Features

Classic TV Revisited: Allo Allo

Allo Allo saw plucky Brits and gallant French Resistance fighters tackle the evil Hun in a sort of Carry On Up The Fuhrer.

When was it on?
1984-1992, some 55 episodes

Where was it set?
In a cafe in the small town of Nouvion in occupied northern France. The year: 1940.

Who wrote it?
David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd who previously collaborated on ‘Are You Being Served,’ Croft was, of course, also the co-creator of ‘Dad’s Army,’ ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum‘and ‘Hi-De-Hi!’, not to mention ‘Oh! Dr. Beeching’…so we won’t.

Who were the star turns?
Gorden Kaye as cafe-owner Rene Artois; Carmen Silvera as his battleaxe wife Edith whose singing induces customers to plug their ears with Camembert; Vicki Michelle and Francesca Gonshaw as Rene’s willing waitresses, Yvette and Maria; Kirsten Cooke as the raincoated Michelle of the Resistance; Richard Gibson as the steely Herr Flick; Kim Hartmann as Helga, Flick’s floosie who hides a whalebone corset and black suspenders under her SS uniform; Guy Siner as Lieutenant Gruber, the Nazi with a crush on Rene (Gruber is delighted to find that Rene too was raised in Nancy, making them both Nancy boys); Richard Marner as Colonel Von Strohm; Sam Kelly as Captain Geering; Arthur Bostrom as Crabtree, the secret serviceman who adopts a ludicrous French accent to pose as a gendarme; John D Collins and Nicholas Frankau as inept RAF officers Fairfax and Carstairs; Rose Hill as Edith’s bed-ridden mother, Mme Fanny; Jack Haig as freedom fighter and master of disguise, Leclerc; and many more.

Who watched it?
More a question of who didn’t watch it. There were complaints that the show insulted the memory of those who suffered in the war and a Belgian nobleman even called for it to be debated in the European Parliament. But David Croft pointed out: ‘Our Germans are insensitive, nest-feathering and kinky, the French are devious, nest-feathering and immoral and the British are real twits. No nation should feel it’s been singled out!’

Any catchphrases?
The most mimicked was Michelle of the Resistance saying ‘Leesten very carefooly, I weel say this ernly wernce’. But she meant once per episode.

What about Crabtree?
It wasn’t always easy for Arthur Bostrom to play the gendarme with irritable vowel syndrome. After weeks of talking phoney French, Arthur (who actually speaks quite good French) had to play a scene in which he talked to the RAF twits in English. Amazingly, he dried when he attempted to speak English – causing a big laugh for him and the studio audience.

What was a typical scene?
While Edith serenades the customers, Michelle of the Resistance sneaks through a cafe window, finds the airmen hiding in Edith’s mother’s bed, says her catchphrase and leaves them looking suitably oafish.

Any distant cousins?
It was a send-up of the BBC wartime drama ‘Secret Army‘.

Any real-life resonance?
A Channel Islands firm produced copies of the show’s famous painting, ‘The Fallen Madonna With The Big Boobies’, and sold them at £70 each (the paintings not the boobies).





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