|Subject: Archive: Trevor Howard, Jan. 7, 1988
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Date Posted: Sunday, January 07, 04:33:29pm
Trevor Howard, the gravelly-voiced actor who made a career of playing English officers and gentlemen in his more than 70 motion pictures, died yesterday. He was 71 years old.
Mr. Howard died in a hospital at Bushey, near London, after a brief illness, according to his agent, James Sharkey. ''He died quite peacefully in his sleep,'' Mr. Sharkey said. ''He had contracted influenza and bronchitis, and at the end his illness became complicated by jaundice.''
Although he started out as a stage actor, often returned to the theater and was often seen on television, Mr. Howard was best known for his movie roles.
The most memorable and popular among them was probably his third film, made in 1946, ''Brief Encounter,'' in which he co-starred with Celia Johnson. Written by Noel Coward and directed by David Lean, the bittersweet romance, set mainly in a dismal train station, poignantly told the story of a strait-laced physician who falls in love with a suburban housewife. It ends with their parting determined not to do anything that would hurt their families.
Mr. Howard was nominated for an Academy Award for his vivid performance as the father in ''Sons and Lovers'' in 1960 and won a television Emmy for playing the title role in ''The Invincible Mr. Disraeli.'' The British Film Academy named him best actor of the year in 1958 for his role in ''The Key.''
'Work Is My Hobby'
Professing to be unsure why he had became an actor, Mr. Howard said: ''I suppose there wasn't anything else to do. Work is my hobby. I'm happiest when I'm working. The films turn out well or they don't, the former preferably, but I take pride in being in the business. It's where my mates are.''
Sir John Gielgud, who appeared in several films with Mr. Howard, said yesterday: ''He was an enormously versatile and powerful actor. He was a star who had no pretensions, something rare in an actor.''
Mr. Howard was indeed a hard worker, meticulous about his craftsmanship and impatient with sloppy work done by others. He rarely criticized his fellow actors publicly, however, with the exception of Marlon Brando, who played Fletcher Christian to Mr. Howard's Captain Bligh in a 1962 remake of ''Mutiny on the Bounty.'' He dismissed Mr. Brando as ''unprofessional and utterly ridiculous.''
''We don't have the Method School of acting in England,'' said Mr. Howard. ''We simply read the script, let it seep in, then go put on whiskers - and do it.'' Parents Favored
Trevor Wallace Howard was born on Sept. 29, 1916. His father, an insurance underwriter, and his Canadian-born mother, a nurse, wanted Mr. Howard to become a career army officer. But he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, where, in 1933, at the end of his first year, he was chosen best actor in his class for his performance as Benedict in a school production of ''Much Ado About Nothing.'' While still a student he made his professional debut in 1934 at the Gate Theater in ''Revolt in a Reformatory.''
In the decade that followed Mr. Howard appeared in many plays, notably in 1935 as Absolute in Sheridan's ''Rivals.'' While seasoning his craft in Shakespearean roles in several theaters, including the Memorial at Stratford-on-Avon, the young actor starred in London's West End, too, at one point spending two years in Terence Rattigan's ''French Without Tears.''
Mr. Howard, who in later years was to distinguish himself by playing bluff and rugged British military officers in several movie and television roles, came by his soldier image firsthand. In World War II he made 22 parachute jumps, taking part in airborne landings in Norway and Sicily, and was awarded the Military Cross for bravery.
First Film Role
After leaving the army as a captain with a medical discharge, Mr. Howard returned to acting, and the director Carol Reed gave him his first film role, as a naval officer, in ''The Way Ahead'' in 1943. He also scored great successes onstage in ''A Soldier for Christmas'' and, in 1944, as Matt Burke, one of his all-time favorite roles, in O'Neill's ''Anna Christie.''
In 1946 Mr. Howard made his second film, ''The Way to the Stars,'' but it was his next, ''Brief Encounter,'' that sent him on his way to movie stardom. He and Miss Johnson were reunited for a television movie, ''Staying On,'' that was shown in the United States last year. They played an old couple named Smalley, and in The New York Times, John J. O'Connor called them ''absolutely batty, in the time-honored tradition of English eccentricity.'' He added: ''Mr. Howard and Miss Johnson are almost wickedly charming, two thorough professionals making the most of every moment together.''
Mr. Howard did some of his most memorable work under the direction of his first movie employer, Sir Carol Reed. He was critically praised for several studies of basically decent characters who are overwhelmed by uncontrollable stressful forces, such as Peter Willems in Sir Carol's version of Conrad's ''Outcast of the Islands'' in 1952.
Other Notable Films
In Sir Carol's ''Third Man'' (1950) he elicited from Mr. Howard a much-admired performance as a briskly efficient police major searching for a drug smuggler in postwar occupied Vienna. The actor won rapturous reviews for his performance as the spiritually tortured protagonist of Graham Greene's ''Heart of the Matter'' in 1953 and as Morel, a wildlife crusader, in John Huston's ''Roots of Heaven'' in 1958.
Other notable Howard films included ''Von Ryan's Express'' (1965), ''Ryan's Daughter'' (1970) ''Ludwig'' (1972), in which he played Richard Wagner, ''Stevie (1977) and ''Gandhi'' (1982).
Mr. Howard's wife, Helen Cherry, an actress, was at his side when he died.
He loved Dixieland jazz and had a reputation for hard drinking and womanizing. When asked about his carousing, he replied: ''Hell-raiser? I don't mind if they call me that. If it means I enjoy life, then that's fine and I hope to continue to do so, but not to the extent of throwing bottles or annoying anyone.''
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