Jon Pertwee

Last updated 09 January 2020

Jon Pertwee (1919-1996)
(this image appears for illustrative purposes only and no attempt is made to supersede any copyright attributed to it)

John Devon Roland Pertwee

Born: Monday 7th July 1919
Died: Monday 20th May 1996 (age: 76)


Jon Pertwee is a British actor best known for his portrayal of the Third Doctor between 1970 and 1974.

Pertwee was born in Chelsea, London, the son of noted screenwriter and actor Roland Pertwee.He joined the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), but  was expelled after he refused to play a Greek "wind" during one of the lessons. He joined the Royal Navy, spending some time working in naval intelligence during the Second World War. He was a crew member of HMS Hood and was transferred off the ship shortly before she was sunk, losing all but three men. 

After the war he made a name for himself as a comedy actor, notably on radio in Waterlogged Spa, alongside Eric Barker, and Puffney Post Office in which he played a hapless old postman. From 1959 to 1977, he had a long-running role as the conniving Chief Petty Officer Pertwee in The Navy Lark on BBC Radio. 

On stage, he played the part of Lycus in the 1963 London production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum with Frankie Howerd and appeared in the smaller role of Crassus in the 1966 film version. He appeared as Sidney Tait in the 1963 comedy Ladies Who Do and later in four Carry On films: Carry On Cleo (1964, as the soothsayer), Carry On Screaming (1966, as Dr. Fettle), Carry On Cowboy(1965, as Sheriff Earp) and Carry On Columbus (1992, as Duke of Costa Brava). 

On television, he started off with small parts in children's shows like Mr Pastry. Later he made an appearance in The Avengers episode "From Venus with Love" as Brigadier Whitehead, and in the 1970s, he guest-starred as a vicar in The Goodies' episode "Wacky Wales". 

In 1969, Pertwee was selected by producer Peter Bryant to take over the role of the Doctor. Pertwee had already applied for the role and was surprised to find he had been shortlisted for it. He played the role until 1974. He later reprised the role in the 20th anniversary story The Five Doctors, in two radio adventures and on stage in The Ultimate Adventure. 

Away from Doctor Who he had one of his most memorable film roles in the 1971 Amicus horror compendium The House That Dripped Blood. He was the host of the Thames Television murder-mystery game show Whodunnit! But he is best remembered for playing Worzel Gummidge in the Southern TV series based on the books written by Barbara Euphan Todd. 

He voiced the character of "Spotty" in the 1980s cartoon series SuperTed and in 1985 he starred in Do You Know The Milkyway?, a television adaptation of Karl Wittlinger's stage play. In 1995, Jon Pertwee played General Von Kramer in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles episode "Attack of the Hawkmen". 

Pertwee voiced and appeared in the television advertisement which promoted the Green Cross Code by use of the mnemonic "SPLINK". 

Pertwee's final film role was in a short film, "Cloud Cuckoo" for Scottish Screen, released 18 June 1994. His last formal television appearance was on Cilla's Surprise Surprise, broadcast on 21 April 1996. 

Pertwee was a regular on the convention circuit right up until until his death from a heart attack in Connecticut on 20 May 1996 two months before his 77th birthday.

 He was cremated at Putney Vale Crematorium with a toy Worzel Gummidge affixed to the coffin, following the instructions in his will. 

The BBC broadcast of the 1996 Doctor Who Movie featured a dedication to Pertwee at its end.  

Jon Pertwee was married twice, first in 1955 to Jean Marsh, whom he divorced, and then, on 13 August 1960, to Ingeborg Rhoesa, by whom he had two children, Sean and Dariel.