Frankie Howerd.

Frankie Howerd

Then Churchill Said To Me. Private Potts (Frankie Howerd). Copyright: BBC.

Frankie Howerd in retrospect

One of the all-time great names of British comedy, Francis Alick Howerd OBE, was born 100 years ago.

Just one of a generation of comics and writers who honed their skills during World War Two, Frankie would become one of the most popular comedians of the post-war years, despite finding his career beset by a constant onslaught of downturns.

Every few years he and his act would be written off by the executives in control of the entertainment industry - whether film, TV or radio - and he would struggle to find work; but audiences never stopped loving Frankie Howerd, and through one route or another he was continually rediscovered and loved again by the public - fans both new and old.

Somewhat oddly, he is now perhaps best remembered of as part of the Carry On team, despite only appearing in two of the 31 films in the series: Carry On Doctor (1967) and Carry On Up The Jungle (1970) - plus one television special, the 1969 edition of Carry On Christmas.

His single most famous role, however, remains that of Roman slave Lurcio in the period sitcom Up Pompeii!, a vehicle created for him after his success in a London stage production of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. The comedy ran for just two series - plus a few specials - but would spawn three feature films and five further TV sitcoms.

There is, frankly (pun intended), no reappraisal of Frankie Howerd's career to make: he was, quite simply, a comedy genius.

Spanning at least six separate decades, we are unable to list more than a selection of Frankie's starring roles: he had at least 22 self-titled comedy series on television alone. Here, instead, is a collection of some of his most notable work. He died, famed and beloved once again, early in 1992 at the age of 75.

Up Pompeii!

Up Pompeii!. Image shows from L to R: Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Lurcio (Frankie Howerd), Unknown, Unknown, Unknown. Copyright: BBC.
Originating as a BBC One Comedy Playhouse pilot in 1969, two series of Up Pompeii! would be broadcast the following year. A special revisited Lurcio in 1975, whilst in the last resurgence of his career, ITV broadcast another update at Christmas 1991. Had Howerd not fallen ill and died just a few months later, it's entirely possible there could have been another series of the innuendo-laden comedy. Guide

Frankie Howerd

Frankie Howerd. Frankie Howerd. Copyright: BBC.
Sadly yet to become commercially available in any format, Frankie Howerd - aka The Frankie Howerd Show - mixed sketch and stand-up, running for two series in the mid-1960s. Written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, the twelve episodes (at least seven of which are known to survive) see Howerd supported by the likes of June Whitfield, Hugh Paddick, Yootha Joyce, Beryl Reid and John Le Mesurier. Guide

Carry On Doctor

Carry On Doctor. Image shows from L to R: Unknown, Unknown, Francis Bigger (Frankie Howerd), Dr. Tinkle (Kenneth Williams), Unknown, Ken Biddle (Bernard Bresslaw), Mr. Smith (Peter Butterworth). Copyright: Peter Rogers Productions.
The first of just two Carry On films in which Frankie appeared, Doctor (1967) saw him cast as a motivational speaker and "mind over matter" anti-modern-medicine campaigner, Francis Bigger, who finds himself hospitalised with a bruised bum. He and a large group of other patients rise up against the stern doctor and matron under whose charge they find themselves, and subject them to a bit of their own medicine. Guide

The Runaway Bus

The Runaway Bus. Image shows from L to R: Peter Jones (Terence Alexander), Lee Nicholls (Petula Clark), Percy Lamb (Frankie Howerd). Copyright: Val Guest Productions.
This comic crime caper was Frankie Howerd's first film. Released in 1951, he stars as the unfortunate driver of the titular Runaway Bus, packed with frustrated passengers crossing England by land after some of the worst fog in memory grounds all flights at Heathrow airport. Guide

Frankie Howerd On Campus

The last resurgence in Frankie's career catapulted him back to fame at the height of the alternative comedy boom in the late 1980s. A perhaps particularly surprising turn given his traditional, gag-packed and innuendo-filled comedy style, he was embraced by new generations of fans to such an extent that, in 1990, he was invited to perform in the University of Oxford student union's prestigious debating chamber. The celebrated performance was recorded and later broadcast by ITV. Guide

The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery

The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery. Image shows from L to R: Gilbert (Reg Varney), Alfred Askett (Frankie Howerd), Unknown, Unknown. Copyright: Braywild Limited.
In the fourth film about the delinquent schoolgirls, The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery sees Frankie star as the leader of a gang of robbers who've stashed a large haul in an abandoned house. When they return to collect their takings, the group is alarmed to find the building has become home to a girls' school. Guide

The House In Nightmare Park

The House In Nightmare Park. Foster Twelvetrees (Frankie Howerd).
This 1973 comedy-horror film by Doctor Who writers Clive Exton and Terry Nation has Howerd playing a rather rubbish actor who is hired to provide entertainment at a country house. Expecting an easy few days, he quickly finds that not all is as it seems with the home's residents, and his own life may in fact be in danger. Guide

Up The Chastity Belt

Up The Chastity Belt. Lurkalot (Frankie Howerd). Copyright: Anglo-EMI / Associated London Films Limited.
The second of three films spinning off from Up Pompeii!, in Up The Chastity Belt Frankie plays a lowly mediaeval serf named Lurkalot. When his master ventures to join King Richard on crusade, his lands are attacked - only Lurkalot stands in the way of the dastardly Sir Braggart de Bombast. Guide


The Frankie Howerd Collection

The Frankie Howerd Collection

Frankie Howerd, one of the 20th Century's best-loved comics, left behind a wide variety of work. Arguably his most well-known and loved role was that of Lurcio in Up Pompeii!, available on DVD here for the first time.

Contents are as follows:
Comedy Playhouse Up Pompeii! pilot episode (1969)
Up Pompeii! Series 1 (1970)
Up Pompeii! Series 2 (1970)
Further Up Pompeii! Special (1975)
Then Churchill Said To Me (1982)
Comedy Greats: Frankie Howerd

The Comedy Greats DVD contains sketches from An Evening With Frankie Howerd and Royal Variety Performances, as well as chat show appearances with the likes of Michael Parkinson and Terry Wogan.

First released: Monday 16th October 2006

  • Distributor: 2 Entertain
  • Region: 2 & 4
  • Discs: 5
  • Minutes: 676
  • Subtitles: English
  • Catalogue: BBCDVD2119

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The Howerd Confessions

The Howerd Confessions

Six different playlets, ostensibly relating episodes from Frankie's colourful past. The casts changed from week to week, although Joan Sims was a regular. Howerd played the parts in full over-the-top mode, addressing the audience directly and reproaching them for reading dirty meanings into his lines.

First released: Monday 10th September 2007

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Oh, Please Yourselves! - Frankie Howerd At ITV

Oh, Please Yourselves! - Frankie Howerd At ITV

At the time of his death in 1992, Frankie Howerd was firmly established as a national comedy treasure, his risqué jokes, double entendres and meandering anecdotes having enlivened television schedules over nearly four decades. Some of his most successful shows were produced for ITV, and this set presents six shows broadcast on the network between 1973 and 1991 that reflect an ever-broadening appreciation of his comic genius - from the hugely popular variety shows of the seventies to the enthusiastically received routines on Britain's university campuses during the early nineties, confirming Frankie Howerd's status not only as a comedy icon but a cult hero embraced by a generation of young student aficionados.

Featuring guests John Le Mesurier, Sheila Steafel, Kenny Lynch and Norwegian Bond girl Julie Ege, with writing from Johnny Speight, Barry Cryer and Vince Powell, this marvellous collection presents Frankie at his finest.

The programmes included are:
Francis Howerd In Concert
Frankie And Tommy
Frankie Howerd Reveals All
Frankie Howerd On Campus
Further Up Pompeii

Plus, two Russell Harty interviews, from 1974 and 1976.

First released: Monday 29th August 2011

  • Distributor: Network
  • Region: 2
  • Discs: 2
  • Catalogue: 7953425

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Frankie Howerd: On The Way I Lost It

Frankie Howerd: On The Way I Lost It

Frankie Howerd's autobiography.

First published: Monday 11th October 1976

  • Publisher: W.H. Allen
  • Pages: 288
  • Catalogue: 9780491018074

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Published: Monday 6th March 2017