Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Frankie Howerd

A centenary which I missed has been marked by Jonathan Calder. Frankie Howerd was one of my boyhood heroes, too. I loved his radio appearances on Variety Bandbox and in his own show (which featured Swansea's own Gladys Morgan - who remembers her now?). As those listings show, he was good at spotting scriptwriting talent. But he was a troubled man.

As reminiscences by Bob Monkhouse and others revealed, he constantly and sometimes embarrassingly sought physical consolation from the young men he worked with. Eric Merriman, another noted scriptwriter, testified to his pathological anxiety, having been rung up by Howerd in the middle of the night querying details of a script he was to deliver the next day. Howerd in later life was to blame childhood abuse by his father for his troubles, but nobody has been able to find corroborating evidence.

On the other hand, he was well-liked by people, both men and women, who knew him personally. He seems to have been the reverse of the typical star performer, professional and respected at work, but cold and distant off-stage. I would like to have known Francis A Howard, but not to have worked with him.

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