Sid James was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1913. Both of his parents were in showbusiness and much of his early life was spent on or backstage - he made his first appearance onstage aged 10.
During his early life in South Africa, Sid worked in the diamond industry as a cutter and polisher, for 5 years with brother Maurice. To supplement his income, he also became an amateur boxer and spent a lot of time in fairground sideshows. Later, he became a ladies hairdresser. However, throughout all this time, Sid became an accomplished singer and dancer and worked in many stage shows.
When the Second World War broke out, he joined up as a lieutenant in the anti tank corp. Part of his duties included organising entertainment for the troops. After the war, Sid bought a one way ticket to London for him and his wife and moved to London, arriving on Christmas Day 1946.
After a chance meeting with an old friend, Sid landed a role in a stage play, as a dancer and became a familiar face in many shows. He soon made the move to films and made a name for himself in gangster movies, where his battered features made him the ideal person to play the heavy (including a part in The Lavender Hill Mob).
Comedy writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson spotted Sid in The Lavender Hill Mob, and thought he would be the ideal foil to Tony Hancock, in their perennially popular radio comedy Hancock's Half Hour (for more info on this show, check out the superb pages of the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society). Sid worked with Hancock, on both TV and radio, for a total of 5 years.
It was during the filming of his hugely popular TV sit com, George & the Dragon (alongside Peggy Mount and John Le Mesurier), that Sid suffered his first heart attack. He, nevertheless, carried on working and soon went on to star in yet another successful show, Bless this House.
Sid suffered his second heart attack on the opening night of "The Mating Season", at the Sunderland Empire. He died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. His death came as a great shock to the British people, for whom he was always seen as an affectionate rascal - he was much loved by all. A self-confessed gambler and womaniser, he nevertheless, had a huge army of fans and will always be remembered by comedy fans the world over.
In 1993, the Dead Comics Society erected a commemorative plaque outside Sid's former home in Gunnersbury Avenue in London