Alan Howard

Alan MacKenzie Howard, CBE (5 August 1937 – 14 February 2015) was an English actor. He was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1966 to 1983, and played leading roles at the Royal National Theatre between 1992 and 2000.

Alan Howard
Alan MacKenzie Howard

(1937-08-05)5 August 1937
Croydon, Surrey, England
Died14 February 2015(2015-02-14) (aged 77)
Hampstead, London, England
Burial placeHighgate Cemetery
Spouse(s)Stephanie Hinchliffe Davies (1965–1976; divorced)
Sally Beauman (2004–2015; his death)

Early life

Howard was born in Croydon, Surrey, the only son of actor Arthur Howard and his wife Jean Compton (Mackenzie). His uncle was Leslie Howard, the film star,[1] while his aunt was the casting director Irene Howard. On his mother's side he was also a great-nephew of the actress Fay Compton[2] and the novelist Sir Compton Mackenzie. He was educated at the independent school Ardingly College in Ardingly, West Sussex.

Theatre career


Alan Howard made his first stage appearance at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, in April 1958, as a footman in Half In Earnest. He remained with the company until 1960, where his roles included Frankie Bryant in Arnold Wesker's Roots in June 1959. The production first transferred to the Royal Court Theatre and then the Duke of York's Theatre in July 1959, where he made his West End debut in the role.

Returning to the Belgrade he played Dave Simmonds in Wesker's I'm Talking About Jerusalem in April 1960. This was followed by Monty Blatt in Chicken Soup with Barley at the Royal Court during June and July 1960, completing the Wesker Trilogy with a revival of Roots and the transfer of I’m Talking About Jerusalem (as 1st Removal Man).

At the Pembroke Theatre in Croydon he played Kenny Baird in A Loss of Roses during January 1961, and the following month a return to the Royal Court as de Piraquo in Tony Richardson's production of Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's Jacobean tragedy The Changeling, then little known.[3]

In 1962 he was cast as the Duke of Ferrara in John Fletcher's The Chances and Nearchus in John Ford's The Broken Heart, both at the Chichester Festival Theatre in its inaugural season. A year later in April 1963 he played Loveless in Virtue in Danger, a musical version of Vanbrugh's The Relapse, first at the Mermaid Theatre before transferring to the Strand Theatre in June 1963. He ended the year playing Fotheringham in Anthony Powell's Afternoon Men at the New Arts Theatre in August 1963.

Engaged by H.M. Tennent Productions, 1964 brought him an international tour of South America and Europe,[4] playing both Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice and Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Staged by Wendy Toye and starring Ralph Richardson, the productions were first seen at the Theatre Royal, Brighton.[5]

At the Phoenix Theatre in May 1965 he was "boldly playing" Simon Challoner in Julian Mitchell’s fine stage adaptation of A Heritage and Its History;[6] ending the year at the Nottingham Playhouse as Angelo in Measure for Measure and Bolingbroke in Richard II, co-starring with Judi Dench and Edward Woodward.


Howard first joined the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1966, cast as Orsino in Twelfth Night, Burgundy in Henry V and Lussurioso in The Revenger's Tragedy. Subsequent RSC roles, all at Stratford unless otherwise stated, included:

Howard then played Eric von Stroheim in The Ride Across Lake Constance at the Hampstead Theatre in November 1973, transferring to the Mayfair Theatre in December; and again played Cyril in The Black and White Minstrels, revived at Hampstead in January 1974, before returning to the RSC, where his roles included:

  • Carlos II in The Bewitched Aldwych, May 1974
  • Title role in Henry V, and Prince Hal in the two parts of Henry IV Stratford 1975; Aldwych, January 1976
  • Rover in Wild Oats, co-starring with Jeremy Irons, Aldwych, December 1976
  • Title role in Henry V, also the title roles in the three parts of Henry VI and Coriolanus Stratford 1977; Newcastle Season, at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle upon Tyne 13 February – 25 March 1978; and Aldwych, summer 1978
  • Mark Antony in Antony and Cleopatra Stratford, October 1978; Aldwych, July 1979
  • Chepurnoy in Maxim Gorky's Children of the Sun Aldwych, October 1979


  • Title roles in Richard II and Richard III, Stratford 1980; Aldwych, November 1981
  • The Hollow Crown, devised by John Barton, RSC Fortune Theatre July–August 1981
  • Pleasure and Repentance, devised by Terry Hands, RSC Fortune Theatre July–August 1981
  • Gennady in The Forest by Alexander Ostrovsky, The Other Place, Stratford 1981; RSC Donmar Warehouse, July 1981; Aldwych February 1982
  • Halder in Good by C.P. Taylor, music by George Fenton, RSC Donmar Warehouse, September 1981; Aldwych April 1982; Booth Theatre, New York October 1982 (141 NY performances).

Alan Howard then left the Royal Shakespeare Company. Subsequent performances included:

A complete listing of Alan Howard's theatre credits, including early work at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, appears on his career website, qv.[8]

Howard played all Shakespeare's consecutive eponymous English kings; though the distinction depends on a Henry IV played (as Henry Bolingbroke) in Richard II (at Nottingham) rather than in Henry IV, Part 1.

Theatre awards

Howard won his first Plays and Players award in 1969, voted by the London theatre critics as the Most Promising Actor in the RSC repertoire. His second came in 1977, again voted for by the London critics, when he won as Best Actor for his RSC performances in Wild Oats, the three parts of Henry VI and Coriolanus. In 1981 he again received the Plays and Players critics' award for Best Actor for his roles in Richard II and Good by C.P. Taylor.

He twice gained the Evening Standard Award Best Actor trophy for his performances in Coriolanus (1978) and Good (1981).

He also won the Society of West End Theatre award for Best Actor (1976) for his performances as Prince Hal in Henry IV, Part One and Part Two and Henry V and in 1978 as Best Actor in a Revival for Coriolanus (these are now known as the Olivier Awards).

Other awards include the 1980 Variety Club Best Actor Award for the title roles in Richard II and Richard III; and the Drama magazine (British Theatre Association) Award for Best Actor (joint) 1981, for Richard II, Good and The Forest.


Television performances include Philoctetes, The Way of the World and Comets Among the Stars.

He played a spymaster in the Thames Television six-hour spy story Cover, written by Philip Mackie, 1981; and played John Osborne's father, Tom Osborne, in A Better Class of Person, Thames 1985. He also played the title role of Coriolanus in the 1984 BBC Shakespeare production.

Between 1989 and 1990 Howard played the lead character of Sam McCready, a semi-retired intelligence agent, in a series of television movies called Frederick Forsyth Presents. He was also seen in such series as Notorious Woman, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, Midsomer Murders and Foyle's War. He was Spenlow in David Copperfield (2000) and Maurice Wilkins in Life Story.


He made occasional film appearances, including a significant role in Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989) as Michael, "The Lover" who carries on a doomed affair with "The Wife" Georgina played by Helen Mirren.[9] He also supplied the voice of the Ring in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.[10]

Personal life

He first married actress and theatre designer Stephanie Hinchcliff Davies in 1965 (marriage dissolved). He met his second wife, the novelist and journalist Sally Beauman, when she interviewed him about his performance as Hamlet at Stratford in 1970. They became lovers not long afterwards, and married in 2004. They had one son and two grandchildren. Howard was appointed CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1998.

Howard died on 14 February 2015 at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, London, of pneumonia.[11]

Partial filmography

Year Title Role Notes
1963The V.I.P.sSecond ReporterUncredited
1964The Americanization of EmilyPort Ensign
1965The Heroes of TelemarkOli
1968Work Is a Four-Letter WordReverend Mort
1974Notorious WomanProsper MerimeeTV
1984Oxford BluesSimon Rutledge
1984The Tragedy of CoriolanusCaius MarciusTV
1986The Return of Sherlock HolmesThe Duke of HoldernessTV
Episode: "The Priory School"
1987A Perfect SpyJack BrotherhoodTV
1987Life StoryMaurice WilkinsTV
1989Agatha Christie's PoirotBenedict Farley/Hugo CornworthyTV
Episode: "The Dream"
1989The Return of the MusketeersOliver Cromwell
1989StraplessMr. Cooper
1989The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her LoverMichael (The Lover)
1990Antigone/Rites of PassionHaemon & PolynicesVoice
1990Frederic Forsyth Presents: A Casualty of WarSam McReadyTV
1992Dakota RoadAlan Brandon
1993The Secret RaptureTom French
2000David CopperfieldMr. SpenlowTV
2001Midsomer MurdersOwen AugustTV
Episode: "Dark Autumn"
2001The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the RingSauron / The One RingVoice
2003Death in Holy OrdersFather Sebastian MorellTV
2003Foyle's WarStephen BeckTV
Episode: "War Games"
2003The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the KingSauron / The One RingVoice
2012Parade's EndTietjens SeniorTV


  1. Michael Coveney "Alan Howard obituary", The Guardian, 18 February 2015
  2. Sheridan Morley Plays and Players, September 1969
  3. Julius Novick "The Changeling", Encore, May–June 1961, reproduced on Alan Howartd's website
  4. "Ralph Richardson". Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  5. "Merchant of Venice and Dream". Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  6. "Heritage". Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  7. "The Black and White Minstrels". Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  8. Alan Howard career: website
  9. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover at Rotten Tomatoes
  10. "Fellowship2 at Retrieved 19 February 2015
  11. Alan Howard, mainstay of RSC and National Theatre, dies aged 77


  • Who’s Who in the Theatre 17th edition, Gale (1981) ISBN 0-8103-0235-7
  • Theatre Record and its annual Indexes
  • The Best of Plays and Players 1969–1983 edited by Peter Roberts, Methuen Drama (1989)
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