Jim Dale was born James Smith on 15 August 1935. From an early age, he became attracted to showbusiness, initially as a stand-up comedian. One memorable performance occurred shortly before the actor was due to start his national service; part of his act at the time had him dragged off-stage by a couple of military police, while he valiantly tried to complete his routine. It was a popular routine with audiences and went down well, until he joined the RAF, where a couple of irate airmen took him to task over his mocking the armed forces. In a recent interview, Dale commented that this act may have contributed to the fact that instead of the normal 8 weeks' training, he was subjected to 14 months! It was, he admits, a valuable experience, however, as it gave him the opportunity to develop his performing skills; like so many of the Carry On team he spent much of his time in the forces organising and performing in camp shows.
Following national service, Dale continued his career in comedy. For a time, he was a warm-up man on the pop show 6-5 Special, where he would tell jokes and sing songs. One of the producers of the show liked his act so much that he gave the comedian a regular spot on the show as a singer; a move Dale wasn't too keen about at first. Despite protestations that he wasn't really a singer, his performances on this and other shows were a huge success and Dale soon became one of the biggest pop icons of the 1950s.
His first appearance in a Carry On film was in Cabby, as the panicking expectant father who continually held up Sid James' taxi. His cameo in the film was extremely popular with audiences; so much so that further cameos followed in Carry On Jack and Spying, before he took on the role of romantic lead in Carry On Cleo.
Throughout his career, Dale has prided himself in performing most of his own stunts. The memorable scene in Carry On Again Doctor, where he rides an out of control trolley through the hospital was one such stunt (although he did break his arm doing this one!).
Again Doctor was Dale's last regular Carry On until 1992. He left the series to work in the theatre, initially moving to Laurence Olivier's National Theatre. There were rumours in the press (which were largely unfounded) at the time that his fellow Carry On stars were less than impressed with the move, hinting that Dale had become "too good" for them.
Dale moved to the USA in the early 1970s to work on a series of films and stage shows. By far, his most successful role was as the lead character in the original Broadway production of the stunning Barnum. Contrary to popular belief, it was Dale, and not Michael Crawford, who created many of the spectacular stunts. Dale tried to follow the show to London's West End when it moved here in the early 1980s, but Michael Crawford won the role (and a similar level of success).
Dale continues to live and work in the USA, but returned to the UK in 1992 to star in the last Carry On film, Carry On Columbus. Starring opposite Sara Crowe and a host of Carry On stalwarts, Dale played the lead role in the film and is one of the few reasons to watch the film.
His latest UK success has been in the role of Fagin in the recent London revival of Oliver!, alongside fellow Carry On-er, Patsy Rowland but he is now best known in the US for his award-winning voicing of the hugely successful Harry Potter audiobooks. Jim still lives in the US, but frequently returns to the UK to indulge in his favourite pastime; collecting antiques