Theatre Collection makes no excuses for Dad's Army star archive
16 November 2007
A collection of theatrical memorabilia given to the University of Bristol’s Theatre Collection by Arnold Ridley, one of the stars of Dad's Army, has been made available online for the first time.
A collection of theatrical memorabilia given to the University of Bristol’s Theatre Collection by Arnold Ridley, one of the stars of Dad's Army, has been made available online for the first time. The archive can be searched here.
Arnold Ridley OBE (1896-1984) is probably best known for his role as the mild-mannered Private Godfrey in Dad’s Army who spends much of the time asking if he can “be excused”. Ridley was also author of the play The Ghost Train and played the role of Doughy Hood in the radio soap The Archers.
The archive was given to the University of Bristol’s Theatre Collection by Ridley’s son, Nicholas Ridley, after his father’s death. It reveals his dual career as both actor and playwright and includes over thirty original play scripts, as well as programmes, handbills, posters, news cuttings and production photographs.
Born in Bath in 1896 and educated at Bristol University, Ridley seemed destined to become a stage actor, making his first appearance in a production of Prunella at Bristol’s Theatre Royal in 1914. But following injuries received during the First World War, he was forced to put his acting career on hold and instead turned to playwriting. The idea for his most famous play, The Ghost Train, was conceived by Ridley while waiting on the deserted platform of Mangotsfield Station.
The archive includes the author’s final typescript version of The Ghost Train with annotations in his own hand, his notes on presentations of the play, production photographs and programmes from numerous performances, including the first performance of the play at Brighton’s Theatre Royal in 1925. In an article published in 1933 he reveals how the terrifying sound effects of the ghostly train were created: "The effect itself was perfectly simple, being merely a judicious mixture of thunder sheets, compressed air, a garden roller, and pieces of sandpaper and wire brushes combined with a kettle-drum!”
For more information about this collection visit the Theatre Collection’s Arnold Ridley Collection page.