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.
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.
- Wednesday 22nd September 1915
- Thursday 15th April 1982 (aged 66)
|2016||Dad's Army: A Stripe For Frazer||Captain Mainwaring|
|2014|| Morecambe & Wise In Pieces
||Self (Archive Material)|
|1983||It Sticks Out Half A Mile - Pilot||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
|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||Dad's Army - Series 6||Captain Mainwaring|
|1973||Parsley Sidings - Series 2||Horace Hepplewhite|
|1973||No Sex Please - We're British||Mr. Bromley|
|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||Doctor At Large||Dr Maxwell|
|1971||Dad's Army||Capt. Mainwaring|
|1971||Parsley Sidings - Pilot||Horace Hepplewhite|
|1970||Dad's Army - Series 4||Captain Mainwaring|
|1970||The Bed Sitting Room||Father|
|1970|| Tommy Cooper
|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||Warder|
|1961|| Three Live Wires
|1949||Kind Hearts And Coronets||The Reporter|
Non-comedy TV and film credits might be found here:
Arthur Lowe on IMDb