Cockney character actor Harry Fowler dies at 85

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Harry Fowler

Harry Fowler

Harry Fowler, a quin­tes­sen­tial cock­ney actor with a career span­ning over 100 major film and TV appear­ances through more than 60 years, died Wednes­day. He was 85.

He nar­rated Bob God­frey Films’ Great: Isam­bard King­dom Brunel (1975), the first British car­toon to win an Acad­emy Award. The 30-minute animated/musical film chron­i­cled the life of Isam­bard King­dom Brunel, an engineer/inventor dur­ing England’s indus­trial rev­o­lu­tion. It won the Oscar for Best Short Film (Ani­mated) and the BAFTA for Best Ani­mated Film.

From being a paper­boy dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, Fowler rose to being awarded the Mem­ber of the British Empire in 1970.

Debut­ing on the screen as Ern in Those Kids from Town (1942), the actor por­trayed Cor­po­ral “Flog­ger” Hoskins from 1959 to 1961 in Granada’s TV com­edy The Army Game.

Though never a star, Fowler used his gen­uine cock­ney accent and cheeky smile to por­tray many ser­vice­men, reporters, trades­men and minor villains.

Henry James Fowler was born in Lam­beth, south Lon­don, on Decem­ber 10, 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 speak­ing about his life in wartime London.

Film com­pany exec­u­tives heard the broad­cast. Look­ing for a Lon­doner to fea­ture in a film about evac­uees, they screen tested him at Elstree stu­dios and offered him £5 a day.

His Royal Air Force ser­vice was inter­rupted when he was given leave to appear in eight films, includ­ing the 1945 semi-documentary Painted Boats, fea­tur­ing Alas­tair Sim.

After the war, Fowler worked con­tin­u­ously in the boom­ing film indus­try in such pic­tures as The Longest Day and Lawrence of Ara­bia (both 1962). He por­trayed Sam Weller in The Pick­wick Papers (1952).

Seen in such series as Dixon of Dock Green and Z-Cars, he was Harry Dan­vers in Our Man at St Mark’s (1965–66). Later series included World’s End (1981) and Dead Ernest (1982); he also was heard doing voiceovers in many commercials.

His last movie roles were in Body Con­tact (1987) and Chicago Joe and the Show­girl (1990). He con­tin­ued work­ing in TV, appear­ing in The Bill, Doc­tor Who, Casu­alty, In Sick­ness and in Health and other series.

Harry Fowler mar­ried actress Joan Dowl­ing, who took her own life in 1954 after her career began to fail. He is sur­vived by his sec­ond wife, Kay.

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