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THE UNSEEN FRANKIE HOWERD Reviews

Frankie Howerd: the Lost Tapes uncovers a huge archive of his letters, files and recordings for this fond recollection of a curious career.

Howerd, with his terrible wig, his nudge-nudge act and catchphrases based on the infinite comic possibilities of the word “tittering”, was a well-loved figure, though his career suffered deep troughs and he could be tough to work with.

But he was a doughty fighter who wouldn’t give up, his huge success as leering Lurcio in the BBC sitcom Up Pompeii came after a long period in the doldrums. This is a fascinating portrait of a curious man, peppered with clips from real oddities, including an atrocious film with, of all people, the Bee Gees.

Radio Times Wednesday 2nd January

When Frankie Howerd died in April 1992, the British public lost one of its dearest television and stage stars…Frankie Howerd was a real superstar of his age and in three separate eras he managed to woo a different generation and grab them by both their funny bones.

When old tapes and recordings that had never seen the light of day suddenly were found in the attics and cupboards of his old home, Channel 4 put together a montage of the comedian’s life and with sensitive narration by Julian Rhind-Tutt, the programme Frankie Howerd: The Lost Tapes explored the man’s work more deeply than had been done before.

His work which included two Carry On Films, Up Pompeii and the excellent That Was The Week That Was, has always been kept in some form or another; even possibly the highlight of his career, the edifying talk he gave to the Oxford Union has been much prized for its comedic and artistic flair.

The programme utilised some of the actors and writers who worked alongside Frankie Howerd, including the irreplaceable Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, June Whitfield, Bruce Forsyth and Barry Cryer and what the audience got in return for their 90 minutes was honesty and the undeniable fact that for all his demons and incredible insecurity, he was much loved and needed.

There was the beautiful moment when he was asked by Peter Cook to go on stage at the Establishment, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s satirical show in London which bought much needed ridicule to a dying Government in the 1960s. When they met years later on This Is Your Life, their reminiscence was too much for the great comedian and viewers were left with a rare sight of seeing him break down in tears. Stunning television!

Liverpool Sound and Vision Tuesday 1st January

Excellent documentary tracing the life of legendary comedian Frankie Howerd who died 20 years after a long career of mostly highs despite more than a few setbacks (at one stage in the early sixties Howerd was thinking of throwing in the towel feeling his career was going nowhere but a last role of the dice stand up gig at London’s Establishment Club really led to his huge late career surge in popularity).

The most moving thing of all though is the fact that, since his death, Howerd’s home in Somerset has remained untouched and it is from here that a wealth of material, in particular a massive collection of recordings from all stages of his career.

There are contributions from the likes of old colleagues Bruce Forsyth and Barry Cryer as well as writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson.

UK TV Tuesday 1st January

He was one of the most popular entertainers of his day - and one of the most private. Millions knew and loved Frankie Howerd the comedian but few could claim knowledge of the man. Now 20 years after his death the comic, who could reduce an audience to helpless laughter simply by spluttering “Oo er”, is being revealed in intimate detail in his own words.

Newly discovered letters reveal a man who was a friend of acting luminaries and pop stars but who corresponded with his fans, critics, royalty and politicians and treated all with equal courtesy. The forgotten treasure trove covers Howerd’s most successful years from 1969-1990 and together with another archive found at Howerd’s Somerset home provided the material for a documentary to be shown tomorrow. Though Howerd was notoriously difficult to deal with professionally the letters reveal him to be considerate.

The Daily Express Tuesday 1st January

Following previous docs delving into the hidden worlds of comedy greats Eric Morecambe and Spike Milligan, this profile of the ‘Up Pompeii’ star delivered a number of undiscovered gems. Taking in previously unseen footage, from home movies to live stand-up material, it celebrates the life of the comic actor whose career stretched all the way from Variety Bandbox to 1990’s The Craig Ferguson Story (playing The God Of Comedy, no less). Also, a peek at Howerd’s extensive correspondence, including exchanges with the likes of Laurence Olivier and Paul McCartney. Mark Jones

The Guardian Tuesday 1st January

From pilots and home movies to unseen interviews and material from Howerd’s live standup show, this affectionate film shines new light on a remarkable career based largely on a mastery of the single entendre.

Twenty years after his passing, the old rascal still makes us laugh.

The Observer Sunday 30th December

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