WORDS FOR IAN MACNAUGHTON - BY TERRY JONES
Ian Macnaughton, who has died aged 76, came into my life in 1969, when I saw his name on the credits of Spike Milligan's BBC television series Q5. Spike had insisted on having Ian as director because of his firmness in taking control over the studio tannoy when things were getting out of hand; they went on to make four further series, Q6 to Q9 (1975-80). At the time of Q5, we were in the planning stages of Monty Python's Flying Circus and looking for a director. I thought: if he's good enough for Spike - he's the man for us.
To begin with, Ian did not seem particularly keen to direct Monty Python. After agreeing to do it, he announced - to our dismay - that he needed a holiday, and would be unavailable for the first four shows, which were consequently directed by John Howard Davies. When Ian returned, the then head of BBC light entertainment, Tom Sloane, told him: You've got to do something about this dreadful programme. It's simply not funny. There is nothing remotely comical about a man walking out of the sea and saying 'It's ...'
It is quite possible that Ian initially agreed with Sloane, but as he became more and more part of the Python team, he made it his business to protect us against the antipathy of the BBC hierarchy - not an enviable task. He found himself having to defend a programme that the BBC seemed to regret having commissioned in the first place.
There was also, at the outset, a certain amount of friction between Ian and the Pythons, because we demanded a close involvement in the way the shows were directed, but, by the end of the first series, Ian had become one of us, and his contribution to the shows was significant.
His spirit and humour also pervaded the off-screen life of those Python days, and left an indelible print on all of us. "Och! ye wee naughty ponagger!" would ring out when something went slightly wrong; or "Goodnight, Vienna!" when something went really wrong; or "It's lunchtime, hen!" when it was time to imbibe something stronger than coffee.
Ian directed all the Monty Python television shows, that is Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-72) and Monty Python (1974); the feature film And Now For Something Completely Different (1971); and two German TV shows, Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus (1971-72). It was during the making of these German shows in Bavaria that he met Ike Ott, who was to become his inseparable companion.
Born and brought up in Glasgow, Ian went to Strathallan school, Perth. Following the death of his elder brother in the second world war, his father hoped that he would join the family firm, the butcher's outfitter Macnaughton and Watson - but Ian had other ideas. After a year at medical school, he joined the Royal Marines (1945-46), and then went to London for a year to take the pre-Rada course (though did not enter the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art itself).
At the 1948 Edinburgh festival, he appeared in Tyrone Guthrie's production of Sir David Lindsay's 16th-century political satire, The Three Estates. Of his subsequent work at the Glasgow Citizens' theatre and Edinburgh's Gateway theatre, his actor sister Elspeth recalls a particularly fearsome Scrooge, in A Christmas Carol, at the Gateway.
His film roles, from 1952 onwards, included Haggis in X The Unknown (1956), in which a radioactive, mud-like creature terrorises a Scottish village - Ian loved science fiction - and a Scottish soldier in Lawrence Of Arabia (1962). He was invariably cast as a Scot, and would not have wished it otherwise. In 1955, he moved to London, and, in 1958, married his first wife, Rita, with Harry H Corbett as best man.
On television, he appeared in The Army Game (1956-57), and took
the lead as the extrovert, eccentric Scot in Muriel Spark's The Ballad
Of Peckham Rye (1961). Wishing to do more than act such Scottish
roles as were available, in 1964 he took a BBC training course for television
directors. Work on the police drama Softly Softly and Dr Finlay's
Casebook led to light entertainment programmes, such as Braden's
Week and Q5.
After Monty Python, he collaborated with Leonard Rossiter on the first series of Rising Damp (1974), and the 30-minute film Le Petomane (1979), about Joseph Pujol, the turn-of-the-century entertainer who expressed himself through his backside.
From the 1970s onwards, Ian was based in Germany, to be with Ike; he and Rita divorced in 1978, and he eventually married Ike in 1995. The humour he injected into the English language series he directed for Bavarian television in the 1980s, Follow Me!, had a phenomenal following in the Far East and elsewhere, and he also directed comedy shows proper.
A new departure was opera - he directed the Australian composer George Dreyfus's comedy The Marx Sisters (Bielefeld, 1996), and Gerhard Baumann's Nyx (Munich, 1997). At the theatre in Hall, near Innsbruck, Austria, he directed plays by Otto Grunmandl, and last year there was a translation of Alan Ayckbourn's Season's Greetings. It was while returning from its first night that he suffered the car crash that led to his final illness.
Ian was a gentle, caring man with a wicked sense of humour and a robust love of life. Both his wives survive him, as do Sarah and Ian, the children of his first marriage.