

Laurie was cast as Frazer, the gaunt-faced, pessimistic and intense undertaker and Home Guard private, in the BBC sitcom Dad's Army in 1968. The show ran for nine seasons until 1977, and remains Laurie's most known television role, although he also featured in many well-known British series of the 1950s, '60s and '70s including Tales of Mystery, Doctor Finlay's Casebook and The Avengers.

Later acting career[]

Laurie's later film appearances came in Disney's One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing (1975), Return to the Edge of the World (1978) (in which he looked slightly frail, and director Michael Powell revisited his earlier film of forty years previously) and The Prisoner of Zenda (1979). Laurie's final work was in the BBC Radio 2 comedy series Tony's (1979), in which he featured with Victor Spinetti and Deborah Watling.


Laurie died aged 83 from emphysema in the Chalfont and Gerrards Cross Hospital, Chalfont St Peter, in June 1980. He was cremated, and his ashes scattered at sea.