PERFORMERS: FRANKIE HOWERD

fhowerdby Peter Tatchell (reprinted from LAUGH MAGAZINE #20, 1999)

He was the master of hesitation . . . for five decades his ooohs, aaahs and worried grimaces left generations of fans in fits of laughter. His pursuit of the rogue titter led him from radio to television, from movies to the West End stage, and to one-man concerts with audiences in their thousands. Frankie Howerd was truly one of a kind.

Born Francis Howard in York in 1917, his first success on the stage came during World War 2 when, as a not very com­petent member of the British fighting force, he joined an entertainments unit to perform to his fellow soldiers. Like Tony Hancock, Jimmy Edwards, Tommy Cooper and Goons Sellers, Secombe, Bentine and Milligan, he spearheaded the new generation of comedy talents that changed the face of British comedy in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Frankie’s big break came as star of the top-rating B.B.C. radio series Variety Bandbox (where he alternated hosting duties with Derek Roy). A then unknown Eric Sykes scripted his often surrealistic monologues and provided most of Howerd’s routines until he left to pursue his own performing career.

In the 1950s, Frankie was everywhere, but by the end of the decade he’d somehow worn out his welcome and was finding employment hard to come by. Not that the leading scriptwriters of the day deserted him . . . Galton and Simpson, Johnny Speight and Took and Feldman were all quick to offer material and reassure him that renewed success was just round the corner. And it came from an unlikely quarter.

Peter Cook (then the satire wave’s man of the moment fresh from Beyond The Fringe) signed him for a season at his Establishment night club and Frankie was the talk of the town. He stole the show from David Frost and the team on the B.B.C. Television’s hit That Was The Week That Was and was offered the lead in the West End version of the Broadway smash A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.

By the end of the sixties, he was back at the B.B.C. starring in a sort of spinoff from the show called Up Pompeii!, had lead roles in two Carry On films and was even starting up his own movie series based on the Pompeii success.

But once again Frankie was headed for lean times. Throughout the seventies and eighties he had his share of radio and television series (not only in Britain, but also in Australia and Canada) but none was especially momentous.

Then, at the end of the eighties, it happened again . . . a new generation of fans suddenly latched on to the Howerd magic. Youngsters not even born when he’d staged his first comeback flocked to see his one-man shows and revel in the catchphrases.

But age was catching up with him. Now in his mid-seventies, he was plagued by heart troubles and midway through a series of television recordings was taken to hospital. On Easter Sunday 1992 he died, a true legend of British comedy.

 

RADIO

Variety Bandbox
BBC Light Programme
Frankie guest-starred on December 1, 15 and 25 1946, then as resident comedian, fortnightly:
January 12 to December 14 1947 (not Oct 5)
January 11 to June 27 1948
September 5 1948 to March 20 1949
October 16 1949 to April 2 1950
Frankie also guest-starred on April 29 1951
30-min TS versions exist of the following editions:
Sep 26, Oct 3*, Nov 21 and Nov 28* 1948,
Oct 16*, Nov 6, Nov 13* and Nov 27* 1949,
Jan 15, Jan 22*, Jan 29 and Feb 19* 1950,
Feb 8, Feb 15, Feb 22 and Feb 29* 1951.
Frankie is featured in those marked with (*).

Blackpool Pirates
BBC Home Service August 30 1949 (55 min)

National Radio Celebrity Gala
BBC Light Programme October 2 1949 (2 hours)

Frankie Howerd (with Eric Portman)
BBC Light Programme December 24 1950

Fine Goings On
BBC Light Programme January 4 to July 51951 (14 editions, fortnightly)
BBC Light Programme April 2 to August 13 1958 (20 editions)

Festival Of Variety
BBC Light Programme May 6 1951 (2 hours)

Frankie Howerd Spends His Christmas With The Forces
BBC Light Programme December 25 1951 (45 min)

Frankie Howerd Goes East
BBC Light Programme April 23 to June 11 1952 (8 editions)

Light Up Again
BBC Light Programme June 4 1953 (2½ hours)

The Frankie Howerd Show
BBC Light Programme November 23 1953 to March 8 1954 (and August 30 1954) (17 editions)
BBC Light Programme February 22 to April 12 1955 (8 editions)
BBC Light Programme October 2 1955 to January 22 1956 (17 edi­tions)

Puss In Gumboots
BBC Light Programme December 25 1956

The Laughtermakers: The Art Of Frankie Howerd
BBC Home Service May 3 1957

Son Of Mother Goose
BBC Light Programme December 26 1957

Pantomania
BBC Light Programme December 25 1958 (45 min)

Frankie’s Bandbox
BBC Light Programme April 5 to June 28 1960 (13 editions)

Variety Playhouse
BBC Home Service January 7 1961 and October 7 to 21 1961

London Lights
BBC Light Programme April 30 1961, January 27 to February 17 1963

Star Parade – You Can’t Have Everything
BBC Light Programme July 28 1963

A Good Bit Of Howerd (selections from above London Lights broadcasts)
BBC Light Programme August 3 1963

Now Listen
BBC Light Programme August 27 1964 (in Comedy Parade series)
and April 15 to May 20 1965 (7 editions)
edition of Apr 15 exists

The Frankie Howerd Show
BBC Light Programme July 24 to September 251966 (10 editions)
edition of Aug 7 exists
BBC Radio 2 June 10 to July 22 1973 (7 editions)
BBC Radio 2 October 27 to December 8 1974 (7 editions)
BBC Radio 2 September 28 to November 2 1975 (6 editions)
TS versions exist of all 20 editions of the 1970s series

Frankie Howerd’s Christmas Gala
BBC Radio 2 December 251972

The Frankie Howerd Variety Show
BBC Radio 2 October 10 to December 19 1978 (6 editions, fortnightly)
BBC Radio 2 August 14 to September 18 1979 (6 editions)
all 12 editions exist

The Light Entertainment Show – 60th Anniversary Edition
BBC R2 October 3 1982 (2 hours)
copy exists

Frankie Howerd’s Forum
BBC Radio 2 May 28 to July 2 1987 (6 editions)
all 6 editions exist

The Radio Show Radio Show
BBC R4 September 30 1988 (60 min)
copy exists

TRIBUTES

The Entertainers
BBC R4 April 23 1973 (45 min)

Howerd’s Way
BBC R2 August 28 1992 (30 min)

Radio Lives: Frankie Howerd – The Borderline Case
BBC R4 July 6 1995 (40 min)

There’ll Never Be Another
BBC R2 August 1 2000 (60 min)

Radio Roots
BBC R4 October 10 2000 (30 min)

Titter Ye Not – the Frankie Howerd Story
BBC R2 September 15 2009 (60 min)

copies exist of all the above tributes

 

 

TELEVISION

The Howerd Crowd
Series 1: B.B.C. January 12 to March 8 1952 (monthly, 3 x 60 min)
Series 2: B.B.C. June 11 and August 27 1955 (2 x 60 min)

Frankie Howerd
B.B.C. October 11 and December 3 1956 (2 x 30 min)

Frankie Howerd In …
B.B.C. December 16 1958 and January 28 1959 (2 x 30 min)
Pity Poor Francis / Shakespeare Without Tears

Frankly Howerd
B.B.C. May 1 to June 5 1959 (6 x 30 min)

The Frankie Howerd Show
Series 1: BBC1 December 11 1964 to January 15 1965 (6 x 25 min)
Series 2: BBC1 February 22 to March 29 1966 (6 x 30 min)

The Frankie Howerd Show
A.T.V. August 9 to September 13 1969 (6 x 40 min)

Up Pompeii!
Comedy Playhouse (pilot): BBC1 September 17 1969
Series 1: BBC1 March 30 to May 11 1970 (7 x 35 min)
Series 2: BBC1 September 14 to October 26 1970 (not Oct 5)(6 x 30 min)

Frankie Howerd’s Hour
Thames September 1 and September 29 1971 (2 x 50 min)

Whoops Baghdad
BBC1 January 25 to March 1 1973 (6 x 30 min)
The Wazir Takes A Wife/Festival Of Magic/The Genie In The Bottle/A Cargo Of Crumpet/All And The Thieves/Saved From The Harem

An Evening With Francis Howerd
BBC2 April 30 to May 14 1973 (3 x 45 min)

The Howerd Confessions
Thames September 2 to October 7 1976 (6 x 25nñn)

The Frankie Howerd Show (Oh Canada!)
sitcom produced in Canada
CBC February 26 to April 8 and April 24 to June 51976 (13 x 30 min)

Up The Convicts
Seven Network (Australia) June/July 1976 (6 x 25 min)

Frankie Howerd Strikes Again
Y.T.V. September 1 to October 6 1981 (6 x 25 min)

Then Churchill Said To Me
B.B.C. 1982 (6 x 30 min)
series shelved until after Frankie’s death, surfacing on U.K. Gold

All Change
Series 1: Y.T.V. November 15 to December 20 1989 (6 x 25 min)
Series 2: Y.T.V. February 5 to March 12 1991 (6 x 25 min)

Frankie’s On …
Central June 21 to July 12 1992 (4 x 25 min)
Board / The Coals / Fire / Call

Specials and main guest appearances

Frankie Howerd’s Korean Party
B.B.C. December 9 1952 (45 min)

Nuts In May
B.B.C. May 13 1953 (40 min)

The Frankie Howerd Show
B.B.C. September 10 1953 (45 min)

Sunday Night At The London Palladium
A.T.V. June 17 1956, December 9 1956, February 3 1957, March 16 1957, November 16 1958 and April 26 1964

Saturday Spectacular: The Howerd Crowd
A.T.V. February 23 1957(45 min)

The Frankie Howerd Show
A.B.C. April 19 1958 and A.T.V. August 17 1958

The School For Wives
Associated-Rediffusion April 23 1958

Ladies And Gentle-men
B.B.C. September 24 1960 (45 min)

That Was The Week That Was
B.B.C. April 6 1963

A Last Word On The Election
BBC2 October 18 1964 (25 min)

East Of Howerd
BBC2 January 1 1966 (50 min)

The Blackpool Show
A.B.C. July 10 1966 and July 23 1967

The Bruce Forsyth Show
A.B.C. September 4 1966

Frankie And Bruce’s Christmas Show
A.B.C. December 24 1966 and December 23 1967 (2 x 90 min)

Howerd’s Hour
A.B.C. May 12 1968 (60 min)

Frankie Howerd Meets The Bee Gees
Thames August 20 1968 (60 min)

The Frankie Howerd Show
Thames September 25 1968 (50 min)

The London Palladium Show
A.T.V. January 25 1969

Frankie Howerd At The Poco A Poco
Thames May 7 1969 (50 min)

A Royal Television Gala Performance
BBC1 May 24 1970 (100 min)

Frankie Howerd – The Laughing Stock Of Television
Thames April 14 1971 (50 min)

Top Of The Year
BBC1 December 31 1971

Frankie Howerd In Ulster
BBC1 March 14 1973 (45 min)

Frankie And Tommy
L.W.T. April 6 1973

Howerd’s History Of England
BBC1 April 30 1974 (30 min)

Frankie Howerd In Concert
Y.T.V. September 18 1974 (50 min)

Petula Sings Christmas
BBC1 December 21 1974

Further Up Pompeii!
BBC1 March 31 1975 (45 min)

Frankie And Bruce
Thames September 3 1975 (50 min)

Frankie Howerd’s Tittertime
Thames October 1 1975 (50 min)

A Touch Of The Casanovas
Thames December 31 1975

Saturday Night At The Mill
BBC1 December 18 1976

Wednesday At Eight
Thames November 22 1978

Frankie Howerd Reveals All
Y.T.V. December 10 1980 (50 min)

Trial By Jury
BBC1 June 2 1984

Super Frank!
CH4 January 12 1987 (50 min)

Arena: Oooh Er, Missus! — The Frankie Howerd Story
BBC2 June 1 1990 (60 min)

Frankie Howerd On Campus
L.W.T. November 24 1990 (50 min)

Further Up Pompeii
L.W.T. December 14 1991 (40 min)

Frankie Howerd At His Tittermost
1991 Sunset & Vine Production recorded at the Birmingham Hippodrome
screened by ITV on December 17 1996

TRIBUTES

Heroes Of Comedy – Frankie Howerd
CH4 January 1 1995 (50 min)

Legends – Frankie Howerd
ITV/Carlton August 9 2000

The Unforgettable Frankie Howerd
ITV December 18 2000

Reputations – Frankie Howerd
BBC2 June 15 2002

Sex, Secrets And Frankie Howerd
CH4 April 24 2004

 

FILMS

The Runaway Bus (1954)

An Alligator Named Daisy (cameo appearance, 1955)

The Ladykillers (1955)

Jumping For Joy (1955)

A Touch Of The Sun (1956)

Further Up The Creek (1958)

Watch It, Sailor (cameo, 1961)

The Fast Lady (cameo, 1962)

The Cool Mikado (1963)

The Mouse On The Moon (cameo, 1963)

The Great St. Trinian’s Train Robbery (1966)

Carry On Doctor (1967)

Carry On Up The Jungle (1969)

Up Pompeii (1970)

Up The Chastity Belt (1971)

Up The Front (1972)

The House In Nightmare Park (1973)

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1977)

 

DISCOGRAPHY

Three Little Fishes/I’m Nobody’s Baby
Harmony 78rpm A 1001

English As She Is Spoken/I’m The Man Who’s Deputising For The Bull
Columbia 78rpm DB 2694

All’s Going Well/Nymphs And Shepherds (both with Margaret Rutherford)
Philips 78rpm PB 214

It’s Alright With Me/Song And Dance Man
Columbia 45rpm DB 4230

Abracadabra/(Don’t Let The) Kiddy Geddin
Decca 45rpm 45F 10420

The Cool Mikado
Parlophone LP PMC 1194 (1962)
Frankie is heard on four tracks of this film soundtrack album:
Behold The Lord High Executioner
Here’s A How-De-Do!
The Flowers That Bloom In The Spring
Finale (For He’s Gone And Married Yum-Yum) (with Lissa Gray and Kevin Scott)

The Last Word On The Election (2 parts)
Decca 45rpm F 12028

Frankie Howerd At The Establishment And At The B.B.C.
Decca LP LK 4556 (1963)
Live performance at The Establishment (September 26 1962)
three segments from Variety Playhouse and London Lights (B.B.C. Light Programme 1961, 1963)

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum
H.M.V.   LP CLP 1685/CSD 1518 (1963)
Frankie is featured on eight tracks of this original London cast album:
Comedy Tonight
Free (with John Rye)
Pretty Little Picture (with John Rye and Isla Blair)
Everybody Ought To Have A Maid (with “Monsewer” Eddie Gray, Kenneth Connor and Jon Pertwee)
Bring Me My Bride (with Leon Greene)
Lovely (with Kenneth Connor)
Funeral Sequence And Dance (with Leon Greene)
Comedy Tonight (reprise)

Alice In Wonderland
HMV 2LP CLP 1921/2, reissued as Music For Pleasure 2LP 1267/8
Frankie is featured as the Mock Turtle on two tracks of this 1965 all-star LP:
The Lobster Quadrille
Beautiful Soup (with Harry H. Cor­bett and Karen Dotrice)

Up Pompeii/Salute
Columbia 45rpm DB 8757 (1971)

Up Je T’Aime/All Through The Night (both with June Whitfield)
Pye 45rpm 7N 45061 (1971)

Frankie Howerd Tells The Story Of Peter And The Wolf
Polydor Carnival LP 2928 201 (1972)
Frankie is the narrator of Prokofiev’s classic children’s tale

Fifty Years Of Radio Comedy
B.B.C. REC 138M (1972)
features Frankie’s Lion-Tamer monologue (from Variety Bandbox of October 16 1949)

Please Yourselves
B.B.C. LP REH 230 (1976)
adapted from the 1970s Radio 2 series.
Frankie Howerd with Ray Fell, Dilys Laye and April Walker

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
RSO double LP RS 2 4100/Polygram CD (1978)
Frankie is heard on two tracks of this film soundtrack album:
Mean Mr Mustard
When I’m Sixty-Four (with Sandy Farina)

Freudiana by Eric Woolfson
EMI CD CDP 79 5415 (1990)
Frankie is heard on one track of this album
Sects Therapy

The Spoken Word Of Rock ‘n’ Roll
Telstar LP STAR 2486/CD TCD 2486 (1990)
Frankie is heard on various tracks of this all-star album

Oh No Missus (two mixes)
Fly 7” 45rpm FLEA 6, 12” 45rpm 12 FLEA 6 (1991)

The Frankie Howerd Show
B.B.C. double-cassette ZBBC 1398 (1992), (BBC GOLD reissue: ZBBC 1926)
features four radio shows:
August 7 1966
June 17 1973
November 10 1974
Novem­ber2 1975

Frankie’s On …
Laughing Stock single-cassette LAFFC 12 (Australian CD LAFCD 11) (first two shows only)
double-cassette LAFFC 23 (all four shows) (1992)
. . . Call
. . . Board
. . . The Coals
. . . Fire

The Frankie Howerd Show 2
B.B.C. double-cassette ZBBC 1730
June 10 1973
July 1 1973
October 27 1974
December 8 1974

Frankie Howerd
Tring CD QED 282, reissued as Get Your Titters Out – Hallmark CD 703272
Get Your Titters Out
Primeval Scream
Three Little Fishes
Song And Dance Man
Nymphs And Shepherds
All’s Going Well
Frankie’s Grooving
Get Your Titters Out (part 2)
Oh, No, Missus
Shut Your Face
Nay, Nay, Thrice Nay
Oh, No Missus (Halifax mix)
Frankie’s Grooving (12” mix)

Carry On Doctor and Carry On Up The Jungle (both featuring Frankie) have also been released on EMI audio cassettes with new linking narration

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

On The Way I Lost It
by Frankie Howerd (W.H. Allen, London. 1976)

Trumps
by Frankie Howerd (J.M. Dent & Sons, London. 1982)

Howerd’s Howlers
by Frankie Howerd (Octopus paperback, London. 1985)

Titter Ye Not!
by William Hall (Harper Collins/Grafton paperback, London. 1992)

The Life And Times Of Benny Hill And Frankie Howerd
by Barry Took (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London. 1992)

Frankie Howerd – The Illustrated Biography
by Mick Middles (Essential/Headline, 2000)

The Complete Frankie Howerd
by Robert Ross (Reynolds & Hearn, London. 2001)

Frankie Howerd – Stand-Up Comic
by Graham McCann (Fourth Estate, London. 2004)

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