There are a number of Dad's Army episodes missing from the archives.
The loss of these episodes is well known and well documented. However,
through my research on behalf of the Dad's Army Appreciation Society New
Zealand Branch (which I run), I discovered that the BBC episodes were not
the only missing chapters in that show's history. There was one more lost
programme, which.until I began my quest to find it, had been long forgotten
by everyone involved in the show. This was an American-made adaptation
of Dad's Army, called The Rear Guard. It was set in the USA and re-written
to be enjoyed and understood by an American audience.
The first time that the existence of this show came to my attention
was in December 1996. I was in Wigan, Lancashire, UK, visiting my friend
Colin Bean. You may know Colin as the actor who played Private Sponge the
sheep farmer in the Dad's Army platoon. My visit included a long and very
interesting chat with him about the making of the comedy series, and suddenly
he mentioned ‘the day the Americans came to the set’. I quizzed him on
this and he said they were there to watch them filming an episode. Colin
explained that Jimmy Perry and David Croft had sold the rights for a US-made
version of the show, and several producers and executives visited the Dad's
Army set to get the feel for the show, so they knew what they were making.
At that stage Colin did not know any more about the whole thing, the actors
were not really told much about what was going on at the time. He wasn't
even sure if the project had indeed gone ahead in the United States. But
this morsel of information set me on a path of research, which would last
no less than two years.
The first thing I did was ask Jack Wheeler, who runs the UK Dad's Army
Appreciation Society, whether he'd heard of such a thing as an American
Dad's Army. He hadn't, and neither had others in the society's top brass.
I then had a meeting with my mate Jimmy Perry, creator and writer of Dad's
Army, and I asked him if he could confirm anything about the story. He
recalled instantly that he and David Croft had indeed travelled to Hollywood,
USA, in 1975, and been involved in making a pilot for ABC-TV. This pilot
was based on the script of the famous Dad's Army episode The Deadly Attachment,
in which the Home Guard have to look after a captured U-boat crew for the
He also recalled that the lead actors were Lou Jacobi and Eddie Foy
jr. But he could not remember any other specific details, apart from the
fact that it hadn't been too popular in the US and no further episodes
were made. At that stage Jimmy had thought from memory that the premise
had been set around the Legion of Guardsmen, rather than the Home Guard.
This was later to be proven a mistake, but an understandable one after
such a long time.
Jimmy also remembered he'd once had a video copy in the American NTSC
format. As he'd not been able to play it in the UK, it had been discarded.
Later when he'd tried to get a copy converted to the British Pal system
from the ABC-TV archives, he was told the show had been wiped. So this
meant we had another lost ‘Dad’s Army’ episode to add to the list.
A few days later I was speaking with Bill Pertwee (Warden Hodges), and
I asked him what he knew. He also remembered that something had been done,
and he said he thought the title had been The Rear Guard. This was the
first time I had heard the actual name of the show. Although he could recall
no further details, slowly the jigsaw was piecing together.
Then later in the month a co-incidence happened. I had bought a book
back in December, called ‘Forty Years Of British Television’, for Jack
Wheeler for Christmas. When I later read it, a small section listed British
TV shows which had been adapted for US screens, and among the list was
Dad's Army, adapted to The Rear Guard. This confirmed Bill's memory.
Anyway, I soon had to return to New Zealand, but my research didn't
stop. I wrote to ABC-TV in America, but was disappointed and surprised
that they did not even have the courtesy to reply. Then sometime in 1997
I found a book in the Hamilton Public Library called ‘The Complete Encyclopaedia
of Television Programs 1949 – 79’ by Vincent Terrace. This had the breakthrough
information which I needed. It actually listed The Rear Guard. And it had
a partial cast list and other details such as an approximate broadcast
Armed with this information, I wrote to the US TV Guide, who were able
to reply with a photocopy of the original broadcast notice and further
details of cast. This was indeed a big help. I now had the broadcast date,
the time it aired, and the channels (it went out simultaneously on two
stations, Channels 7 and 8). One member of the cast listed there was Conrad
Janis. He had played the part of the U-boat Commander in The Rear Guard.
I managed to get his address, and we made contact in early 1998. Conrad,
who has been a prolific actor for many decades, is probably best remembered
world wide as Mindy’s father Fred (who owned the music shop) in the Robin
Williams hit show Mork and Mindy. Conrad was able to provide several more
details and some nice memories of the making of the show. He even remembered
the exact studio where it was made.Conrad had said that this was among
his most favourite roles in sitcoms, which isn't bad because in his long
career he had appeared in over 500 shows.
The real breakthrough came in early 1999, when I was able to make contact
with another star of The Rear Guard, Cliff Norton. Cliff had played Captain
Rosatti, who was the equivalent of Captain Mainwaring. He kindly sent a
letter and autographed photo, but furthermore he was able to actually track
down a copy of the episode on video! A copy of The Rear Guard had been
kept by the director, Hal Cooper, in his personal collection, which was
very fortunate considering that ABC-TV had wiped the original tape. Cliff
was still friends with Hal, and he gladly made a copy for the DAAS New
Zealand Branch. So after two years, a once unknown and long-forgotten episode,
which had been classified as lost forever, was now back with the DAAS.
I immediately telephoned Jimmy Perry, who was extatic to hear this lost
chapter in his show's history was recovered. We got the video converted
from NTSC to Pal, and made several copies. The Rear Guard is now kept in
the DAAS NZ Branch archives, the DAAS UK archives, and Jimmy Perry, David
Croft and a few others have copies, so it is unlikely that this will ever
be ‘lost’ again.
I'm proud to have unearthed both the forgotten information and ultimately
the actual video copy of this very interesting and important piece of Dad's
Army's history. Since my research was concluded, the story of this one-off
episode has been recorded in several publications, so I'm happy to think
that it should not be forgotten as easily as it was before for 25 years.
The full script to The Rear Guard, plus a wonderful coloured photo of the
cast and production crew on set (including Jimmy and David) appears in
Richard Webber’s book ‘The
Complete A-Z of Dad's Army’ (2000, Orion Books). Here are some other
details of the half-hour comedy pilot.
The Rear Guard
The Rear Guard was based upon the famous Dad's Army script ‘The Deadly
Attachment’ by Jimmy Perry and David Croft. This was adapted, and actually
somewhat cut down in dialogue, by well-known US comedy writer Arthur Julian.
In doing so, he decided to switch around some of the character's personas,
and take lines from one character and give them to another. For example
many of Mainwaring's lines are uttered by Sgt Raskin, who is really Wilson's
equivalent character. The result is something which resembles Dad's Army,
but does not directly impersonate it.
Here is the full cast list
Lou Jacobi as Sergeant Max Raskin
Unlike Dad's Army, top billing goes to the Sergeant character. This
is played by Lou Jacobi, a well known US character actor. Raskin is a rotund
Jewish man, with a moustache. The character is slightly reminiscent of
Oliver Hardy. He seems to enjoy his job as platoon sergeant to the civilian
defence unit, but he’s not too keen on actually meeting the Germans. Being
American, the sergeant role is built up to be a tougher and louder character
than the gentle Sgt Wilson. Lou Jacobi is now retired from acting and lives
in New York.
Cliff Norton as Captain Nick Rosatti
Captain Rosatti is an Italian-American. Bearing little resemblance
to his counterpart Captain Mainwaring, Rosatti seems to love the sound
of his own voice (which is always louder than needed). He is full of gusto
and can't wait to get to grips with the German prisoners, or any enemy.
His cousin Mario owns a delicatessen in the town, but we're not made aware
of his own profession. Cliff Norton lives in Hollywood these days and continues
to work in radio.
Eddie Foy Jr. as Bert Wagner
Wagner is a new recruit to the platoon. A direct descendant of the
Lance Corporal Jones character, Wagner is an old soldier who likes the
cold steel too. However his wars were American ones. He claims to have
ridden up San Wan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt. In fact Roosevelt becomes
the equivalent of Jones’ reminiscences of General Kitchener. This seems
a risky piece of writing as Roosevelt is revered in American history, unlike
Kitchener in Britain's memories. Rather than a bayonet, Wagner has a long
curved cavalry sword, the blade of which more often than not detaches from
the handle when drawn. With the gentle Private Godfrey character written
out, his comic traits of a weak bladder is written into the Bert Wagner
character. Wagner also nods off like Godfrey, and he has trouble walking
long distances without getting tired. Eddie Foy Jr. was a famous actor
from a famous family. He died in 1982.
John McCook as Don Crawford
An amalgamation of Private Walker, the wide boy, and some traits of
the suave Sgt Wilson, Crawford is a professional Hollywood actor, who has
dodged the draft on medical grounds. Crawford is a smooth talker, a ladies
man. He is also a bit of a coward – it was he who suggested switching the
detonators in the grenades for dummies. He seems to have something going
on with church secretary Marsha. He is not satisfied with the fact that
the platoon are forced to wear old World War One uniforms, and feels he
is a war behind. John McCook has gone onto a successful career in US soaps
such as Days Of Our Lives.
Dennis Kort as Bobby Henderson
Pike gets off lightly, his equivalent Henderson is an equally stupid,
soppy looking boy. Henderson also loves film stars and is keen to see real
Germans and action, just like Pikey. He doesn't like going up ladders,
just like Pike, and claims he had a note from his mother about this fact.
Sadly we did not meet his mother, who would have been the equivalent of
Mavis Pike. It is unknown what Dennis Kort is doing these days.
Arthur Peterson as Mr Muldoon
This character is the equivalent of the belligerent Verger, Mr Yeatman.
Muldoon is the custodian of the Catholic Church where the platoon meets.
He is equally as much a troublemaker as Yeatman. Arthur Peterson may best
be remembered as the nutty Colonel in the comedy Soap. He died in 1997.
Jim Connell as Father Fitzgerald
Instead of a Church of England Vicar, in the case of the Reverend Timothy
Farthing, The Rear Guard has a Catholic priest. Father Fitzgerald is Irish,
and it seems he is a bit more supportive of having the platoon in his hall
than Farthing was in Dad's Army. It is Muldoon and the priest who cause
the hostage situation, because the character of the ARP Warden Hodges was
not written into the US version. It is unknown what Jim Connell is doing
these days, if he’s still alive.
James McCallion as Colonel Walsh
The Rear Guard’s equivalent of Colonel Pritchard is actually a member
of the regular Army, and in control of the civilian defence in the area
of long island where this is set. In Dad's Army, Pritchard is also Home
guard, not regular army.
Conrad Janis as the German Captain
A direct transition of the almost evil Captain Muller from the Dad's
Army episode, Conrad’s playing of the part is very good. He is quite convincing
in his part, despite the fact that unlike Philip Madoc in the UK version,
he did not speak German and had to learn the few lines in German especially.
Conrad continues to act in films and TV, and has appeared in over 500 sitcoms.
Ronda Copland as Marsha Wilson
A new character, brought in for some female interest, Marsha is attractive
and all the men of the platoon desire her. She seems to be a secretary
at the church, but at nights she works in an aircraft factory. She is a
bit like Wendy Richard’s character of Edith Parish/ Shirley.
Dave Morick as Frank Sanicola
A new character, Sanicola is the fisherman who actually picked up the
U-boat crew. He is the one who phones Rosatti about them, not the Colonel.
Don Diamond as Foster
It seems Frazer has disappeared altogether, which is a sad omission.
However, this character which has a few lines, may have been his replacement.
This is not clear. But Foster is the man who handles the machine gun, and
as Frazer is the Walminton platoon’s Lewis Gunner, the connection is there.
Claude Jones as Krupinsky
A tiny role, perhaps best equated with Private Sponge, particularly
as Krupinsky is the man who fetches and set up the ladder, as Sponge had
done in this episode.
There is no Air Raid Warden, although it’s not clear whether one may
have come into it if the series had gone on. The USA definitely had Air
Raid Wardens, but as they were under the banner of Civil Defense, and as
these platoon members are also called Civilian Defense, perhaps the two
may have been too similar to set up that clash of authorities which exists
so wonderfully in Dad's Army.
This episode screened once only in the US, and it’s thought was never
broadcast outside that country. It aired on Channels 7 and 8 at 10:00pm
on Tuesday the 10th of August 1976. The setting is Long Island, but it
seems prior plans were for the setting to be in Maine.
Richard Webber discovered in his research for ‘The Complete A-Z of Dad's
Army’ that the producer, Herman Rush, had sketched out some ideas for more
storylines if the series had gone ahead as planned. They indicate that
only the pilot would have been based on an actual Dad's Army script. Interestingly,
Herman Rush also referred to his American characters as Dad's Army. Here
Local factory that manufactures munitions for US Army is having problems.
Dad's Army is called to patrol, and suspects sabotage.
Since town is on the Atlantic Coastand because of U-boat threat, there
are local blackouts. Dad's Army assists in making sure blackout rules are
A stranger arrives in town and arouses suspicions of Dad's Army that
he is a spy. (He turns out to be an FBI agent and his cover is inadvetantly
blown by our heroes).
There is an Army base located outside the town. Dad's Army, not realizing
they are holding maneuvers, decides the enemy has landed and surrounds
The British Home Office sends a Colonel Blimp type from their Home Guard
to America to offer instruction to their American cousins and he is assigned
to our group in Maine.
On Flag Day Dad's Army decides to hold a parade to display their newest
uniforms and equipment. Unbeknownst to them the Army base has made the
same decision and the two parades collide as they round the corner of 5th
Dad's Army is holding special training and conflict erupts between the
General and one of the Privates as to who is in command
Washington sends a retired General to visit with Dad's Army to bring
them up to date with the latest methods of defense. He turns out to be
a greater bumbler than our heroes.