Rene Artois was the proprietor of a cafe in the northern French town of Nouvion. He ran the bar with his wife, Edith, and a couple of shapely waitresses, Yvette and Maria. At least, that was until the Germans occupied the town. He then found himself having to pander to the local Nazis, headed by Colonel Von Strohm, the clumsy Captain Geering and the gay Lt. Gruber.
At the same time, his bar was taken over as a French Resistance safehouse, primarily to house two gormless British airmen, Fairfax and Carstairs (Adamson in the pilot episode). In this way, this man’s war became rather more trying than others’.
Introducing each episode by speaking to camera, Rene updated viewers on earlier happenings (the show was run as a kind of serial farce). Usually, the highly exaggerated plots centred on Renews reluctant attempts to help the airmen escape, or to sabotage the Germans’ efforts to steal a priceless painting, the so-called Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies by Van Clomp.
Instigator of most of the action was the local Resistance leader, Michelle, comandeerer of Rene’s bar and supplier of the show’s prime catchphrase, ‘Leesten very carefully. I shall say this only wance.’ She was aided by Officer Crabtree, an inept British agent disguised as a gendarme, spouting appalling French which translated into warped English phrases like ‘Good moaning’.
Indeed, the use of stereotypical accents to convey different languages was one of ‘Allo ‘Allo’s success stories. Also influencing affairs was the cruel Herr Flick, the limping local Gestapo chief who demanded kinky affection from his adjutant, Helga, and abused his incompetent sidekick, Von Smallhausen. Around the central action there were plenty of sub-plots: Rene’s steamy affairs with both Yvette and Maria (later replaced by Mimi), the marriage of Edith’s bed-ridden mother, Fanny, to ageing Resistance forger Leclerc, and Rene’s alleged death, which allowed Edith to court Monsieur Alphonse, the local undertaker with a ‘dicky ticker’ and a ‘small ‘earse with a small ‘orse’.
But the programme also had some well-rehearsed running jokes: Edith’s excruciating singing, for instance, which forced the bar’s customers to stuff their ears with cheese, Lt. Gruber’s advances to Rene, and Rene’s (codename Nighthawk) laboured attempts to get the wireless to work from its secret hiding place beneath Fanny’s chamber pot (the series took its name from his opening words to London).
Rich in innuendo and slapstick, ‘Allo ‘Allo was much criticized for its ‘bad taste’, though it always claimed to be poking fun at over-the-top wartime dramas and not at the cruelty of war itself. secret army was its main target. When it ended, after nearly nine years, the war had finished and Nouvion was liberated. Viewers were treated to a ‘flashforward’ to the present day and introduced to Rene’s son (again played by Gorden Kaye), who explained what had happened to the locals in the post-war years to a visiting Gruber, who had, surprisingly, married Helga. A West End stage version, with original cast members, was also produced.
UK / BBC One/ 81×30 minute episodes 3×45 minute episodes / Broadcast 7 Sep 1984 – 14 December 1992 Nine seasons
Creators: Jeremy Lloyd, David Croft / Musical Associate: Ray Moore / Producers: David Croft, John B.Hobbs
GORDEN KAYE as Rene Artois
CARMEN SILVERA as Edith Artois
VICKI MICHELLE as Yvette
KIRSTEN COOKE as Michelle
RICHARD MARNER as Colonel Von Strohm
SAM KELLY as Capt Hans Geering
GUY SINER as Lt Gruber
KIM HARTMAN as Helga Geerhart
RICHARD GIBSON as Herr Flick
DAVID JANSON as Flick
ARTHUR BOSTRAM as Officer Crabtree
ROSE HILL as Fanny
NICHOLAS FRANKAU as Carstairs
HILARY MINSTER as Gen Von Klinkerhoffen
KENNETH CONNOR as Alfonse
JACK HAIG as Leclerc
DEREK ROYLE as Leclerc
ROBIN PARKINSON as Leclerc
JOHN LOUIS MANSI as Von Smallhausen
GAVIN RICHARDS as Bertorelli
ROGER KITTER as Bertorelli
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