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Fowler, Harry (1926-2012)


Main image of Fowler, Harry (1926-2012)

Cast from his teenage years as cheerful cockneys, spivs or villains, Harry Fowler was one of Britain's most prolific character actors, notching up hundreds of screen appearances over a six-decade career.

Born in Lambeth on 10 December 1926, he was by his own account a "near-illiterate newspaper boy" when spotted by film executives while speaking on the radio about life in wartime London. He was cast, aged 15, in Those Kids from Town (d. Lance Comfort, 1942), a propaganda piece about London evacuees which co-starred a similarly young George Cole. The same year saw a small but significant part in Ealing's Went the Day Well? (d. Alberto Cavalcanti, 1942), the first of five credited roles for the studio. After the war came a rare lead role, in prototype Ealing comedy Hue and Cry (d. Charles Crichton, 1947). Although by now a gawky 20-year old, he was affecting as guileless teen Joe Kirby, foiling a villainous plot involving secret messages circulated via a boys' magazine. His last bow at Ealing was the low-key drama-documentary I Believe in You (d. Basil Dearden, 1952), alongside rising stars Joan Collins and Laurence Harvey.

As he grew into adulthood, he found plentiful supporting roles in film and television. He was a memorable Sam Weller in The Pickwick Papers (d. Noel Langley, 1952), and became a regular in popular sitcoms The Army Game (ITV, 1957-61) and Our Man at St Mark's (ITV, 1963-66). Although he was frustrated that the working-class characters he portrayed were rarely given "intellectual horizons or heroic status", he worked regularly into the 1990s: as a storyteller on Jackanory (BBC, 1965-96), a crook in the eccentric Sir Henry at Rawlinson's End (d. Steve Roberts, 1980), a heavenly cherub in sitcom Dead Ernest (ITV, 1982), as regular support to comedian Bobby Davro in his Sketch Pad (ITV, 1989), and as a milkman in In Sickness and in Health (ITV, 1985-92).

He was awarded an MBE in 1970, and in later years was a frequent contributor to film and television documentary retrospectives. He made his final screen appearance in The Impressionable Jon Culshaw (BBC, tx. 10/3/2004).

Richard Hewitt

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Champagne Charlie (1944)Champagne Charlie (1944)

Lively recreation of the bawdy atmosphere of Victorian music-halls

Thumbnail image of Hue and Cry (1947)Hue and Cry (1947)

First of the postwar Ealing comedies: a joyous boy's own romp

Thumbnail image of Nanny, The (1965)Nanny, The (1965)

Hammer chiller which suggests that nanny doesn't always know best

Thumbnail image of Tomorrow at Ten (1962)Tomorrow at Ten (1962)

Race-against-time thriller about a kidnapped child

Thumbnail image of Went the Day Well? (1942)Went the Day Well? (1942)

Chilling classic imagining a brutal Nazi invasion of a small English village

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