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Howard, Trevor (1913-1988)


Main image of Howard, Trevor (1913-1988)

After small roles in The Way Ahead (d. Carol Reed, 1944) and The Way to the Stars (d. Anthony Asquith, 1945), Trevor Howard played the object of Celia Johnson's tremulously awakened love in David Lean's Brief Encounter (1945). His grave, courteous charm made him a star at once, and he played another married woman's lover for Lean in The Passionate Friends (1948).

He offered a new kind of male lead in British films: steady, middle-class, reassuring, as he so brilliantly is in I See a Dark Stranger (d. Frank Launder, 1946) and, especially, as Major Calloway in The Third Man (d. Carol Reed, 1949), but also capable of suggesting neurosis under the tweedy demeanour.

It is a shock to find him unshaven and on the run in They Made Me a Fugitive (d. Cavalcanti, 1947), but the stereotype of English gent continues to founder in very compelling ways: he is hopelessly degenerate in Outcast of the Islands (d. Carol Reed, 1951), morally tormented in The Heart of the Matter (d. George More O'Ferrall, 1953), sexually infatuated with Manuela (d. Guy Hamilton, 1957), and D.H. Lawrence's rambunctious, defeated Morel to the life in Sons and Lovers (d. Jack Cardiff, 1960).

There was plenty of conventional stuff along the way and, like so many of his peers, he settled into character cameos in later life, but for over ten years he was a major British actor.

RADA-trained, he made his West End debut in 1938 and entered films when he was invalided out of the Royal Artillery in 1943. He was married to Helen Cherry.

Books: Trevor Howard: A Gentleman and a Player by Vivienne Knight (1986); Trevor Howard: The Man and His Films by Trevor Munn (1990).

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Brief Encounter (1945)Brief Encounter (1945)

Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson start a great British romance

Thumbnail image of Gandhi (1982)Gandhi (1982)

Large-scale Oscar-winning biopic of the great Indian spiritual leader

Thumbnail image of Green for Danger (1946)Green for Danger (1946)

Whodunit with Alastair Sim as a less than Poirot-like detective

Thumbnail image of I See A Dark Stranger (1946)I See A Dark Stranger (1946)

A fiery Irishwoman becomes a spy for the Germans during World War II

Thumbnail image of Missionary, The (1981)Missionary, The (1981)

Gentle Michael Palin comedy about a missionary amongst 'fallen women'

Thumbnail image of Outcast of the Islands (1951)Outcast of the Islands (1951)

Underrated Joseph Conrad adaptation directed by Carol Reed

Thumbnail image of Passionate Friends, The (1948)Passionate Friends, The (1948)

David Lean film about a woman who marries for money rather than love

Thumbnail image of Third Man, The (1949)Third Man, The (1949)

Masterful thriller set in postwar Vienna - recently voted Britain's greatest film

Thumbnail image of Way to the Stars, The (1945)Way to the Stars, The (1945)

Deceptively low-key drama about RAF pilots in World War II

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Thumbnail image of Major CallowayMajor Calloway

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Casting, shooting and editing a cinema classic

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