It was Sid James’ first ITV success story
Starring as George Russell, the lecherous and cunning chauffeur and general dogsbody to the wealthy Colonel Maynard (John Le Mesurier), George And The Dragon paired Sid with the great Peggy Mount as the fire-breathing housekeeper Gabrielle Dragon. It was Sid’s first sitcom for ITV after his two BBC comedies, Taxi! and Citizen James. It wouldn’t however be his last.
The show was a reunion for Sid James and Peggy Mount
Sid and Peggy had worked together before, on a 1956 film adaptation of Brian Rix’s West End farce, Dry Rot. Despite playing adversaries in the show, in real life the pair were close pals, with Sid once admitting that his co-star, despite being two years younger than him, reminded him of his mother. For her part, Mount would praise Sid for being a “unselfish and generous” actor. “Sid has one thing all good comedians have,” she went on. “He is loveable. Even if he is picking someone’s pocket you have the feeling that it is the right thing to do!”
It was written by powerhouse sitcom duo Vince Powell and Harry Driver
They’d enjoyed success with the Arthur Lowe-headlining Coronation Street spinoff Pardon The Expression in 1965, but George And The Dragon – commissioned after Pardon had been axed – would prove a significant step up for sitcom scribes Vince Powell and Harry Driver. George And The Dragon wouldn’t be the only sitcom the pair would write for Sid – after its cancellation, they would team up for the farm-set Two in Clover (1969–70) and the fondly-remembered Bless This House (1971-76).
It was one of ITV’s most popular sitcoms of the time
George And The Dragon lasted an impressive four series and 26 episodes. It seems audiences took a real shine to Sid’s lovable rogue and Peggy Mount’s blustering battleaxe, not to mention John Le Mesurier’s dimly posh Colonel Maynard. In fact, it probably owed its success to the fact that all its stars played reliably to type.
Director Shaun O’Riordan later went on to direct Sapphire & Steel
Shaun O’Riordan (1927-2018) made his name directing some of the biggest shows of the 1960s including Emergency Ward 10 and Softly Softly, as well as helming all 26 episodes of George And The Dragon. Proving how versatile he was, O’Riordan would go on to produce and direct ITV’s eerie sci-fi classic Sapphire & Steel. His last credit was on the Annette Badland-starring sitcom Troubles & Strife in 1985/6.
It includes an early TV appearance from Tom Baker
Check out the Series 3 episode ‘The 10.15 Train’ to see a 33-years-young Tom Baker in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him part as an unnamed railway worker. He may only be on screen for 23 seconds, but it’s still a scene-stealing turn from the future Doctor Who.
Sid suffered his first heart attack while on the series
It was on 13 May 1967, while working on the series at Thames TV’s Borehamwood studios, that Sid complained of chest pains. With his doctor ordering him to go straight to the hospital for a cardiograph, Sid refused, telling wife Valerie he’d go, only “after we’ve recorded the show”. It turned out Sid was having a massive heart attack and he spent the next three weeks in an oxygen tent. He eventually returned to work on George And The Dragon in October 1967, to cheers and applause from the studio audience.
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