Howes was born in St John's Wood, London, the daughter of British comedian/actor/singer/variety star Bobby Howes (1895–1972) and actress/singer Patricia Malone (1899–1971). She is the granddaughter of Capt. J.A.E. Malone (died 1928), London theatrical director of musicals, and she has an older brother, Peter Howes, a retired professional musician and music professor. Her great-grandfather, Joseph Malone, was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1854 during the Crimean War. Her uncle, Pat Malone, was an actor on stage, films and television.
Howes moved to the family's country house in Essendon, Hertfordshire for the duration of World War II. She was a show-business baby who lived a quiet, orderly childhood where she grew up with a nanny and was surrounded by a variety of pets and her parents' theatrical peers, including actor/writer Jack Hulbert and his wife, actress Cicely Courtneidge, who had an adjoining house. Her first taste of the stage was school productions, but as she came from a theatrical family, it was inevitable that another family friend, an agent who was visiting the Howes family for dinner, became impressed with her and not long after suggested the young Sally Ann for a role in a movie. Two hundred young girls had already been screen tested without success, and the producers were desperate to find a talented little girl to play the lead, and they asked her father to please rush in some pictures on the recommendation of the agent. The movie, Thursday's Child, was written by playwright and screenwriterRodney Ackland, also a close neighbor to the Howes family, and it would become Ackland's directorial debut. Thursday's Child (1943) launched her career. A second film, The Halfway House (1944), led to her being put under contract by Michael Balcon of Ealing Studios, and this was followed by many other film roles as a child actress including Dead of Night (1945) with Sir Michael Redgrave, Pink String and Sealing Wax (1946), Nicholas Nickleby (1947), My Sister and I (1948) and Anna Karenina (1948), with Vivien Leigh.
Musical theatre on the West End and Broadway
Howes had begun taking singing lessons on the recommendation of a visiting teacher friend not only to bring out her natural talents but also in effort to lower her speaking voice which was quite high-pitched. While still in her teens, she made her first musical-comedy stage appearance in Fancy Free. In late 1950, she starred in a BBC TV version of Cinderella.
That same year, Howes accepted her first professional stage role in the Sandy Wilson musical, Caprice, forcing her to terminate her contract with Rank, with whom she'd been unhappy with the film roles and being on "loan out". She was finding gainful employment in television and radio, and she was looking to flex her singing talent, something that both Balcon and Rank had overlooked. Caprice was followed by Bet Your Life with Julie Wilson, Arthur Askey and Brian Reece. She was also simultaneously on the radio with Askey and Reece. In 1953, she starred on the West End in the musical Paint Your Wagon with her father, Bobby Howes. The show ran for 18 months. It was followed by Summer Song, also on the West End, firmly establishing her as a leading musical comedy star. This was followed by her critically acclaimed performance in the stage drama, A Hatful of Rain. In the early-to-mid-1950s, she also mixed her theatre with television appearances and even modelling, commercials and product endorsements.
She became a popular celebrity in England, even appearing as a comic-strip character in TV Fun serial comics and annuals, as a young, wholesome teacher in the wild American west at a time when Western TV shows were very popular. She appeared on the cover of many magazines, most notably Life (3 March 1958), when she was in the United States to take over from Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady on Broadway.
In late 1957, Howes was offered the part (for the third time) to enable Andrews to join the cast of the London production. She had turned it down twice before. The first offer had been to join the USA touring company of the musical, and the second time she declined the part was due to her film commitment for Admirable Crichton (1957). With the persistence of Lerner and Loewe, however, she accepted the third time, for a year's contract, but at a higher salary than Julie Andrews. She became an instant hit as a very fiery Eliza Doolittle.
When her one-year contract in My Fair Lady was over, she returned to Britain to tape six one-hour variety shows The Sally Ann Howes Show for the British commercial television network. She was also personally requested to sing for three U.S. presidents (Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson). She became a frequent guest panellist on game shows and was known for her quick, spontaneous answers.
She returned to Broadway in 1961 in the short run of Kwamina, another Adler musical which was written for her. She starred opposite Terry Carter. The musical centred on an interracial love story and was too controversial in a time when civil rights were hotly contested. The show has not had a Broadway revival since. Coincidentally, her father, Bobby Howes, was also on Broadway that year with a short revival of Finian's Rainbow, and a cast album exists of that show as well.
In 1967, she began the long film shoot for what would become a popular children's film, as Truly Scrumptious, the beautiful, aristocratic daughter of a confectionery magnate in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968).
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang did not, however, restart her film career or launch a career for her in episodic television despite several guest-starring roles in Mission: Impossible, Marcus Welby, M.D., and Branigan and The Men From Shiloh. Even the pilot Prudence and the Chief, which was a spoof on The King and I, did not get picked up as a TV series. In addition, musicals were now failing at the box office and that avenue was closed to her. As a result, she returned almost exclusively to the musical stage, appearing in only a few more films/TV productions.
Later theatrical career
In the 1970s, she toured Britain with The King and I and later the USA with The Sound of Music. After her debut with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera in 1972 with The Sound of Music she returned to Britain to star in the stage drama, Lover, which was written specifically for her.
In 1990, she debuted her one-woman show, From This Moment On at the Edinburgh Festival and at a benefit for the Long Island AIDS Association at the John Drew Theatre in Easthampton, New York. Her last film was the 1992 miniseries Judith Krantz's Secrets. That marked her 50th year in film.
Recent projects include her narrations of Cubby Broccoli, The Man Behind Bond on 2000 year release of the DVD Diamonds Are Forever, The Making of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang The Musical (2002), and her appearance in the documentary, After They Were Famous - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (2004).
Except for occasional lectures, charity functions and some Broadway openings, she is semi-retired, although she still hosts events or performs two or three times per year. Over the period September 2007 to January 2008, she toured the USA in the Cameron Mackintosh production of My Fair Lady, appearing as Mrs. Higgins. When she is not performing, she is an artistic advisor for the Palm Beach Theatre Guild, a non-profit organisation dedicated to preserving the Royal Poinciana Playhouse in Palm Beach, Florida.
Howes adopted Richard Adler's two sons, Andrew and Broadway Lyricist Christopher, (who died aged 30 of cancer in 1984) after the death of his first wife (1964).
She has been married to Douglas Rae since the early 1970s.
She is a Great Aunt to Ella, Tom, William, Ned, Joe and Jordon Howes.
Romance In Candlelight (Margaret) - at Piccadilly - 1955 - 53 performances
Summer Song (Karolka) - Princes Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, W.C.2 148 performances - directed by Charles Hickman - opened February 1956. Premiered at the Opera House, Manchester on 21 December 1955 before moving to the Princes Theatre on London's West End.
Dear World(Countess Aurelia) - 16 November - 10 December 2000
My Fair Lady(Mrs. Higgins) - USA touring company - 12 September 2007 - 20 January 2008.
Television films, miniseries, series, musicals and specials
Early TV appearances included a guest appearance in "Cafe Continental" with her father when they faced the camera together for the first time. Other appearances included "Kaleidoscope, and her own Sunday night series called "Short and Sweet" with Harry Jacobson at the piano. She appeared in the 1951 Festival of Musical Production, which was written for her and entitled "The Golden Year."
Cinderella (1950) (TV - BBC) - 26 December 1950
"Hallmark Hall of Fame" playing "Della Young" in episode: "The Gift of the Magi" 9 December 1958
The Sally Ann Howes Show (6 variety shows - UK) 1960
"Play of the Week" in episode: "The Old Foolishness" (episode No. 2.24) 6 March 1961
The Sally Ann Howes Special – A General Motors Special, A CBS Special for the opening of Lincoln Center – 23 September 1962
Brigadoon (1966) ABC-TV (musical)
Prudence and the Chief (1970) (TV pilot)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1972)
Female Artillery (1973)
The Good Old Days BBC TV - two appearances in the 1980s
"Great Performances" playing "Herself" in "An Evening with Alan Jay Lerner" (episode # 18.5), October 23 & 24 November 1989
Judith Krantz's "Secrets" (1992) (miniseries)
"After They Were Famous" playing "Herself" in episode: "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" 24 December 2004
Television guest appearances
"Cafe Continental" - variety show 1947-1953. Appeared with her father as a guest star.
"Saturday Spectacular" / "Startime" - variety show broadcast from Prince of Wales Theatre - 1950s?
"Have You A Camera?" playing "Herself" with Royal photographer, Baron - mid-1950s.
"Toast of the Town" playing "Herself" (episode No. 11.20) 9 February 1958, (episode No. 17.37) 21 June 1964, (episode No. 19.12) 28 November 1965, (episode No. 20.23) 12 February 1967
"Sunday Night at the London Palladium" - March 1959
"The Perry Como Show" - 17 May 1958, 15 November 1958, 3 June 1959
"The Bell Telephone Hour" in episode: "A Night of Music" 9 October 1959, "Holiday in Music" 30 September 1960, "Music hath Charms" 20 January 1961, "A Measure of Music" 19 January 1962
"Dinah Shore Show" playing "Herself" - 1961
"The United States Steel Hour" in episode: "The Leonardi Code" (episode No. 8.19) 17 May 1961
"To Tell the Truth" - various appearances 1962-65, Daytime and nighttime versions
"Password" - various appearances 1962-1965, Daytime version
"The Match Game" - various appearances 1963-64, Daytime version
"I've Got a Secret" playing "Guest Panelist" 24 June 1963
"The Merv Griffin Show" - 1963 or 1964
"You Don't Say!" (gameshow) - 1963, 1964 or 1965
"The Price Is Right" - (with host Bill Cullen) - "Guest Star" - 1963 or 1964
"The Miss U.S.A. Pageant" (hostess) - 4 June 1965
"The Miss Universe Beauty Pageant" (hostess) - 24 July 1965
"Fanfare" playing "Herself" 28 August 1965
"Bob Hope presents the Chrysler Theatre" playing "Allison Lang" in episode: "The Enemy on the Beach" (episode No. 3.10) 5 January 1966
"Run for Your Life" playing "Rhona" in episode: "The Savage Machines" (episode No. 1.29) 2 May 1966
"The Dean Martin Show" playing "Herself" 6 April 1967
"Everybody's Talking" playing "Guest Panelist" 22–26 May 1967
"What's My Line?" playing - various appearances 1968-70, Daytime version
"The Hollywood Palace" playing "Herself" 5 April 1969
"This Is Tom Jones" playing "Herself" 22 May 1969
"Mission: Impossible" playing "Beth" in episode: "Fool's Gold" (episode No. 4.5) 26 October 1969
"It Takes Two" - "Guest Panelist" - 25 May 1970
"The Hollywood Squares" - "Guest Panelist" - 23–27 November 1970
"Bracken's World" playing "Isabel Blue" in episode: "Miss Isabel Blue" (episode No. 2.15) 25 December 1970
"The Virginian" playing "Martha Clayton" in episode: "Tate, Ramrod" (episode No. 9.20) 24 February 1971
"The Virginia Graham Show" - guest appearance approx. 1971
"Marcus Welby, M.D." in episode: "The Day After Forever" (episode No. 4.23) 27 February 1973
"The Rosie O'Donnell Show" playing "Herself" 19 October 1998
"Theatre Talk" - regarding "James Joyce's The Dead" - 20 January 2000
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, she appeared on many radio programmes including: "Ignorance is Bliss," "Geraldo's Open House," "Taxi" with Jerry Verno, "Desert Island Discs," "Talk Yourself Out of This," and she appeared twice on the "Calling All Forces" show.
"Arthur's Inn" - radio variety program with Arthur Askey & Brian Reece - June 1952
Marle Becker's "Out-FM" show, heard on WBAI-FM (99.5) (or on the internet at http://www.outfm.org/) from 6:30 to 7:30 pm. - October 1, 2000
Other live performances
Royal Variety Performance - at the Victoria Palace Theatre - 29 October 1951
London Palladium "Midnight Cavalcade 1954" - A Gala Night of World-Famous Stars in aid of the Actors' Orphanage, the Charitable Funds of the Grand Order of Water Rats & the J.N.F. Charitable Trust - Thursday, 18 March 1954
London Palladium "Night of 100 Stars" - A Midnight Revue in aid of the Actors' Orphanage - Thursday, 23 June 1955
Grand opening of the Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, PA - 21 September 1971
"Golden Gala" - London Palladium - A musical spectacular from the London Palladium to mark the 50th anniversary of Equal Voting Rights For Women. Princess Margaret was the guest of honour. 2 July 1978
"Cinderella's Star Night" - Charity gala at the Prince Edward Theatre, 31 January 1982.
"A Royal Night Of One Hundred Stars" - one night performance at the NT Olivier Theatre - in aid of the "Save the Children Fund." 17 March 1985 (Sunday 8:00 P.M.)
Memorial service for Alan J. Lerner - was a speaker/singer at St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden - 1 September 1986
A Celebration Of Shakespeare “Hamlet Travestie” - Action Against Aids, at the Sadlers Wells Theatre - Howes sang "So In Love" from "Kiss Me Kate" - 12 April 1987
"An Evening With Alan Jay Lerner" - Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. (Recorded Live - recordings available). - 7 June 1987 (Sunday)
"An Evening With Alan Jay Lerner" - Opera House, Manchester - 27 March 1988
Being Alive - A Celebration Of The Genius Of Stephen Sondheim - at the Drury Lane Theatre, on 4 June 1989, 7:00pm
“Let’s Do it” – all star celebration of Noël Coward/Cole Porter – 1 night event at Barbican Centre Concert Hall - 19 October 1989
"Kids at Heart" - at the London Palladium - a fundraising evening for Medical Aid for Free Romania. - 20 January 1991
"A Glamorous Night with Evelyn Laye and Friends" - one-night gala at the London Palladium - Sunday, 26 July 1992
"A Time To Start Living" - A Celebration of the great Elizabeth Welch - Shaftsbury Lyric Theatre - A World Aid’s Day Gala, a fundraising event for Crusaid - 6 December 1992
"Jack in Review" - charity gala concert in tribute to Jack Tinker, the theatre critic with the Daily Mail newspaper. London Palladium, London. Friday, 28 February 1997, 2:30 P.M. Howes sang "Alice Blue Gown."
Cabaret at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room in New York City - late 1990s - the cabaret may have been the inspiration for her album "Mary Lea, Songs My Sister Loved and Sang."
"A Cultural Affair" - New York Pops Gala, A Cultural Affair honors New York City Commissioners of Cultural Affairs Schuyler Chapin - 15 May 2000
Broadway Honours BMI Composer Lehman Engel - Merkin Concert Hall - hosted by Sally Ann Howes. 2 April 2001
The 12th Annual New York Cabaret Convention - "A Nightengale Sang in Berkeley Square" - 24 October 2001 - was booked for but cancelled due to the events of 9/11.
Lansing Town Hall Celebrity Lecture Series - guest lecturer in "The Best of Broadway" - Lansing, Michigan - Monday, 20 May 2002
Age Cannot Wither - Rosemary Harris, Sally Ann Howes and Hayley Mills appeared in A Benefit for Shakespeare Globe Centre USA called "Coward X2"- presented at University Club, 1 West 54th Street, in New York City. - 17 March 2003 (Monday)
Town Hall Celebrity Lecture Series, 11:30am, Michigan League Ballroom (University of Michigan) - guest lecturer in "The Best of Broadway" - Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Port Huron Town Hall - guest lecturer in "The Best of Broadway" - Monday, 8 December 2003
The 16th Annual New York Cabaret Convention - Mabel Mercer Foundation - "Music From the Movies" - 20 October 2005
23rd Annual S.T.A.G.E. event - Side by Side by Side by Side by Sondheim - 10 & 11 March 2007, Wilshire Theatre, Los Angeles.
She has several Broadway, West End, TV and Film cast albums available including:
She can also be found on the albums The Best of the Telephone Hour, Cole Porter: A Remembrance (1965), An Evening With Alan Jay Lerner (1987), and the three Christmas songs she recorded, Toyland, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, and O Little Town of Bethlehem can be found reissued each year on various compilation Christmas albums. The last known recording she made was a gift album for a party for a friend, called Mary Lea, Songs My Sister Loved & Sang (1998) for which she holds the production rights and copyright.
Product endorsements and modelling
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Sally Ann Howes lent her face to many products, of which a few are mentioned here:
Blend-rite Hair Clips (late 1940s)
BritviC Gold Pure Juice Cocktail (1953) — a photo of Sally Ann Howes, and mentions she starred in the new Jack Hylton musical "Paint Your Wagon".
She did some modeling in the 1950s and early 1960s, and can be found in the following publications:
Weldons Knitting Booklet No. 319 (approx. 1953) — a photo of Sally Ann Howes modelling a jersey and mentions she starred in the new Jack Hylton musical "Paint Your Wagon".
TV Guide — 13–19 October 1962 — "Sally Ann Howes With Fall Fashions" pp. 22–24
The following publications feature portions about her career and life. For magazine articles and covers, see her biography on the Internet Movie Database: Sally Ann Howes at the Internet Movie Database.