Listen very carefully, I shall say zis only once. 'Allo 'Allo (1982-1992) is a British sitcom written by David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd set in German-occupied France during the Second World War. While some of its comedy comes from good-natured affectionate stereotyping of the main characters' nationalities, it specialised in ludicrously labyrinthine plots that become increasingly convoluted during each episode before breaking down into a farcical finale. Closely inspired by the serious BBC series Secret Army (1977-79), it has far eclipsed it in popularity and longevity.
Set in the town of Nouvion, particularly around the Café René, 'Allo 'Allo takes place during the German occupation of the town. The central character is René Artois, owner of the Café René. He longs for a simple, quiet life where he can divorce his wife (whom he married for the money), marry his much younger waitress Yvette and, being French have a few affairs. Yet German forces are occupying the town, and while he simply wants to stay neutral and profit from this as best he can, usually in a way that involves pimping his waitresses in mysterious ways that utilise a flying helmet and wet celery, both the Germans and Résistance constantly forcibly demand his constant attention.
The town's German commandant, Colonel von Strohm, wants to make the most of occupying the town by secretly hiding Novion's art treasures with René, planning to sell them after the war, and he often threatens to execute René if he does not agree. These include some silver, the world's first cuckoo clock, painting The Cracked Vase with the Big Daisies by Van Gogh and, most lucrative and notable of all, the painting known as The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies by van Klomp. As Hitler himself wants to own The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies, Herr Flick of the Gestapo is sent to Nouvion to recover it, although Herr Flick wants to keep that painting for himself.
As if hiding the loot both for the Germans and from the Germans isn't difficult enough, Michelle of the Résistance - led by Charles 'the one with the big 'ooter' de Gaulle, the Gaullist Résistance spend more of their time fighting the Communist Résistance than the Germans - force René to hide two British airmen who crash-landed near the town and don't speak a word of French. All attempts to return the incompetent British airmen to Blighty are doomed to fail. René also has a secret radio transmitter used to contact London hidden in his mother-in-law's bed.
The delicate balance of peace is not only threatened by the Gestapo but also by bloodthirsty warmonger, General von Klinkerhoffen, who frequently threatens to send his officers to the Russian Front, considered a guaranteed death sentence, and frequently orders the shooting of French peasants, including René. After the Colonel fakes René's death at the end of the first series, René spends the rest of the series pretending to be his own fictional identical twin brother, also called René. As in his will he left everything to Edith, who is now considered his widow, in order to regain his wealth and status René must woo and marry the woman he has long dreamed of divorcing in order to then be able to afford to divorce her and marry Yvette. Soon forgeries of the painting flood the town while the originals and fakes are mixed up and various increasingly implausible hiding places utilised, many involving sausages at times when the Résistance have also disguised high explosives as sausages.
You Have Been Watching
The Characters of 'Allo 'Allo
René Artois (Gorden Kaye)
You may be wondering why...
Every episode begins with René explaining to viewers what has happened in previous episodes as René is the focus and hero of the series, despite desperately wanting not to be involved in any affairs other than that with his waitress, Yvette (with occasional exceptions). Afterall, being a fat, balding Frenchman, all women (and some men, much to his discomfort) consider him irresistible. Despite his continued cowardice he is considered by many who do not know him to be a true hero of France, known by the codenamed 'Nighthawk' by both the Résistance and British Intelligence, with whom he regularly contacts by a specially-hidden radio.
Gordon Kaye (1941-2017) had impressed David Croft when he had appeared in three episodes of Are You Being Served? (1972-1985), which led to his being offered the role of René. In January 1990 when doing a three-month tour of the 'Allo, 'Allo stage show in Australia, Kaye suffered a horrific injury in a severe storm when a wooden stake from a billboard smashed through the car he was in and impaled his head. He spent several days in a coma and had severe amnesia when he recovered consciousness. Filming on 'Allo, 'Allo was postponed for over a year in order to allow Kaye to recover.
Edith Artois (Carmen Silvera)
You stupid woman!
The unloved wife of René Artois, Edith is perhaps the most intelligent and resourceful person in the series, able to think up a convoluted solution to any straight-forward problem, with only two weaknesses. Firstly, her love for René blinds her to his numerous affairs, particularly with Yvette, who she looks down on. Though she frequently catches René and Yvette embracing in compromising positions, leading her to exclaim at some point in most episodes, 'René! What are you doing holding that servant girl in your arms?' Her second weakness is her complete and utter inability to sing in tune, which coupled from her desire to perform the cabaret in the café often results in the customers ordering things such as cheese that they can stuff in their ears to drown out the noise.
Despite being unloved by René both Monsieur Alfonse and Captain Bertorelli are attracted to her, although in Bertorelli's case this might be because since René's supposed death she is left a wealthy widow. As well as devoting her time to her husband and the Résistance, she also looks after her elderly mother who lives in a small room above the café.
Spanish/Canadian actress Carmen Silvera (1922-2002) is best known for 'Allo 'Allo but had previously appeared in an episode of Dad's Army titled 'Mum's Army' playing a love interest for Captain Mainwaring.
Yvette Carte-Blanche (Vicki Michelle MBE)
The buxom brunette head waitress and René's true love, René and Yvette spend much of their time trying to plan their elopement. Whenever she is alone with him she calls out a low, gutturally erotic 'oooooggghhhhh René!', with the oooggh getting longer and longer as the series progresses. Inevitably though Edith catches the two together. She is keen to help the Résistance at any opportunity, yet also frequently enjoys 'entertaining' the local German officers with the aid of a flying helmet, wet celery and occasionally an egg whisk. Actress Vicki Michelle (1950+) was later awarded the MBE for her charity work.
Michelle of the Résistance Dubois (Kirsten Cooke)
Listen very carefully, I shall say zis only once.
Michelle, played by Kirsten Cooke (1952+), leads Novion's Gaullist Résistance, which consists of numerous women dressed identically in raincoats and berets, and René. She is the one who puts the cunning and/or crackpot plans into operation, many of which involve hair brained attempts to return the British airmen to Blighty. She is uniquely the only Frenchwoman in the series not in love with René and also the only French character able to speak English.
Fanny La Fan (Rose Hill)
Ze flashing knobs!
Madame Fanny La Fan is Edith's deaf and cantankerous mother who lives in the attic above the café. René considers her a 'silly old bat'. Played by Rose Hill (1914-2003) she spends much of her time trying to get Edith's attention by repeatedly hitting the floor with her walking stick. The rest of the time she is lying in her bed, which is secretly the Résistance radio; London's attempts to contact them are conveyed by the bedknobs flashing. She is wooed by the elderly LeClerc brothers and when younger had an affair with Vincent van Gogh, who gave her the painting of the Cracked Vase with the Big Daisies. She is completely intolerant of Germans, typically saying, 'I do not shake hands with Germans, I spit on zem!' and spitting whenever Germans or Germany is mentioned.
Maria Recamier (Francesca Gonshaw)
Maria is a short waitress at the café who is in love with René. Gonshaw only appeared in the first three series (1982-1987) and her character's disappearance is explained by Maria hiding herself in a Red Cross parcel that was accidentally sent to Switzerland. While still in 'Allo 'Allo, Gonshaw (1959+) appeared in the film Biggles (1986) as the similarly-named character Marie, using the same French accent. This makes it impossible to take the scenes in which she appears while Biggles wears a flying-helmet seriously.
Mimi Labonq (Sue Hodge)
The character of Mimi was written as a replacement waitress for Mariaand like her is also short. She was appointed to the café by Michelle and like all French women quickly falls in love with René. Sue Hodge (1957+) first appeared in series 4.
Monsieur Alfonse (Kenneth Connor MBE)
My dicky ticker!
Monsieur Alfonse is the town's half-Belgian undertaker. He longs to help the Résistance but, having a heart condition, whenever he does his heart starts palpitating almost as much as when he sees women in revealing clothing, which being France occurs regularly. He is also the town's Deputy Mayor, the wealthiest character in the series and is madly in love with Edith. Believing that René is a brave hero of the Résistance he reluctantly stands aside to allow them to be together, though he would prefer to romantically fight a duel to win her hand.
Kenneth Connor (1918-1993) had the most successful career outside 'Allo! 'Allo of the entire cast. He is best known for his 17 Carry On films but also appeared in numerous other comedies, television series and also radio.
Monsieur LeClerc & Monsieur LeClerc
It is I, LeClerc!
Both of the LeClerc brothers are France's greatest forgers, making the forged copies of the Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies, or the booby boobies. Monsieur Roger LeClerc (Jack Haig) appeared in the first five series. René's chief liaison with the Résistance, he would try and hide from the Germans by wearing unconvincing disguises that anyone could see through, and then telling René 'It is I, LeClerc' even though he had already been recognised. He would often play the café's piano and had been a childhood sweetheart of Fanny. Sadly Jack Haig (1913-1989) died while the show was still in production.
Following Haig's death, series 6 of the show was hastily re-written to replace LeClerc with his brother Monsieur Ernest LeClerc (Derek Royle) who has the same hobbies and talents as his brother. Sadly Derek Royle (1928-1990), who had appeared in Magical Mystery Tour, died a year after being cast, so he was replaced by a new actor playing Ernest LeClerc, Robin Parkinson (1929+), who played him from series 7 to the end.
The Communist Résistance
The Communist Résistance was led initially by Denise Laroque (Moira Foot) and later by her deputy Louise (Carole Ashby), both of whom were strong-willed, fierce women passionately in love with René, despite scaring him a little. In many ways the Communist Résistance are more effective than the Gaullist Résistance and actually manage to send someone out of France and back to Britain on their first attempt, although admittedly the person they send is Captain Hans Geering and not one of the British airmen.
German (& Italian)
General von Klinkerhoffen (Hilary Minster)
Colonel von Strohm (Richard Marner
Lieutenant Hubert Gruber (Guy Siner)
Herr Flick (Richard Gibson)
David Janson series 9
Private Helga Geerhart (Kim Hartman
von Smallhausen (John Louis Mansi
Captain Hans Geering (Sam Kelly)
(series 1 to 4)
General Leopold von Flockenstuffen (Ken Morley)
Captain Alberto Bertorelli (Gavin Richards)
series 4 to 6
Roger Kitter, series 7
Officer Crabtree (Arthur Bostrom)
The British Airmen: Fairfax and Carstairs (John D Collins and Nicholas Frankau)
My wife and I were watching an ''Allo 'Allo!' boxset a few years ago and halfway through watching all the episodes in order it seemed as if lots of things had happened while we weren't looking. We only realised that they'd inexplicably put the Christmas episode on the extras disc right when we'd finished watching it all, and finally the gaps were filled. When the Christmas episode follows on from the previous one and directly affects the next, this was frustrating!