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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