Harry Fowler

Henry James Fowler, MBE (10 December 1926 – 4 January 2012) was an English actor in film and television. Over a career lasting more than sixty years, he made nearly 200 appearances on screen.[1]

Harry Fowler
Henry James Fowler

(1926-12-10)10 December 1926
Lambeth, London, England
Died4 January 2012(2012-01-04) (aged 85)
Years active1942–2004
Spouse(s)Joan Dowling (1951–1954 died)
Catherine Palmer (1960–2012, his death)

Personal life

Fowler was born in Lambeth, South London on 10 December 1926. As a "near illiterate newspaper boy" making eight shillings a week, he told film historian Brian McFarlane, he was invited on to radio to speak about his life in wartime London.[2]

In 1951, Fowler married actress Joan Dowling, who committed suicide in 1954. In 1960, he married Catherine Palmer, who survived him.[3]

Fowler died on 4 January 2012. He had no children.[2][3]


Fowler made his on-screen debut as Ern in the 1942 film Those Kids from Town, a propaganda piece about wartime evacuee children from London. This role was given to him after film company executives heard him speaking on the radio about his experiences in wartime London. After a screen test at Elstree Studios, Fowler was given the part to star alongside George Cole. His fee was 2 guineas (42 shillings) a day, compared with the 8 shillings a week he had been earning as a newspaper boy up to his audition.[2]

His early juvenile roles included Hue and Cry (1947), usually considered the first of the Ealing Comedies. Fowler later married Joan Dowling, one of his co-stars in the Ealing film. Dowling committed suicide in 1954, aged 26.[4]

During the Second World War he had been an aircraftman in the RAF and played a cheerful cockney character with the same job in the film Angels One Five (1952),[5] a portrayal he used in other contexts, often with a humorous slant, mostly especially during his year in The Army Game (1959–60) TV series.

He played Harry Danvers in the clerical comedy Our Man at St Mark's (1965–66) opposite Donald Sinden[6] and made several appearances on children's television during the 1970s, reading on Jackanory and hosting the series Get This and Going a Bundle with Kenny Lynch.[4] He is also noted for having narrated Bob Godfrey Films' Great: Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1975), the first British cartoon to win an Academy Award.[7] His familiar voice was regularly used for TV commercials.

In 1975, Fowler took the part of Eric Lee Fung, described as "a Chinese cockney spiv", in The Melting Pot, a sitcom written by Spike Milligan and Neil Shand. The series was cancelled by the BBC after the first episode had been broadcast.[8]

He was awarded an MBE in 1970, as part of Harold Wilson's Resignation Honours.[9]

In his book British Film Character Actors 1982, Terence Pettigrew wrote that Fowler 'was as English as suet pudding...his characters were neither honest nor irretrievably delinquent, merely wise in the ways of the streets, surviving through a combination of wit and stealth. He had a certain arrogance, but there was an appealing vulnerability, too.'

Selected filmography

Selected TV appearances


  1. "Harry Fowler". BFI.
  2. Baxter, Brian (4 January 2012). "Harry Fowler obituary". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 8 January 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  3. The Independent 9 Jan 2012 Harry Fowler: Prolific screen actor known for his 'cheerful cockney' characters
  4. Pendreigh, Brian (6 January 2012). "Obituary: Harry Fowler – Cockney actor found fame in The Army Game and enjoyed career spanning half a century". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 8 January 2012. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  5. "boeing – lockheed – english electric – 1951 – 1270 – Flight Archive". Flightglobal.
  6. "Harry Fowler". The Daily Telegraph. London. 9 January 2012.
  7. Minovitz, Ethan (5 January 2012). "Cockney character actor Harry Fowler dies at 85". Big Cartoon News. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  8. Milligan, Spike; Shand, Neil (1983). The Melting Pot. London: Robson Books. introductory pages. ISBN 978-0-86051-195-3.
  9. "No. 45165". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 August 1970. pp. 8677–8678.
  10. Howe, David J.; Walker, Stephen James (1998). "Remembrance of the Daleks". Doctor Who: The Television Companion. London: BBC Worldwide. p. 514. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7.
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