FESTIVE CHOICE: Frankie Howerd: The Lost Tapes, Channel 4, 7.30pm.
WENTY years after his death, this documentary reveals never-beforeseen footage of one of Britain’s most popular comedy stars: Frankie Howerd. Alongside clips from his classic shows, the programme shows previously unreleased professional and personal archive film and audio.
From pilots and home movie footage to unseen interviews and material from his live stand-up show, the show shines a light on the highs and lows of Howerd’s remarkable career.
The film also lifts the lid on his vast collection of personal correspondence. From Sir Laurence Olivier and Paul McCartney to Howerd’s many fans, everyone wrote to the comedian and Howerd always took the time to write back.
The film features a range of contributors, including some of the comedian’s most famous fans, such as Sir Bruce Forsyth and Barry Cryer and to whet viewers appetites, the show’s producers have released a series of little known facts about the legendary comic...
1. When he was young, Howerd planned to become a priest, before he moved into comedy.
2. One of his first on-screen roles was a brief appearance in the classic Ealing comedy The Ladykillers, as a flustered barrow boy.
3. Howerd’s living room hearth was decorated with the Roman swords his friend Richard Burton used when he played Mark Antony in the 1963 film Cleopatra.
4. Howerd was treated with LSD in an attempt to deal with depression that he suffered early in his career.
5. Among Howerd’s many A-list friends were The Beatles, with whom he acted in Help!. Unfortunately his scene – which also featured Wendy Richard – ended up on the cutting room floor.
6. Howerd found big-screen success in Carry on Doctor. He was the highest paid actor in the comedy classic, and also in Carry on Up the Jungle.
7. The BBC head of light entertainment had the inspiration for Up Pompeii! when he was visiting ancient ruins on holiday in Italy, and said he halfexpected to see Howerd appear round a corner in a toga, following his starring role in the stage show A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
8. Howerd appeared alongside The Bee Gees in their hour-long film Cucumber Castle, an ill-conceived psychedelic medieval tale of kings and cucumbers.
9. Howerd and June Whitfield released a spoof version of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s controversial saucy sex duet Je t’aime... moi non plus, with legendary comedy writer Ray Galton as Whitfield’s husband. It was banned by the BBC.
10. Howerd’s final stand-up performance was at Oxford University Union’s debating chamber.
COMIC GENIUS: Frankie Howerd’s career spanned Carry On films to Up Pompeii! and stand-up at the Oxford University Union.