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John Laurie lived from 25 March 1897 to 23 June 1980. He was an actor who is best remembered for his role as Private James Frazer in the BBC sitcom Dad's Army. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
John Paton Laurie was born in Dumfries, the son of a mill worker. He was educated at Dumfries Academy and would have gone on to train as an architect had he not volunteered for service in World War One. After the war, Laurie trained to become an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, and he first acted on stage in 1921. He went on to spend much of the time between 1922 and 1939, playing Shakespearian parts including Hamlet, Richard III and Macbeth at the Old Vic or in Stratford-upon-Avon. He also starred in his friend Laurence Olivier's three Shakespearean films, Henry V (1944), Hamlet (1948) and Richard III (1955). He and Olivier also appeared in As You Like It (1936). Another notable pre-war performance was given in Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 film The 39 Steps.
During the Second World War, John Laurie served in the Home Guard, the only future Dad's Army cast member to do so. He also starred in wartime films such as The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), The Way Ahead (1944), and Fanny by Gaslight (1944).
He made ten more films after the war, but it was in Dad's Army that he really made his name. 80 episodes were made which were broadcast on BBC television between 1968 and 1977. Dad's Army also spawned a radio series, a feature film and a stage show. John Laurie starred as Private James Frazer, a dour Scottish undertaker with the catch-phrase of "We're doomed, I tell ye!" Regularly reaching an audience of 18 million viewers in the 1970s, Dad's Army is still repeated on BBC TV today.
John Laurie died in 1980 at the age of 83 at Chalfont St Peter in Buckinghamshire.