Alan Mowbray

Alan Mowbray MM (born Alfred Ernest Allen; 18 August 1896 – 25 March 1969) was an English stage and film actor who found success in Hollywood.

Alan Mowbray
from the trailer for Topper Takes a Trip (1939)
Alfred Ernest Allen

(1896-08-18)18 August 1896
London, England
Died25 March 1969(1969-03-25) (aged 72)
Years active19221969
Lorraine Carpenter
(m. 1927; his death 1969)

Early life

Mowbray was born in London, England. He served with distinction in the British Army in World War I, being awarded the Military Medal and the French Croix De Guerre for bravery in action. He applied for transfer to the Royal Air Force, which was granted just six days before the war ended. This placed him in London on Armistice Day. His service came to an end when the Royal Air Force wanted another seven years from him.[1]


Mowbray began his stage career in London in 1922, as an actor and stage manager. In 1923 he arrived in the United States[2] and was soon acting with New York stock companies. He debuted on Broadway in The Sport of Kings (1926); in 1929 he wrote, directed and starred in the unsuccessful Dinner Is Served.[3]

Mowbray made his film debut in God's Gift to Women (1931) playing a butler, a role in which he was thereafter often cast. He appeared in five more pictures that year, notably portraying George Washington in Alexander Hamilton. In 1935, he played one of the male leads in Becky Sharp, the first feature-length film in full-colour Technicolor, as well as playing the lead in the farcical Night Life of the Gods, based on a Thorne Smith novel. It was for another Thorne Smith–derived film, Topper (1937), that Mowbray may be best remembered; he played Topper's butler Wilkins, a role he reprised the following year in Topper Takes a Trip. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Mowbray worked steadily, appearing in over 120 films.[4]

In the 1950s, Mowbray's film roles decreased, and he began to appear on television. He played the title role in the DuMont TV series Colonel Humphrey Flack, which first aired in 1953–54 and was revived in 1958–59. In the 1954–55 television season, Mowbray played Mr. Swift, the drama coach of the character Mickey Mulligan, in NBC's short-lived The Mickey Rooney Show: Hey, Mulligan. He continued to appear occasionally in films.[5] He portrayed the character Stewart Styles, a maitre d with a checkered past in the 1960-1961 adventure/drama series Dante, reprising a role he had originally played in several episodes of Four Star Theatre.

In 1956, Mowbray appeared in three major films, The King and I, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Around the World in 80 Days.[4] His final film role was as Captain Norcross in A Majority of One in 1961. In 1963, he returned to Broadway in the successful comedy Enter Laughing, playing David Kolowitz's unscrupulous mentor Marlowe (played by Alan Arkin).

Mowbray was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild in 1933, writing a personal check to fund the group's incorporation and serving as the first vice president.[3][6]

Personal life

Mowbray was among the founders of the Hollywood Cricket Club.[7] He was a prominent early member of the Masquers Club[8] and donated the group's long-time clubhouse on Sycamore in Hollywood.[9]


Mowbray died of a heart attack in 1969 in Hollywood. His body interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.[10]

Raymond Chandler's reference to Mowbray

Novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler alludes to Mowbray's screen persona in his pulp magazine story Mandarin's Jade (1937):

"The Philip Courtney Prendergasts lived on one of those wide, curving streets where the houses seem to be too close together for their size and the amount of money they represent... The house had an English slate roof and a porte-cochère, some nice imported trees, a trellis with bougainvillaea. It was a nice place and not loud. But Beverly Hills is Beverly Hills, so the butler had a wing collar and an accent like Alan Mowbray.”[11]


TV appearances


  1. Wearing, J.P. (2014). The London Stage 1920–1929: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 190–200. ISBN 978-0-8108-9302-3.
  2. Moreno, Barry (2008). Ellis Island's Famous Immigrants. Arcadia. p. 98. ISBN 978-1-4396-2003-8.
  3. Mank, Gregory W. (2007). Hollywood's Hellfire Club: The Misadventures of John Barrymore, W.C. Fields, Errol Flynn and the "Bundy Drive" Boys. Feral House. pp. 152–53. ISBN 978-1-932595-24-6.
  4. Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 531–32. ISBN 978-1-55783-551-2.
  5. Alan Mowbray on IMDb
  6. Prindle, David F. (2012). The Politics of Glamour: Ideology and Democracy in the Screen Actors Guild. Univ of Wisconsin Press. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-0-299-11813-6.
  7. Sentance, P. David (2006). Cricket in America, 1710–2000. McFarland. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-7864-2040-7.
  8. "Masquers Club". SAG–AFTRA. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  9. Dean, Paul (25 April 1985). "Unmasking Masquers: End of a Landmark?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  10. Brooks, Patricia; Brooks, Jonathan (2006). Laid to Rest in California: A Guide to the Cemeteries and Grave Sites of the Rich and Famous. Globe Pequot. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-7627-4101-4.
  11. Chandler, Raymond T. 1937. 'Mandarin's Jade' originally published in Dime Detective Magazine, November, 1937. Republished in Raymond Chandler: Collected Stories. 2002. Everyman's Library, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, p. 667.
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