Colin Bean may not have been one of the headline stars of Dad’s Army, but as Private Sponge, he was one of the most familiar faces in the wartime comedy, appearing in all but four of the 80 episodes of its nine-year run.
Born in Wigan on April 15, 1926, he showed an early interest in acting and began his professional career at Wigan Hippodrome with Frank Fortescue’s Famous Players. During National Service in Japan he performed with a military theatre company and broadcast on services’ radio.
In 1948 he joined Southport Repertory Company, before taking a drama course in 1952 and worked for Sheffield Rep as an ASM on graduating. He was a company member of the Court Players and the Victor Graham Players, before his first television speaking part in 1961’s Richard the Lionheart. Appearances in Z Cars, The Gnomes of Dulwich and Up Pompeii followed.
Joining Dad’s Army in 1971, he was a nameless member of the platoon for 48 episodes, before being identified as the sheep farmer turned Home Guard stalwart Private Sponge.
Bean was regularly to be found in prime-time shows such as The Liver Birds, Are You Being Served? and Hi-de-Hi!. He worked regularly in theatre, spending a near-two decade stint as a pantomime dame for Dad’s Army creator Jimmy Perry at the Palace Theatre, Watford from 1962. In 1973 he co-founded the Bijou Theatre Company, maintaining a relationship with it until his death.
Arthritis limited Bean to radio drama in later life, although he attended numerous events celebrating Dad’s Army and published his autobiography in 1998.
He died on June 20, aged 83, in Wigan Infirmary.
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