15 August 1935
Rothwell, Northamptonshire, England
(m. 1957; div. 1977)
Jim Dale MBE (born James Smith; 15 August 1935) is an English actor, composer, director, narrator, singer and songwriter. In the United Kingdom he is known as a pop singer of the 1950s who became a leading actor at the National Theatre. In British film, he is now one of the last surviving actors to appear in multiple Carry On films, along with Valerie Leon, Kenneth Cope, Julian Holloway, Hugh Futcher, Anita Harris, Amanda Barrie, Jacki Piper, Angela Douglas and Patricia Franklin.
Dale was also a leading actor on Broadway, where he had roles in Scapino, Barnum, Candide and Me and My Girl. He also narrated the U.S. audiobooks for all seven novels in the Harry Potter series, for which he won two Grammy Awards. Dale appeared in the ABC series Pushing Daisies (2007–2009); he also starred in the Disney film Pete's Dragon (1977). He was nominated for a BAFTA Award for portraying a young Spike Milligan in Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall (1973).
As a lyricist, Dale was nominated for both an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for the song "Georgy Girl", the theme for the 1966 film of the same title.
Dale was born James Smith, to William Henry and Miriam Jean (née Wells) Smith in Rothwell, Northamptonshire. He was educated at Kettering Grammar School. He trained as a dancer for six years before his debut as a stage comic in 1951. He completed two years of national service in the Royal Air Force.
At the age of 22, Dale became the first pop singer to work with Parlophone head George Martin. He achieved four hits on the UK Singles Chart; "Be My Girl" (1957, UK No. 2), "Just Born (To Be Your Baby)" (1958, UK No. 27), "Crazy Dream" (1958, UK No. 24), and "Sugartime" (1958, UK No. 25). Dale recorded an album with Martin, Jim! (1958), and appeared contemporaneously as a presenter and performer on BBC Television's Six-Five Special, but he was vocal about comedy aspirations and his career as a teen idol was ultimately short-lived.
As a songwriter, Dale is best remembered as the lyricist for the film theme "Georgy Girl", for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song in 1966. The song (performed by the Seekers) reached number 2 in the US Billboard Hot 100 chart the following year, it also made number 3 in Dale's native UK and Number 1 in Australia, going on to sell over 11 million records around the world. He also wrote lyrics for the title songs of the films The Winter's Tale, Shalako, Twinky (Lola in the United States) and Joseph Andrews. He also wrote and recorded the song "Dick-a-Dum-Dum (King's Road)", which became a hit for Des O'Connor in 1969.
Dale's film debut was in Break-In (1956), a War Office information film. He next appeared in Six Five Special (1958), a spin-off from the BBC TV series of the same title. This film was also released under the name Calling All Cats. He then had a tiny role in the comedy Raising the Wind (1961) as a trombone player who thwarts orchestral conductor Kenneth Williams. However, he is best known in Britain for his appearances in eleven Carry On films, a long-running series of comedy farces, generally playing the hapless romantic lead. His Carry On career began in small roles: first as an expectant father in Carry On Cabby (1963), which was followed by Carry On Jack (1964). From Carry On Spying (1964) onwards, his roles were more substantial. Following Carry On Cleo (1964), his first principal role was Carry On Cowboy (1965), set in the Wild West, where he played an immigrant English sanitary engineer called Marshall P. Knutt who is mistakenly hired as a police marshal. Then came Carry On Screaming! (1966), Don't Lose Your Head (1966), Follow That Camel (1967), Carry On Doctor (1967), Carry On Again Doctor (1969) and the 1992 revival Carry On Columbus.
Dale played Harold, the policeman in the 1965 comedy film The Big Job with two of his regular Carry On co-stars, Sidney James and Joan Sims.
In 1973, he appeared in the role of Spike Milligan in Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall, the film adaptation of the first volume of Spike Milligan's autobiography. It starred Dale as the young Terence "Spike" Milligan, while Milligan himself plays the part of his father, Leo. Dale was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles for his performance.
He played Dr. Terminus in Walt Disney's Pete's Dragon (1977). In the 1978 Walt Disney comedy film Hot Lead and Cold Feet he played three characters, including both lead male parts, whilst 1973 saw him co-star in The National Health.
At the age of 17, Dale became one of the youngest professional comedians in Britain, touring all the variety music halls.
In 1970 Sir Laurence Olivier invited Dale to join the National Theatre Company in London, then based at the Old Vic. At the Young Vic Theatre, he created the title role in Scapino (ca. 1970), which he co-adapted with Frank Dunlop, and played Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew.
His other UK credits include The Card (1973), and The Wayward Way in London. He appeared in The Winter's Tale as Autolycus and A Midsummer Night's Dream as Bottom at the Edinburgh Festivals in 1966 and 1967 for Frank Dunlop's Pop Theatre. He took over the part of Fagin in Cameron Mackintosh's Oliver! at the London Palladium in September 1995.
For his Broadway performances, Dale has been nominated for five Tony Awards, winning one for Barnum (1980) for which the New York Times described him as "The Toast of Broadway", also winning the second of five Drama Desk Awards, and the second of five Outer Critics Awards. Other work includes Scapino (1974) (Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Award, Tony Award Nomination), A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1985) (Outer Critics Award, Tony Award Nomination), Me and My Girl (1986) Candide (1997) (Tony Award Nomination) and The Threepenny Opera (2006) for the Roundabout Theatre Company. Dale played Mister Peacham and won a Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics' Award, The Richard Seff Award and a Tony Award nomination.
Credits Off-Broadway include Travels with My Aunt (1995) (Drama Desk Award, Lucille Lortel Award, Outer Critics Award), Privates On Parade (1989), Comedians (2003) (Drama Desk Award nomination and a Lucille Lortel Award nomination) and Address Unknown (2004).
Dale's other stage work includes The Taming of the Shrew as Petruchio with the Young Vic, London (1970) and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York (1974); The Music Man U.S. tour (1984), and The Invisible Man at the Cleveland Play House (1998). He played the part of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol: The Musical at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, New York City, from 28 November to 27 December 2003.
In November 2006 Dale starred as Charlie Baxter in a one-night only concert version of the Sherman brothers musical Busker Alley alongside Glenn Close. This was a benefit for the York Theatre Company, and was held at Hunter College in New York City. He wrote and appeared in his one-man show, Just Jim Dale, looking back over nearly sixty years in show business. It opened on 15 May 2014 at the Roundabout Theatre Company Laura Pels Theatre, winning Dale his fifth Outer Critics Circle Award, and his fifth Drama Desk Award. It opened at the Vaudeville Theatre in the West End in May 2015.
Source: The New York Times
Dale opened every episode of the ABC drama Pushing Daisies (2009) as the unseen narrator.
In the United States, Jim Dale is known as the voice of the Harry Potter audiobooks, narrating the U.S. versions of all seven novels in the series. Dale's Harry Potter narrations were universally acclaimed. He won two Grammy Awards (in 2001 and 2008) and received seven Grammy nominations and a record ten Audie Awards including "Audio Book of the Year 2004" for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, "Best Children's Narrator 2001/2005/2007/2008," "Best Children's Audio Book 2005," two Benjamin Franklin Awards from the Independent Book Publishers Association (one of these was in 2001 for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and 23 AudioFile Earphone Awards.
He narrates the Harry Potter video games and many of the interactive "extras" on the Harry Potter DVD releases. He also holds one current and two former Guinness World Records. He holds one current record for occupying the first six places in the Top Ten Audio Books of America and Canada 2005. Previously, he held records for creating the most character voices for an audiobook (134 for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in 2003, followed by 146 voices for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007), though the record was later awarded to Roy Dotrice for his 2004 recording of A Game of Thrones. Dale opened every episode of the ABC drama Pushing Daisies as the unseen narrator.
In the mid-1960s, Dale presented Children's Favourites on BBC Radio for a year.
He narrated the Peter and the Starcatchers (2004) audio book, and its three sequels. In 2018, Dale narrated SPIN: The Rumpelstiltskin Musical by Edelman and Fishman, noted as being the first audiobook musical of its kind. SPIN was released by Harper Audio on 9 January 2018. The following year, Dale narrated Puss In Boots a Musical by Edelman and Fishman, adapted for the audiobook by Edelman, Fishman, and Khristine Hvam. It was released by Harper Audio on 27 August 2019.
In 2003, Dale was awarded the MBE, as part of the Queen's Birthday Honours List, for his work in promoting children's English literature.
Source: The New York Times
Sources: allmusic.com; Playbillvault; Audio Publisher