Frankie Howard a comic great
Francis Alick Howard was born 6 May 1917, York, Great Britain, one of three children whose father Frank Howard was a soldier in the British Army his mother was Edith Howard. Growing up in Eltham, Kent, Howard was shy and insecure child his low self-esteem would continue to follow him into adulthood. To try to overcome his lack of confidence he participated in amateur dramatics, not a talented amateur actor, however, his enthusiasm for acting always shone through.
Leaving school at 16 Howard started working as an office clerk, however, the work was boring and poorly paid he soon felt it was time move on. At 19, Howard applied to Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts but failed the audition into the Drama school. Realising that one of strengths he could build upon was his funny camp style which later would be one of his best assets. Howard was determined to still keep pursuing a career in the theatre, not as an actor but as a comedian. Entering the music halls he put on impressions and performed comic songs for audiences. Howard would sometimes hesitate on stage because of stage fright, a condition which would haunt him throughout his career.
Drafted in the British Army when the Second World War started, his military service progressed his career even further as a comedian when he would take part in comedy shows for serviceman. After the war in 1946 Howard auditioned and landed a role in a radio play BBC Variety Bandbox Program along with other ex-servicemen. In 1952 Howard now auditioning for the role in a three-part television series called The Howard Crowd, Eric Sykes writer and comedian immediately noticed Howard. Landing his first television role was a breakthrough for Howard, his famous one-liners like ‘Oh hh’ for which he would become well known for along with making sexual innuendos.
Howard was now a rising star one of his problems which he kept to himself, was what the public would have thought about his sexual orientation. In the mid-fifties, Howard met Dennis Heymer a waiter who would become his manager and long term partner for the rest of his life. For the rest of the decade, Sykes would continue writing comedy scripts and routines for Howard to perform. Vera Roper was a deaf pianist who Howard appear alongside when performing his routines on television. 1954 Howard starred in the film Runaway Bus with Petula Clark, the following year he made a brief appearance in the film The LadyKillers. Jumping For Joy his next film appearance in 1956, he appeared on stage again in Charley’s Aunt 1955 and 1958 he starred in The Perfect Woman and Further Up The Creek. A television series called School For Wives starring Howard was poorly received by the viewing public and eventually flopped. Continuing with television Howard starred in the Frankie Howard show, again public ratings dropped and the show was axed. Finding it hard to cope with the failure of both television shows, Howard became depressed and eventually had a nervous breakdown.
1960 heralded a new era in comedy Peter Cook and Dudley Moore both Cambridge graduates were stars of the hit satirical television shows like Beyond The Fringe and Not Only But Also. Both comedians attend an award ceremony, Howard who was invited but was contemplating giving up his career in show business. Meeting Cook and Moore they offered him a regular part on stage, at Cook’s London nightclub The Establishment which he owned. Comedy writers Alan Simpson, Ray Galton and Johnny Speight wrote comedy routines for Howard. Starring in the hit television show that was the week that was and a new series of Frankie Howard he was back in the limelight. In 1966, he managed to land a role this time the in film The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery. In the mid sixties Howard was offered a big part in the series written by Talbot Rothwell, Up Pompeii playing a Roman slave which was filled with constant sexual innuendo’s and his now famous line like ’O’hhh’ and ’O’hhh errr Misses’. The show became a huge success with television viewers making Howard a household name. The series proved to be very popular with the general public, running through the rest of the sixties and into the early seventies. Carry On films was spin-off versions of the Pompeii again filled with sexual innuendo’s and one-liners written by Rothwell. 1977 Howard was knighted with an OBE for his contribution to comedy his autobiography ‘On my way I lost it’ published the same year. As the seventies decade came to close the general public sense of humour was changing, Howard’s work was drying up again. The eighties were hard on Howard and without the popularity he had enjoyed previously, he fell into a state of depression again.
The end of eighties and early nineties t-shirts with Howard face being printed on them with the phrases ‘Frankie Says‘. A one-off episode of Up Pompeii was back on television and Howard took up the role again. Frankie’s on starring Howard was another series made for television, with his popularity now soaring again. A new Carry On film Carry On Columbus was back in production and Howard offered a role in the up and coming film. In April 1992 Howard.Suffering from repertory problems at home he went into Hospital where his condition rapidly deteriorated, he died of a heart failure on 19 April 1992.