Arthur Lowe

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Arthur Lowe

Lowe as Captain George Mainwaring in Dad's Army
Born(1915-09-22)22 September 1915
Hayfield, Derbyshire, England [1]
Died15 April 1982(1982-04-15) (aged 66)
Birmingham, England [2]
OccupationActor
Years active1948–82
SpouseJoan Cooper (1948–1982 his death) [3]
ChildrenStephen Lowe
 
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Arthur Lowe

Lowe as Captain George Mainwaring in Dad's Army
Born(1915-09-22)22 September 1915
Hayfield, Derbyshire, England [1]
Died15 April 1982(1982-04-15) (aged 66)
Birmingham, England [2]
OccupationActor
Years active1948–82
SpouseJoan Cooper (1948–1982 his death) [3]
ChildrenStephen Lowe

Arthur Lowe (22 September 1915 – 15 April 1982) was an English actor. He was best known for playing Captain George Mainwaring in the popular British sitcom Dad's Army from 1968 until 1977.

Contents

Early life

Arthur Lowe was born in Hayfield, Derbyshire, the only child of Arthur (1888–1971) and his wife Mary Annie (Nan) née Ford (1885–1981). His father worked for a railway company, in charge of moving theatrical touring companies around Northern England and the Midlands in special trains.[4] Young Arthur went to Chapel Street Junior School in Chapel Street, Levenshulme, Manchester. Lowe’s original intention was to join the Merchant Navy but this idea was thwarted because of his poor eyesight. Working at an aircraft factory he joined the British Army on the eve of the Second World War, but not before experiencing his first brush with the acting world by working as a stagehand at the Manchester Palace of Varieties. Lowe served in the Middle East with the Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry, and began to take part in shows put on for the troops, which appears to have sparked his desire to act. He left the Army, in which he served as a radar technician,[5] at the end of the war with the rank of Sergeant Major.

Early career

Lowe made his debut at the Manchester Repertory Theatre in 1945,[4] where he was paid £5 per week for twice-nightly performances.[6] He worked with various repertory companies around the country and became known for his character roles, which included parts in the West End musicals Call Me Madam, Pal Joey and The Pajama Game. An early brief role is as a reporter for the Tit-Bits magazine near the end of Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949).

Lowe married Joan Cooper (1922–1989) on 10 January 1948. They had met in 1945 when she was his leading lady at the Manchester Repertory Theatre,[4][6] and they remained together until his death. Their son, Stephen Lowe, was born in January 1953.

By the 1960s, Lowe had successfully made the transition to television and landed a regular role as draper/lay preacher Leonard Swindley in the northern drama series Coronation Street (1960–65). His character became sufficiently popular with viewers for him to appear in spin-off series, Pardon the Expression (1966), and its sequel Turn out the Lights (1967).

Leonard Swindley was not a role Lowe relished though, and he longed to move on. During the months he was not playing Swindley he was busy on stage or making one-off guest appearances in other TV series such as Z-Cars (1962) and The Avengers (1967).

Stardom

In 1968 Lowe was cast in his best remembered role, as Captain George Mainwaring in the BBC sitcom Dad's Army (1968–77). His colleagues on the show later remarked that the role resembled Lowe himself, pompous and bumbling; Lowe had a clause written into his contract specifying that he would never have to lose his trousers.[7] He also successfully played Mainwaring's drunken brother Barry Mainwaring in the 1975 Christmas episode "My Brother and I". Lowe and his character also surfaced in a radio version of Dad's Army, a stage play and a feature length film released in 1971.

While Dad's Army was not in production, Lowe appeared in plays at the National Theatre and the Royal Court Theatre. In 1968 Lowe was invited by Laurence Olivier to act at the National Theatre at the Old Vic and appeared in Somerset Maugham's Home and Beauty in 1968 and later The Tempest in 1974 with John Gielgud.[8]

He also had prominent parts in several films directed by Lindsay Anderson films including if.... (1968) and multiple roles in O Lucky Man! (1973). His other film roles during this period included Spike Milligan's surreal The Bed Sitting Room (1969), in which he mutates into a parrot, a drunken butler in The Ruling Class (1972) with Peter O'Toole, and Theatre of Blood (1973), a horror movie starring Vincent Price, with Lowe as one of the critics murdered by the deranged actor played by Price.

On television he appeared as a guest performer on The Morecambe and Wise Show (1977), alongside Richard Briers in a series of Ben Travers farces for the BBC, as the pompous Dr Maxwell in the ITV comedy Doctor at Large (1971), and as Redvers Bodkin, a snooty, old-fashioned butler in the short-lived sitcom The Last of the Baskets (1971–72).

Between 1971 and 1973 Lowe joined Dad's Army colleague Ian Lavender on the BBC radio comedy Parsley Sidings, and played Mr Micawber in a BBC television serial of David Copperfield (1974). He employed a multitude of voices on the BBC animated television series Mr. Men (1974), in which he was the narrator in addition to voicing all the characters.

Later career

When Dad's Army run ended in 1977, Lowe remained much in demand taking starring roles in television comedies such as Bless Me Father with Daniel Abineri (1978–81) as the mischievous Irish priest Father Charles Clement Duddleswell  – quite a departure from the pompous characters that Lowe usually portrayed  – and Potter (1979–80), as busybody Redvers Potter.

By now he was making many television commercials, but his later stage career mainly involved touring the provinces, appearing in plays and pantomimes with his wife, Joan. In 1981 he reprised his role as Captain Mainwaring for the pilot episode of It Sticks Out Half a Mile, a radio sequel to Dad's Army. His last film role was in Lindsay Anderson's Britannia Hospital.

Amazon

When touring at coastal theatres with his wife, Lowe used his distinctive 1885 former steam yacht Amazon as a floating base. He bought Amazon as a houseboat in 1968, but realised her potential and took her back to sea in 1971; this unique vessel is still operating in the Mediterranean today.[9] The ship had a bar with a semicircular notch cut halfway along, to enable both the portly figure of Lowe and his wife to serve behind the bar at the same time, acting as hosts during the parties they threw on board.[10]

In an interview for a Dad's Army retrospective on BBC television in 2010, Lowe's co-star, Clive Dunn, described him sitting at the bar in the evenings when they were filming on location, consuming a drink which Lowe named 'Amazon' after his yacht. Dunn described the drink as comprising "gin and ginger ale, with a single slice of cucumber".[11]

Death

In his final years Lowe's alcoholism spiralled out of control and he was reduced to acting in pantomimes and touring theatre productions. Graham Lord's biography recalls that by 1979 Lowe was suffering from major health problems, but continued to drink ever increasing amounts of alcohol, sometimes passing out on stage or at dinner. He was also a heavy smoker and his weight ballooned.

Lowe had long suffered from narcolepsy,[5] collapsing from the onset of a stroke in his dressing room at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham before a performance of Home at Seven (in which he appeared with wife Joan. (on 15 April 1982). He died in hospital early the following morning, aged 66. His last interview was on the live BBC 1 afternoon show Pebble Mill at One only a few hours earlier.

His ashes were scattered at Sutton Coldfield Crematorium following a sparsely attended funeral. Joan herself did not attend as she refused to miss a performance of Home at Seven and, as a result, was appearing in Belfast at the time. A memorial service was held in May 1982 at St Martin-in-the-Fields, attended by his family, former colleagues, and many friends. His last sitcom, A J Wentworth, BA, with Lowe as a boys' preparatory school master, was shown during July and August 1982.

Memorials

In December 2007 plans were unveiled for a statue of Lowe to be erected in Thetford, where the outside scenes for Dad's Army were filmed.[12]

Statue of Captain Mainwaring, Arthur Lowe's Dad’s Army character in Thetford.

The statue was unveiled on 19 June 2010 by the writers of the series, Jimmy Perry and David Croft.[13]

The star has also had two blue plaques unveiled one at Maida Vale and one at his birthplace in Hayfield, Derbyshire.[14][15][16]

Television roles

YearTitleRole
1960 to 1965
1965 to 1966
1967
Coronation Street
Pardon the Expression
Turn out the Lights
Leonard Swindley
1968 to 1977Dad's ArmyCaptain George Mainwaring
1970Rookery NookHarold Twine
1971Doctor at LargeDr Maxwell
1971 to 1972The Last of the BasketsRedvers Bodkin
1972It's Murder, But Is It Art?Phineas Drake
1974Microbes and MenLouis Pasteur
1978A Car Across the Pass(Galton & Simpson Playhouse)
1978 to 1981Bless Me FatherFather Charles Clement Duddleswell
1979 to 1980PotterRedvers Potter
1982A J Wentworth, BAArthur James Wentworth, BA

Filmography

YearFilmRoleNotes
1949London Belongs to MeUncredited
The Spider and the FlyTown Clerk
FloodtidePianist(Uncredited)
Kind Hearts and CoronetsThe Reporter
Poet's PubCoach Guide(Uncredited)
1954Final AppointmentMr. Barrett
1955BreakawayMitchell
The Woman for JoeGeorge's Agent(Uncredited)
Windfall(Uncredited)
Reluctant BrideMr. Fogarty
One Way OutSam
Murder AnonymousFingerprint Expert(Uncredited)
1956Who Done It?(Uncredited)
The Green ManRadio Salesman
1957Hour of Decision
Stranger in Town(Uncredited)
1958Stormy CrossingGarage Owner
1959The Boy and the BridgeBridge Mechanic
1960Follow That Horse!Auctioneer(Uncredited)
The Day They Robbed the Bank of EnglandBank Official(Uncredited)
1962Go to BlazesWarder
1963This Sporting LifeCharles Slomer
1965You Must Be Joking!
1967The White BusMayor
1968If....Mr. Kemp
1969It All Goes to ShowCouncillor Henry Parker
The Bed-Sitting RoomFather
1970Spring and Port WineMr. Aspinall
Some Will, Some Won'tPolice Sergeant
Fragment of FearMr. Nugent
The Rise and Rise of Michael RimmerFerret
The Great Inimitable Mr. Dickens
1971A Hole Lot of TroubleWhitehouse
Dad's ArmyCaptain Mainwaring
1972Adolf Hitler – My Part in His DownfallMajor Drysdale
The Ruling ClassDaniel Tucker
1973No Sex Please, We're BritishMr. Bromley
Theatre of BloodHorace Sprout
O Lucky Man!Mr. Duff / Charlie Johnson / Dr. Munda
1974Man About the HouseSpiros
1976The Bawdy Adventures of Tom JonesDr. Thwackum
1977The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know ItDr. William Watson, M.D
1979The Lady VanishesCharters
1980Sweet WilliamCaptain Walton
1982Britannia HospitalGuest Patient

BAFTA Awards

YearAwardCategoryFilmResult
1969BAFTA TV AwardsBest ActorDad's ArmyNominated
1970BAFTA TV AwardsBest Light Entertainment PerformanceDad's ArmyNominated
1972BAFTA TV AwardsBest Light Entertainment PerformanceDad's ArmyNominated
1973BAFTA Film AwardsBest Supporting ActorO Lucky Man!Won
1974BAFTA TV AwardsBest Light Entertainment PerformanceDad's ArmyNominated
1974BAFTA TV AwardsBest ActorMicrobes and Men and David CopperfieldNominated
1977BAFTA TV AwardsBest Light Entertainment PerformanceDad's ArmyNominated

References

  1. ^ GRO Register of Births: DEC 1915 7b 1413 HAYFIELD – Arthur Lowe, mmn = Ford
  2. ^ GRO Register of Deaths: JUN 1982 32 0628 BIRMINGHAM – Arthur Lowe, DoB = 22 Sep 1915
  3. ^ GRO Register of Marriages: MAR 1948 5d 800 MARYLEBONE – Arthur Lowe = Gatehouse or Cooper
  4. ^ a b c "The Stardom of Suburban Man", Evening News, London, 28 October 1977
  5. ^ a b John Oliver "Lowe, Arthur (1915-1982)", BFI Screenonline
  6. ^ a b "Arthur Lowe – The Proud Father", TV Times, 14–20 October 1978
  7. ^ Sale, Jonathan (15 November 200). "Dad's Army: the story of a classic television show by Graham McCann". The Independent (London: Independent.co.uk). http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/dads-army-the-story-of-a-classic-television-show-by-graham-mccann-747678.html. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  8. ^ Arthur Lowe by Graham Lord, Orion 2002, p 189 and 224
  9. ^ Anon. "Links with our members:Museums and Vessels:Amazon". World ship trust. http://www.worldshiptrust.org/memberslinks.htm. Retrieved 1 October 2010. 
  10. ^ Nevin, Charles (30 October 1994). "Dad's Navy: As Captain Mainwaring, he entertained millions with his pomposity and his delusions of grandeur. But the real Arthur Lowe fancied himself as a different sort of captain". The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/dads-navy-as-captain-mainwaring-he-entertained-millions-with-his-pomposity-and-his-delusions-of-grandeur-but-the-real-arthur-lowe-fancied-himself-as-a-different-sort-of-captain-1445756.html. Retrieved 12 January 2012. 
  11. ^ "Amazon – Cocktail Recipe". http://www.makemeacocktail.com/recipe/6881/. 
  12. ^ Steven Nolan Show Radio Five Live 23:30 GMT, Saturday 1 December 2007
  13. ^ "Dad's Army captain statue unveiled in Thetford". BBC News. 20 June 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/norfolk/10359953.stm. 
  14. ^ http://openplaques.org/plaques/2198
  15. ^ http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/leisure/blue_plaques/default.asp
  16. ^ "Dad's Army star Arthur Lowe honoured with blue plaque". BBC News. 30 August 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-derbyshire-14717464. 

Further reading

Two biographies of Arthur Lowe have been published: Arthur Lowe – Dad's Memory by his son Stephen which was issued in 1997 and more recently Arthur Lowe by Graham Lord in 2002. In 2000 The Unforgettable Arthur Lowe was part of The Unforgettable... series of TV biographies of famous comedy performers.

External links