Pardon The Expression. Leonard Swindley (Arthur Lowe). Copyright: Granada Television

Arthur Lowe was an actor with a particular adeptness for slightly blustering, comic roles. First seen on stage in 1945, he soon established himself as a reliable theatre actor and appeared across the country. Enjoying a consistent string of guest roles on both television and in film, he became a national star during the 1960s and 70s, first in Coronation Street and his own character's two spin-off sitcoms (Pardon The Expression, Turn Out The Lights), and later in the iconic BBC series Dad's Army.

More information

Wednesday 22nd September 1915
Thursday 15th April 1982


Arthur Lowe was an English actor born in Hayfield, Derbyshire. His father worked for a railway company and organised the logistics of moving theatrical touring troupes across Northern England.

Originally, Lowe had wanted to pursue a career in the Merchant Navy, but poor hindsight disadvantaged him and he had to seek a different path. He began work at an aircraft factory, joining the British Army on the eve of the Second World War. However, he had already experienced his first Tate of acting, working as a stage-hand at the Manchester Palace of Varieties. Lowe served in the Middle East and took part in several entertainment shows organised for the troops. When discharged from the army at the end of the war, having served as a radar technician in the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, he had reached the rank of Sergeant.

Lowe made his onstage debut in 1945 at the Manchester Repertory Theatre, paid £5 per week for twice-nightly performances. Soon he was being booked for parts in West End musicals Call Me Madam, Pal Joey, and The Pajama Game, and took on a brief role towards the end of classic Ealing comedy Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949).

Lowe married Joan Coper in 1948, having met when she was his leading lady at the Manchester Repertory Theatre, and they remained together until his death.

Lowe's television breakthrough arrived with a regular role as draper/lay preacher Leonard Swindley in the long-running soap opera Coronation Street. So popular was his character that viewers demanded spin-off series Pardon The Expression and its sequel Turn Out The Lights.

In 1968 Lowe was cast as Captain Mainwaring in BBC sitcom Dad's Army (1968-1977). Famously, Lowe had a clause written into his contract that specified that he would never have to lose his trousers. In the 1975 Christmas special of the sitcom, entitled "My Brother And I", Lowe also played Mainwaring's drunken brother Barry Mainwaring. Lowe would repeat the much-loved role of captain in the radio version of the show, a stage play, and a feature-length film Dad's Army=1447], released in 1971. His character is well-known for his catchphrases 'Oh do be quiet, boy', 'I think I'm losing the will to live', and 'Now listen everyone, I have some very important news'.

Lowe was also an accomplished stage actor, appearing in plays at the National Theatre and the Royal Court Theatre. In 1968 he was invited by Laurence Olivier to act at the National Theatre and at the Old Vic.

In cinema, Lowe took on several important roles in films directed by Lindsay Anderson, including if... and O Lucky Man!. He also featured in Spike Milligan's absurdist, surrealist film The Bed Sitting Room, in which he mutates into a parrot,

Lowe featured twice as a guest performer on The Morecambe And Wise Show (1971 and 1977), and in 1973 joined forces with Dad's Army colleague Ian Lavender on BBC radio comedy Parsley Sidings. In 1974 he gave his voice to a plethora of characters on the BBC animated television series Mr. Men (1974), in which he narrated as well as giving life to all the characters.

In 1972 Lowe recorded the novelty musical songs "How I Won The War" and "My Little Girl, My Little Boy".

When Dad's Army came to an end in 1977, Lowe remained in high demand in the comedy circuit, appearing in major roles in the television comedies Bless Me, Father and Potter. In 1981 he reprised the role of Captain Mainwaring for a pilot episode of It Sticks Out Half A Mile, a radio sequel to Dad's Army. His last film role would be in Lindsay Anderson's Britannia Hospital (1982).

Lowe and his wife both suffered terribly from alcoholism, and towards the end of his career he could do little more than act in pantomimes and touring theatre productions. On 14 April 1982, he appeared in a live televised interview on Pebble Mill At One but later collapsed from a stroke in his dressing room at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham. He died in hospital the next morning, aged 66. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at Sutton Coldfield Crematorium, and a memorial service was held in May 1982 at St Martin-in-the-Fields. His last sitcom, A.J. Wentworth, B.A., in which Lowe played a boys' prep-school master, was broadcast during July and August 1982.


BAFTA Television Awards 1978
Best Light Entertainment Performance: Nominee
BAFTA Television Awards 1975
Best Actor: Nominee
BAFTA Television Awards 1975
Best Light Entertainment Performance: Nominee
BAFTA Film Awards 1974
Best Supporting Actor: Winner
BAFTA Television Awards 1973
Best Light Entertainment Performance: Nominee
BAFTA Television Awards 1971
Best Light Entertainment Performance: Nominee
BAFTA Television Awards 1970
Best Actor: Nominee


Year Production Role
2020 We Love...
  1. E3 - We Love Dad's Army
Self (Archive Material)
2016 Dad's Army: A Stripe For Frazer Captain Mainwaring
2014 Morecambe & Wise In Pieces
  1. E4 - Leading Men
Self (Archive Material)
1983 It Sticks Out Half A Mile - Pilot
  1. Loyal Support
George Mainwaring
1982 A.J. Wentworth, B.A. A J Wentworth
1982 Britannia Hospital Guest Patient
1981 Bless Me, Father - Series 3 Father Charles Clement Duddleswell
1980 Potter - Series 2 Redvers Potter
1979 The Plank Smaller Workman
1979 Bless Me, Father - Series 2 Father Charles Clement Duddleswell
1979 Potter - Series 1 Redvers Potter
1978 Bless Me, Father - Series 1 Father Charles Clement Duddleswell
1977 Dad's Army - Series 9 Captain Mainwaring
1977 The Strange Case Of The End Of Civilisation As We Know It Dr. W. Watson
1977 Car Along The Pass Henry Duckworth
1977 The Diary Of A Nobody Narrator
1976 Dad's Army - The Love Of Three Oranges Captain Mainwaring
1976 Dad's Army - Series 3 Captain Mainwaring
1975 Dad's Army - Series 8
  1. Special - My Brother And I
Barry Mainwaring
1975 Dad's Army - Series 8 Captain Mainwaring
1975 Dad's Army - Series 2 Captain Mainwaring
1974 Dad's Army - Series 7 Captain Mainwaring
1974 Dad's Army - Series 1 Captain Mainwaring
1974 Man About The House Spiros
1973 Bunclarke-With-An-E Bunclerke
1973 Dad's Army - Series 6 Captain Mainwaring
1973 Parsley Sidings - Series 2 Horace Hepplewhite
1973 No Sex Please - We're British Mr. Bromley
1973 Theatre Of Blood Horace Sprout
1972 Dad's Army - Series 5 Captain Mainwaring
1972 The Last Of The Baskets - Series 2 Redvers Bodkin
1972 It's Murder. But Is It Art? Phineas Drake
1971 Dad's Army - Battle Of The Giants! Captain Mainwaring
1971 Parsley Sidings - Series 1 Horace Hepplewhite
1971 The Last Of The Baskets - Series 1 Redvers Bodkin
1971 Dad's Army Capt. Mainwaring
1971 Doctor At Large
  1. E3 - You Make Me Feel So Young
  2. E4 - Doctor Dish
  3. E5 - Modernising Major
  4. E6 - Congratulations It's A Toad
  5. E7 - Change Your Partners
Dr Maxwell
1971 Parsley Sidings - Pilot Horace Hepplewhite
1970 Dad's Army - Series 4 Captain Mainwaring
1970 The Bed Sitting Room Father
1970 Tommy Cooper
  1. E3 - Episode Three
1969 Dad's Army - Series 3 Captain Mainwaring
1969 Dad's Army - Series 2 Captain Mainwaring
1969 A Hole Lot Of Trouble Mr. Whitehouse
1968 Dad's Army - Series 1 Captain Mainwaring
1967 Turn Out The Lights Leonard Swindley
1966 Pardon The Expression - Series 2 Leonard Swindley
1965 Pardon The Expression - Series 1 Leonard Swindley
1962 Go To Blazes Bert the Warder
1961 Three Live Wires
  1. E9 - The Ring
1956 Who Done It? Tank Operator
1956 The Green Man Radio Salesman
1949 Kind Hearts And Coronets The Reporter

Non-comedy TV and film credits may be found here:
Arthur Lowe on IMDb

Share this page

See also