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Godfrey's Ghost: From Father to Son by Nicolas Ridley

Godfrey's Ghost: From Father to Son

Biography / Autobiography   Books of the Month   
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December 2009 Book of the Month.

Godfrey’s Ghost is one of the most honest, yet revealing portraits of a man we’ve read in more than a long while. The man is actor Arnold Ridley, probably best known for his late in life acting as Private Godfrey in Dad’s Army. However, as you’ll find out when reading this memoir, there was much more to this man than the gentle, bumbling and rather endearing Godfrey of the small screen. Firstly, he was the celebrated playwright of The Ghost Train, a classic which is still performed today and secondly he saw the horrors of two world wars. His son Nicolas Ridley, in bringing us this memoir has used for reference, both Arnold’s unpublished autobiography as well as his own memories of his father and recollections of life as he was growing up an only child when his father was just a jobbing actor. The result is an original, touchingly truthful account of the life of a much-loved father who knew both fame and obscurity. It’s a truly engaging and life-affirming read.

phots of Armold Ridley Private Godfrey


Godfrey's Ghost: From Father to Son by Nicolas Ridley

Godfrey's Ghost is, at its heart, the story of a father written by his son. As a young man, Arnold Ridley was chiefly known as the author of the long-running comedy thriller, The Ghost Train. Today he is remembered for his television performances as Private Godfrey, the oldest member of the Dad's Army platoon. But Army came towards the close of a long life, and although Arnold Ridley was Private Godfrey, Private Godfrey was not Arnold Ridley. From humble beginnings living above the family boot-shop in Bath, through the horrors of the Great War, to the life of a celebrated playwright in London's West End. From unprecedented success and sudden wealth to unforeseen disaster and financial ruin. From the nightmare of another war through painful years of struggle and obscurity to a new, late-flowering fame in a television classic. Anecdotal, engaging and truthful, Godfrey's Ghost is an affectionate - and often moving - portrait of a remarkable man who, faced with more than his fair share of life's vicissitudes, through love, courage and the kind of well-grounded philosophy that doesn't recognise itself as such, lived his life valiantly and well.


"This is one of the most tender portraits of a parent I have ever read. An extraordinarily poignant and emotionally honest account. There were some bits that made me cry, others that made me laugh out loud ..." - Paul Donovan, author and radio columnist, Sunday Times

"A fitting tribute to Arnold Ridley OBE, soldier, playwright, actor, inspiration for dear old Private Godfrey." Jimmy Perry, the creator and writer of Dad's Army

"This is the ultimate act of filial piety - a book about a father by a son, created for a third generation so that the future can treasure the past. It is affecting, corrective, unflinching, full of love and tenderness but honest and even, at times, beady-eyed. The Godfrey of the title is Private Godfrey of Dad's Army, the gentle, oldest member of the famous television series' Home Guard Platoon, from Walmington-on-Sea. Yet Arnold Ridley, who played Godfrey, was in real life not only an actor, a father and a grandfather but also the writer who created The Ghost Train, one of the most successful plays of the twentieth century. He was endearing, maddening, complex and is now immortalised in print for posterity ... Flawed and human, he is remembered here in a fine book, a worthy memorial. There is nothing skin-deep about this study: it is all the better for its sometimes uncomfortable honesty." - Tim Heald, The Tablet, 19 September 2009

About the Author

Nicolas Ridley

According to Nicolas Ridley 'it was to everyone's great relief that he did not follow in his parents footsteps and join the theatrical profession'. Instead he became 'a random traveller, an unreliable teacher and an accidental publisher'. He now lives in London and is a professional writer. He is available for interview.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st September 2009


Nicolas Ridley

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280 pages


Biography / Autobiography
Books of the Month

Biography: arts & entertainment
Individual actors & performers



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