Retro: Jim Dale, the Rothwell man who found Hollywood fame

An exhibition to celebrate the work of a Rothwell man who found fame in Hollywood is entering its final week.

Jim Dale was born James Smith in August 1935.

Educated at Kettering Grammar School, he later trained as a dancer for six years before his debut as a stage comic in 1951, when, at the age of 17-and-a-half, he became the youngest professional comedian on the British stage.

An exhibition which details Jim’s rich career in showbiz opened at Rothwell Heritage Centre in March.

The exhibition is due to close on Wednesday, April 30.

It contains numerous mementoes from Jim’s career – including posters, props, photographs and lots of information about the man himself.

The display has been put together by Mick Smith, who is Jim’s brother.

The exhibition details some of Jim’s work in film.

He has had a long career in the movies, starting with a small role as a trombone player who thwarts orchestral conductor Kenneth Williams in the comedy Raising the Wind in 1961.

However, he is most famous in Britain for his appearances in eleven Carry On films.

He generally played the romantic lead in those classic movies.

His Carry On career began as an expectant father in Carry On Cabby (1963), and was followed by Carry On Jack (1963), Carry On Spying (1964), Carry On Cleo (1964) and Carry On Cowboy (1965).

He was later in Don’t Lose Your Head (1966), Follow That Camel (1967), Carry On Screaming (1966), and Carry On Doctor (1967).

He also played Dr Terminus in Walt Disney’s Pete’s Dragon (1977) and in 1978 was the star of the Walt Disney comedy movie Hot Lead and Cold Feet.

Prior to his film career, Dale had been appearing on the stage for a number of years.

At the age of 18 Dale became the youngest professional comedian in Britain, touring variety music halls.

On stage he appeared in both straight and musical roles, and has been nominated for five Tony Awards, winning one for Barnum.

In 1970, at the request of Laurence Olivier, he joined the National Theatre in London.

At the Young Vic Theatre, he created the title role in Scapino, which he co-adapted with Frank Dunlop, and played Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew.

His other West End theatre credits include The Wayward Way, The Card, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Winter’s Tale, and most recently the part of Fagin in Cameron Mackintosh’s Oliver! at the London Palladium.

In 2006, Dale performed on Broadway in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of The Threepenny Opera, as Mr Peachum.

Dale later created a one-man show, Just Jim Dale, which looked back over his 60 years in show business.

Rothwell Heritage Centre is open on Monday and Thursday to Saturday between 10am and 12.30pm.

For further information about the centre, or the Jim Dale exhibition, call 01536 711550 or search for the centre on the internet.