Last updated on the 28 March 2024 by Evandrus

Terry-Thomas headshot

Mini Biography

Born: July 1911, Finchley, London, England.

Terry-Thomas was an actor and comedian who became famous for his roles as upper-class cads, toffs and bounders in films of the 1950s and 1960s. He was known for his distinctive voice, monocle, waistcoat and cigarette holder, as well as his gap-toothed smile.

He was born Thomas Terry Hoar Stevens, the fourth of five children of a butcher and an amateur actor. He attended Ardingly College, where he developed an interest in drama and music. He left school at 16 and worked as a clerk, a salesman and a film extra, before joining a touring theatre company in 1933.

He adopted the stage name Terry-Thomas in 1938, after adding a hyphen to his first name to make it sound more sophisticated. He performed in variety shows, cabarets and revues and became a popular radio comedian during World War II, when he also served in the army entertainment units. He made his television debut in 1949, starring in the first British comedy series, How Do You View?

He rose to fame in the 1950s, appearing in several successful British films, such as Private’s Progress (1956), The Green Man (1956), Blue Murder at St Trinian’s (1957) and I’m All Right Jack (1959). He often played villains or comic foils, using his trademark catchphrases, such as “You’re an absolute shower!”, “Good show!” and “Hard cheese!”

Terry-Thomas moved to Hollywood in the early 1960s, where he continued his film career, co-starring with stars such as Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Peter Sellers and Jerry Lewis. Some of his notable American films include Bachelor Flat (1962), It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) and How to Murder Your Wife (1965). He also appeared in several European films, such as the French comedy La Grande Vadrouille (1966), which was one of the most successful films in France at the time.

Terry-Thomas married twice and had two sons. His first wife was Ida Patlanski, whom he married in 1938 and divorced in 1962. His second wife was Belinda Cunningham, whom he married in 1963 and remained with until his death. He was a keen golfer, gardener and animal lover, and supported several charities.

Terry-Thomas was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1971, which gradually affected his speech, movement and appearance. He retired from acting in 1980, after his last film role in The Boys in Blue. He spent his last years in a nursing home, where he died on 8 January 1990, aged 78. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in his garden. He is remembered as one of the most original and memorable comedians of his generation.


Suggested viewing


Carlton Browne of the FO (1959)

Carlton Browne of the FO  poster

Bftv 8.0 / IMDb 6.2

Bumbling diplomat Carlton-Browne lands in hot water when a forgotten island colony with valuable minerals becomes a Cold War hotspot. Sent to smooth things over, his clueless antics clash with a cunning Communist agent and a charming islander. As diplomatic blunders and cultural misunderstandings multiply, Carlton-Browne must scramble to navigate the political jungle and find a way to save the day (and his career) with a laugh.

Top cast: Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers, Luciana Paluzzi, Ian Bannen, Thorley Walters, Raymond Huntley, Miles Malleson, John Le Mesurier, Marie Lohr.

I’m All Right Jack (1959)
I’m All Right Jack poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 7.1

A naive aristocrat stumbles into a factory job thanks to his scheming uncle. His high productivity sparks a clash between the profit-hungry boss and a militant union leader, both comically inept. Laughter erupts as mistaken identities, strikes, and sabotage turn the factory into a chaotic battleground, leaving everyone worse for wear in this satirical poke at British class relations.

Top cast: Top cast: Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers, Richard Attenborough, Dennis Price, Margaret Rutherford, Irene Handl, Liz Fraser.

Make Mine Mink (1960)

Make Mine Mink poster

Bftv 8.0 / IMDb 7.0

A ragtag group of misfits, led by a charming ex-military man, become Robin Hoods of fur, stealing mink coats from the wealthy to fund local charities. Hijinks ensue as they fumble through their heists, pursued by a bumbling inspector. Love triangles, social satire, and farcical situations abound as they learn the unexpected consequences of good intentions, wrapped in a delightful comedy full of laughter and warmth.

Top cast: Terry-Thomas, Athene Seyler, Hattie Jacques, Billie Whitelaw, Elspeth Duxbury, Jack Hedley, Raymond Huntley, Freddie Frinton, Kenneth Williams, Irene Handl.

School for Scoundrels (1960)

School for Scoundrels poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 7.3

A hapless man, constantly outsmarted and bullied, seeks revenge by enrolling in a dubious “lifemanship” school, learning the art of subtle manipulation and sly tricks. He gleefully puts his lessons to use, gaining confidence and outmaneuvering his adversaries. However, his newfound cunning clashes with his newfound feelings for a kind woman, forcing him to question the true cost of his “victories.”

Top cast: Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas, Janette Scott, Alastair Sim, Dennis Price, Edward Chapman, Peter Jones, Kynaston Reeves, Irene Handl, John Le Mesurier, Gerald Campion, Hattie Jacques.

Blue Murder at St. Trinian’s (1957)

Blue Murder at St. Trinian's poster

Bftv 8.0 / IMDb 6.4

Mayhem reigns at St. Trinian’s, an all-girls school notorious for mischief. To win a trip to Europe, the devious students cheat and charm their way, only to become entangled with a diamond thief disguised as their chaperone. Hijinks unfold in Italy as the girls navigate romance, capture clues and outsmart bumbling authorities, leaving a trail of laughter and chaos in their wake.

Top cast: Terry-Thomas, George Cole, Joyce Grenfell, Alastair Sim, Sabrina, Lionel Jeffries, Lloyd Lamble, Raymond Rollett, Terry Scott.

Full filmography (@Wikipedia)


Terry-Thomas Gallery


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