JIM DALE (By Steve Walker)

Born James Smith, 15 August, 1935 in Rothwell, Northamptonshire, England

Jim Dale, perhaps best remembered as a comic film actor from his appearances in many of the 'Carry On' series of films, first broke into the field of entertainment as a pop/rock'n'roll singer in the early days of British rock'n'roll, when the best we could manage was to limply imitate what was happening across the big pond.

Jim Dale decided to become an entertainer at an early age. He took dancing lessons, launched a 'comedy tumbling' act and, following a two-year stint in the R.A.F., was trying to carve out a career as a stand-up comedian, when he achieved his big break. He secured a place - by way of being a 'Carroll Levis Discovery' - as a warm-up act for the BBC TV rock and roll show '6-5 Special' in April 1957, where his personality so impressed the producers that they offered him an on-screen try-out as a singer [http://www.jim-dale.com/images/S_Jim_Singing_guitar.jpg ]

One of the numbers he first performed was 'Piccadilly Line', a song that he'd written himself - a spoof of Lonnie Donegan's hit 'Rock Island Line'. This, in fact, became his first release (c/w 'I Didn't Mean It') on Parlophone 4329 in July 1957. This recording, and subsequent Parlophone releases, was produced by George Martin. No significant business resulted, but it was a very different story for his next release, 'Be My Girl' c/w 'You Shouldn't Do That' (Parlophone 4343, September 1957), which hurtled to #2 in the UK charts and set Jim on the road to becoming a short-term pop teen-idol. 'Be My Girl', a cover of Johnny Madara's US original (Prep 110), even had a US release (Capitol 3886, February 1958), but, unsurprisingly, American teenagers passed it up in favour of contemporary releases such as 'Breathless', 'Bop-A-Lena', 'Dizzy Miss Lizzy', 'Sweet Little Sixteen' and other slices of original wonderment that were on offer at that time.

Further attempts to reproduce the magic failed - he showed up in the charts a few more times, but never with the success of 'Be My Girl'. Parlophone issued an ill-advised single in October 1957 called 'Top Ten Special' (4356) in which Jim's contribution was a stab at 'All Shook Up' and 'Wandering Eyes', then it was back to the lower reaches of the charts with 'Crazy Dream' c/w '(Just Born) To Be Your Baby' (Parlophone 4376, December 1957) and a cover of the McGuire Sisters' 'Sugartime' (Parlophone 4402, February 1958).

Jim Dale appeared, along with several of the other '6-5 Special' regulars in the movie of the same name and gave a half-decent performance of 'The Train Kept A-Rollin', which wouldn't have given too many sleepless nights to the Burnette boys or Tiny Bradshaw, but in the context of such a limp movie (think Jackie Dennis), it stood out as a spirited attempt to capture the real thing.

A couple more non-charting Parlophone releases, followed by an equally barren return with the incipient Piccadilly label in 1962/1963, spelled the end for his chart ambitions, but success lay in other directions.

Jim had finished up as the full-time host on '6-5 Special' and this led to further TV work (including the compeering of 'Thank Your Lucky Stars' and 'Sunday Night At The London Palladium'). During the late 1950's and early 1960's Jim Dale was a familiar face on British TV as a singer, comedian, host and actor. In 1969 he was given his own show, 'Join Jim Dale', where he was joined each week by a guest - Beryl Reid, Kenneth Williams, Anna Quayle, Hattie Jacques, Dame Sybil Thorndike and Roy Kinnear - to assist him with the comedy routines.

Although he had some success during the 1960's as a songwriter - he wrote the lyrics for the Seekers' hit 'Georgy Girl' (nominated for an Academy Award), among others - his own popularity with record-buyers had faded by the end of the 1950's and he began to focus his efforts in other show business directions. Besides appearing in a dozen or so 'Carry On' movies - including appearances as 'Dr. Kilmore in 'Carry On Doctor' and Marshall P. Knutt in 'Carry On Cowboy' - Jim featured in many Shakespearean productions at the Old Vic and the Young Vic with the British National Theatre, and in several West End plays.

He was in the noted silent short film 'The Plank', and played the young Spike Milligan in the film version of 'Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall'.

After completing the movie 'Carry On Again Doctor', the offers poured in and he settled on a Disney studio option, where he completed 'Pete's Dragon', 'The Spaceman and King Arthur' and 'Hot Lead And Cold Feet', in which he plays three roles, twins and their father. This was an energetic assignment bringing Jim's athleticism fully into play. He did all his own stunts and was given the rare distinction of honorary membership of the Association of Hollywood Stuntmen.

He received plaudits and several awards when he appeared on stage in New York, most notably, perhaps, in the starring role in Barnum in the early 1980's, for which he won a Tony Award, and in 'Oliver', which he took to America after starring as Fagin on the London West End stage. Jim has now lived in New York for more than twenty five years with his American wife Julie Schafler Dale, owner of New York's prestigious "Julie Artisans' Gallery" on Madison Avenue.

He is the narrator of the American edition of the Harry Potter audiobooks (Stephen Fry reads the UK versions), and also the Harry Potter DVDs, winning a Grammy Award in 2000 and four Grammy Nominations for this work.

Jim Dale was awarded an MBE in 2004.

Jim Dale UK Discography:

UK singles:

Parlophone R4329 1957 Piccadilly Line/I Didn't Mean It

Parlophone R4343 1957 Be My Girl/You Shouldn't Do That [#2]

Parlophone R4356 1957 All Shook Up/Wandering Eyes (as 'Top Ten Special' - Various Artists [including the King Brothers and the Vipers Skiffle Group] )

Parlophone R4376 1957 Crazy Dream/Just Born (To Be Your Baby) [#24]

Parlophone R4402 1958 Sugartime/Don't Let Go [#25]

Parlophone R4424 1958 Tread Softly Stranger/Jane Belinda

Parlophone R4522 1959 Gotta Find A Girl/The Legend Of Nellie D.

Academy AD001 Somewhere There's A Someone/If You Come Back

Piccadilly 7N35039 1962 One Boy, One Girl/My Resistance Is Low

Piccadilly 7N35100 1963 Start All Over Again/It's For Them

Pye 7N17839 1969 Twinky/Plenty More Days


Parlophone GEP8656 1957 "Jim Dale"

Be My Girl/Piccadilly Line/Crazy Dream/Just Born (To Be Your Baby)

UK LP (10")

Parlophone PMD1055 1958


Jim has his own website at: http://www.jim-dale.com/


http://www.45-rpm.org.uk/dirj/jimd.htm (good EP cover shot)

These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
Yahoo Group "Shakin' All Over". For comments or information
please contact Dik de Heer at

-- Return to "This Is My Story" Index --