From the years 1982-1992, the BBC aired one of Britain’s favorite comedy sitcoms, but ‘Allo ‘Allo! has proven to have continued to reign as one of the best ever since. In fact, the show even had its own stage production which ran for nearly as long as the television series, featured the original cast, and was brought back again years later for fans to enjoy. We now take a look back at some of the things you probably didn’t know about one of the most-loved sitcoms to date.
France Or Norfolk?
‘Allo ‘Allo! was a successful British sitcom that ran on the BBC from 1982-1992. Set in German-occupied France, the 85-episode series proved to be a real hit, although it was slightly controversial. Despite this, it kept fans laughing throughout its ten-year run.
The show was set in the village of Nouvion, which actually exists in north-eastern France. However, no filming for the programme ever took place in Nouvian but, instead, in the county of Norfolk, East of England.
A Mother Only Eight Years Older
Actresses Rose Hill and Carmen Silvera played mother and daughter in the hit show, but they were actually only eight years apart in age. Playing the role of Madame Edith when the show started was the then 60-year-old Carmen; meanwhile, Madame Fanny La Fan, who was played by Rose, was 68.
Following the end of the series, Rose outlived her on-screen daughter, Carmen, who died in 2002. Rose survived one more year but sadly passed away in 2003 at the age of 89.
What A “Klop!” That Was
The show was famous for its many catchphrases and sayings, with almost all characters on the show having their own. Captain Hans Geering, played by Sam Kelly, was famous for shouting “Klop!” when doing a Nazi salute.
Kelly has since stated that that’s not what he was saying at all, and rather it was “-itler!” because he felt the character could not be bothered saying all of “Heil Hitler!” While this sounds nothing like “Klop!” having re-listened to Geering on the show again, you can hear it.
Pardon My French
Fans of the show will be able to remember the most famous catchphrase on the series, “Good Moaning,” which became a regular saying from Officer Crabtree, the British spy acting as a policeman. Officer Crabtree may also be remembered for always giving a terrible take on the French language.
But, in fact, Arthur Bostrom, who played Officer Crabtree, was, and still is, fluent in the language but broke it up to add comedic value to the show.
A Close Call For Rene
Rene was a prominent character on the show, but while starring on the sitcom, Series six was close to being his last appearance. Gordon Kaye, the actor who played Rene, was caught in an extremely violent storm in the UK in January 1990.
At this time, Kaye was in his car when debris smashed through his windscreen and left the actor needing emergency brain surgery. Fortunately, Kaye survived this incident and, from Series seven, there was a noticeable deep scar on his forehead.
Bye Bye David Croft
‘Allo ‘Allo! spoofed many war films and dramas, and it had the creative minds of writers David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd to thank for its success. However, while Croft was one-half of the original creators, and also wrote the theme music for the show, he only stayed with the sitcom for the first six series.
For Series 7 to 9, Croft handed over writing duties to Lloyd, who brought Paul Adam on board to help. However, before joining Lloyd, Paul Adam only had writing credits on two little-known films.
Writers Were Put To The Test In Series Five
When ‘Allo ‘Allo! first aired, every series contained 6-8 episodes. However, when it came to Series five, there were an impressive 26 episodes, meaning it contained almost a third of the total number of the sitcom’s episodes!
The reason for this, however, was an attempt to get America interested in the show. With viewers across the pond used to long seasons, ‘Allo ‘Allo! creators had to triple their amount of episodes in a series. Unfortunately, the show failed to take off but, years later, it won a cult following.
Write The Series, Write The Theme Tune
Just as he wrote the series, David Croft also wrote the gentle accordion-based melody that was used for the theme music of ‘Allo ‘Allo! Croft wrote the tune with Roy Moore and, in the 1980s, Carmen Silvera added lyrics and released it as a single.
In the show, Edith is a completely tuneless cabaret performer, but Carmen herself would deliver a more respectable performance. However, there was no future shining career as a pop diva for Carmen.
The Stage Show
With the success of their show during the ’80s, David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd adapted the sitcom into a touring stage show. In fact, the stage production featured most of the TV cast, allowing fans to see their favorite ‘Allo ‘Allo! characters.
The stage production had three runs in London and was even taken internationally, up until 1992 – the same year the series ended. In 1996, however, there was a revival summer season in Bournemouth, bringing the stage show to a total run of ten years.
It Was Best To Stick To Acting
Carmen Silvera may have released a song that was linked to the show, but so did Gordon Kaye and Vicki Michelle. In 1986, the co-stars recorded a version of the French pop tune, “Je t’aime… moi non plus.” The actors who played René and Yvette, respectively, reimagined the 1960s classic by also whispering lustily over a catchy organ riff, but in a more comical manner.
Unfortunately, the single only peaked at number 57 on the UK charts, so there was no hope of a pop career for them either.
Never Forget The Fallen Madonna
It was arguably the most famous of all the sought-after treasures from the sitcom, and “The Fallen Madonna” by the fictional painter, Klomp, became an emblem of the show.
In fact, the late Lord Bath, who was a huge ‘Allo ‘Allo! fan, had a commissioned copy, which he hung alongside “Old Masters” in his ancestral home at Longleat House. Fans of the show can still get a glimpse of it today by visiting Longleat House.
Historical Facts Don’t Lie
The first episode in Season Four, titled, “Hans Goes Over The Top,” takes place firmly in 1941. Viewers are made aware of this since there is an on-screen caption confirming so. However, we know that a previous episode called “The Gateau From The Chateau” could not have taken place earlier than January 1942 because the events are based on historical facts.
While the show was predominantly focused on providing comedic value to viewers, there was no ignoring this writing error.
To Remake Or Not To Remake?
In August 2016, 24 years after the final episode of the sitcom aired on UK television, The Sun newspaper announced that plans for a remake of the series had been scrapped. While rumors spread that the BBC had plans for a reboot of ‘Allo ‘Allo!, the newspaper, without naming a source, said that plans had changed following the possibility of viewers complaints.
It was believed that viewers might complain about Gestapo officer Herr Flick, affecting the decision to not go ahead with the remake.
How Do You Know That Song?
The show was created in 1982 but was set around the time of The Second World War. While most of the sitcom’s setting and plotlines revolved around this time, the writers seem to have got their dates confused with some of the smaller details.
For example, Madame Fanny sings “La Vie en Rose” during an episode set in 1941. However, this song, written by Edith Piaf, was released in 1946, which would have meant Madame Fanny was singing it before it even came out!
Trying To Keep Up With Themselves
There were four nationalities featured in ‘Allo ‘Allo! but the show would play with the use of accents to represent different languages. The French would speak English with a French accent, the Germans with a German accent, the Italians with Italian, and the English airmen showed off their posh voices.
Much of the comedic value came from this since it was entertaining to watch who could understand who, and how the characters would maintain or switch to different accents.
The Kiwis Are Big Fans
While the show aimed to break through America during Series Six, it did manage to catch the attention of viewers as far as Australia and New Zealand. In fact, in Australia, the BBC gave Roadshow Entertainment the license to begin releasing the sitcom on DVD from 2006, an impressive 14 years after the series ended.
While this was on a semi-annual basis, all nine Series have since been released on DVD to date. The Return of ‘Allo ‘Allo! TV Special is the last to be released on DVD.
Henriette, Is That You?
During Episode Five of Series Five, titled “Enter Denise,” actress Phoebe Scholfield swaps sides for the episode. In the series, Scholfield usually played Henriette, Michelle’s assistant; however, in this episode, she also appeared as one of the communist girls.
Since she was not one of the most prominent characters on the show, it could have been a hard one to spot. Yet, eagle-eyed viewers would have been able to spot the similarities in the girls’ looks, noticing it was, in fact, the same actress.
This Was Not The End Of Vicki Michelle
Vicki Michelle was best-known for playing the head waitress, Yvette Carte-Blanche, on the sitcom, as well as the woman René was having an affair with. While ‘Allo ‘Allo! ended in 1992, that was not the end of Michelle on the small screen.
In fact, the actress has continued to add credits to her name and played Patricia Foster on the ITV soap, Emmerdale, between 2007 and 2009. Meanwhile, she also featured on reality television, including I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! and Celebrity MasterChef.
The Origins of ‘Allo ‘Allo!
‘Allo ‘Allo! was known for spoofing previous war films and dramas. However, the main source of inspiration for the show has been disputed by writer, Jeremy Lloyd.
While it has been argued that the BBC classic, Secret Army, was the inspiration for ‘Allo ‘Allo! Lloyd claimed he had never even seen the show when he came up with the sitcom. Yet, both storylines involve a café owner having an affair, a bed-ridden woman, and the activities of a Belgian “escape line.”
A Little Too Complicated
Other comedy sitcoms would usually have self-contained episodes, but ‘Allo ‘Allo! was an anomaly with this. Instead, the labyrinth plot lines would be long and convoluted, spanning over the entirety of each series.
In fact, many of the storylines would even cross over into another series, meaning viewers would have to watch each episode to understand what was going on. To combat this issue, writers had Rene summarise the plot at the start of each episode.
‘Allo ‘Allo! was a huge hit with UK audiences and became one of the most successful BBC comedies ever made. Having run for ten years, with nine series, and even a long-running stage version at the same time, the show even became popular abroad and eventually sold to 56 countries.
However, one country that resisted ‘Allo ‘Allo! was, unsurprisingly, Germany. Although German television executives had shown interest in the show, they were reluctant to broadcast it due to the subject of the show.
Germany Changes Their Mind
The show was first shown on French TV in 1989, seven years after it first aired in the UK. Following Germany’s reluctance to broadcast the show in their country, after some time, they changed their mind. It seemed that the appeal and charm of the show overshadowed any concerns, and eventually, it was shown on German television in 2008.
This was sixteen years after ‘Allo ‘Allo! had stopped filming, but it proved it had an everlasting effect on its audiences and for comedy television.
The Comedy Continues
While the show was last performed on stage in 1996, some of the TV characters reprised their role in 2007 while performing in Australia. Gorden Kaye, Sue Hodge, Guy Siner, Steven Tandy, and Jason Gann performed the production of the stage show in Brisbane and, in 2008, a new tour began in the UK.
The show opened at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage before going on a national tour in 2009. Once again, original cast members reprised their role for the show.
Making Records As An Actor
Guy Siner took on the role of Lieutenant Hubert Gruber in the comedy sitcom, but his resume since taking on this role has been even more impressive.
In fact, his film credits include Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Return to the Secret Garden, while also appearing in the Star Trek franchise and Doctor Who. In fact, Siner is one of only ten actors to appear in both Star Trek and Doctor Who.
A Writers Dream
The character of Herr Otto Flick was played by actor Richard Gibson after he caught the attention of one of the writers. In fact, Gibson won the role in ‘Allo ‘Allo! after co-creator, David Croft, caught him telling jokes with a German accent at his daughter’s wedding.
Originally from Uganda, Gibson took on the role for eight out of the nine series of the show, having left in 1992. It was David Janson that took over from Gibson in the final series.
The Show In Jeoprady
Following the severe incident which Gorden Kaye faced in 1989, leaving him hospitalised and needing brain surgery, the show was put on hiatus between 1989 and 1991.
This, no doubt, put the show’s future in jeopardy, with Gorden being a key actor in the show, never mind the lead character. Fortunately, Kaye was able to make a full recovery and returned back to the show in good health. The only difference was the scar on his forehead, which he had for the rest of his life.
What To Do With All This Money?
‘Allo ‘Allo! managed to win the hearts of the British nation, followed by France, Germany, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and another 50 odd countries. With its huge success, the BBC provided the show with an unusually large budget.
So large that the writers did not even need all of it and would create stunts just to use the money. In fact, the producers used to stage huge explosions and elaborate stunts as often as it was fitting, simply because they had the money to spare to do so.
Comedy or Controversy?
The premise of the show was to show life during The Second World War, where René Artois is a café owner in the town of Nouvion, France, and military from the Axis powers have occupied the town.
However, while this was meant to be showcased in a light-hearted and comedic fashion – albeit controversial – the broadcast of the first season was met by serious protests. The show was accused of mocking the real horrors of the Occupation and Resistance, even though it was forty years later.
In Series eight, Michael Sheard appeared briefly as a double for Field Marshall Göring, a character who was accidentally blown up by an explosive knockwurst sausage.
However, the casting decision of Sheard is an interesting one since the actor has played Adolf Hitler five times and been seen playing a high-ranking officer in an evil army. Not to mention he has been killed on-screen before, making this a role all too familiar for the actor.
What Could Have Been
Richard Gibson envisioned his character of Herr Flick to be something along the lines of an evil Inspector Gadget. In order to achieve this, he wished to have all sorts of fake body parts that could be swapped out when needed.
Gibson later had to forget this idea since the technology and money available to the show – perhaps before the BBC gave too much – only allowed for Gibson to settle with having a limp for his character.