Au Revoir René

Gorden Kaye who played René Artois in ‘Allo! ‘Allo! dies aged 75

His role as René Artois in BBC One Sitcom ‘Allo! ‘Allo! saw him become one of the UK’s most treasured comedy actors.

In the series – which ran from 1982 to 1992 – Frenchman René ran a café in occupied France in the early 1940s

His establishment became a safe house for two British airmen, Fairfax and Carstairs, and René spent his time helping the French Resistance attempt to get them back to Great Britain during the Second World War.

At the same time as working with the Resistance, René was forced to be on the side of the Germans, who had threatened to kill him if he did help them squirrel away their stolen valuables.

Between hiding the hapless British airmen and keeping SS officer Herr Flick happy, René’s complicated life made the long running show a source of comedy gold.

In the first series René faked his own death and returned to the café as his twin brother who, conveniently, was also called René.

His desperate attempts to get his wife Edith to fall for him again so he could take back control of his beloved café, saw the British public fall in love with the philandering Frenchman.

After the success of this series, ‘Allo! ‘Allo’ ran for over a decade much to the delight of its audience.

The longest running gag of the show’s ten year run focused around the mystery of the Fallen Madonna With The Big Boobies, a painting everyone wanted to get their hands on.

Created by fictional painter Van Klomp, the piece of art was highly sought after and the original was eventually found by René and his mistress Yvette Carte-Blanche and they eloped to Spain.

Before this, René made various copies of the painting which were often secreted inside large “knackwurst” sausages.

Invariably they ended up being lost, damaged or eaten by a dog – with non-stop hilarity along the way.

The flirtacious René was also well known for having affairs – with the star of the show getting caught in endless clinches with Yvette and Maria, another of his waiting staff,

As he continues his love affair with waitress Yvette – something he works hard to keep from his wife – he’s also sleeping with Maria, and so had to try and also keep that from Yvette.

René became well-loved for his catchphrase, “you stupid woman” – which was often aimed at his tone deaf wife Edith when she caught him in the arms of his mistress.

Invariably the creative excuses René created – no matter how ludicrous – would be instantly swallowed up by Edith, who at times appeared to believe anything her devious husband told her.

René's feelings towards his mother-in-law also had audiences in stitches.

Hidden up in the bedroom with the Resistance's radio, René held her in contempt and would regularly be seen shouting: “Just shut up, you silly old bat,” as she tried to scold him.

His attempts to play off the romantic advances of German Lieutenant Gruber also provided some of René best moments.

During one now infamous scene, Gruber showed René his little “tonk” much to the amusement of the audience.

The proprietors comedic put downs were also a source of hilarity, with some of the best one liners from René being aimed at his long suffering wife Edith.

During one episode, Resistance leader Michelle Dubois asks him of a snooker table, “What is the biggest break you’ve had on this?” and he replies: “Just now, when my wife swallowed that story about the light bulb.”

In another episode, he was told by Yvette that his “boiler was in a terrible state” to which he said:

“I do not know why I married her in the first place.”

When the pair were approached about helping the resistance, Michelle asks René if Edith would talk and he stonily told her: “Incessantly. But not about anything important.”

As he summed it up himself in an unforgettable monologue in ‘Allo! ‘Allo!'s Pigeon Post in 1984, Rene said: “My name is Rene, this is my cafe.

“But at the moment, my life is one big problem. You see, I have to be nice to the Germans.

“They are my customers, they are winning the war, so if I am not nice to them, they will shoot me. I have to be nice to The Resistance.

“I have to be nice to my wife because if she finds out I'm having an affair with Yvette, she will shoot me.

“If Yvette finds out I'm having an affair with Maria, she will shoot me.

“Now, Otto Flick, the Gestapo officer, is having dinner in the back room.

“Upstairs are two German officers in their underwear because I have borrowed their uniforms to help two British airmen to escape.

“The pianist over there is in fact a forger for The Maquis. And the German officer [Lt Gruber] at that table... fancies me. And it is only Tuesday.”

Gorden’s favourite show was from the first series. He explained: “One of my favourite episodes was in fact Ep 4, which has recently been repeated in which Rene was shot by a firing squad.

“This is mainly because I had the ‘punch line’ to the episode when I had to utter the line ‘my bum is on a thistle’.”

Gorden's publicist revealed the star had passed away at a nursing home on January 23.

The BAFTA-nominated English actor also made appearances in Last of the Summer Wine, Are You Being Served? and Coronation Street.

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