Alan Mowbray

Active - 1931 - 1961  |   Born - Aug 18, 1896   |   Died - Mar 26, 1969   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Romance, Musical, Mystery

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Born to a non-theatrical British family, Alan Mowbray was in his later years vague concerning the exact date that he took to the stage. In some accounts, he was touring the provinces before joining the British Navy in World War I; in others, he turned to acting after the war, purportedly because he was broke and had no discernible "practical" skills. No matter when he began, Mowbray climbed relatively quickly to Broadway and London stardom, spending several seasons on the road with the Theater Guild; his favorite stage parts were those conceived by Bernard Shaw and Noel Coward. Turning to films in the early talkie era, Mowbray received good notices for his portrayal of George Washington in 1931's Alexander Hamilton (a characterization he'd repeat along more comic lines for the 1945 musical Where Do We Go From Here?). He also had the distinction of appearing with three of the screen's Sherlock Holmeses: Clive Brook (Sherlock Holmes [1932]), Reginald Owen (A Study in Scarlet [1933], in which Mowbray played Lestrade), and Basil Rathbone (Terror by Night [1946]). John Ford fans will remember Mowbray's brace of appearances as alcoholic ham actors in My Darling Clementine (1946) and Wagonmaster (1950). Lovers of film comedies might recall Mowbray's turns as the long-suffering butler in the first two Topper films and as "the Devil Himself" (as he was billed) in the 1942 Hal Roach streamliner The Devil With Hitler. And there was one bona fide romantic lead (in Technicolor yet), opposite Miriam Hopkins in Becky Sharp (1935). Otherwise, Mowbray was shown to best advantage in his many "pompous blowhard" roles, and in his frequent appearances as the "surprise" killer in murder mysteries (Charlie Chan in London, The Case Against Mrs. Ames, Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer: Boris Karloff, and so many others). In his off hours, Mowbray was a member of several acting fraternities, and also of the Royal Geographic Society. One of Alan Mowbray's favorite roles was as the softhearted con man protagonist in the TV series Colonel Humphrey Flack, which ran on the Dumont network in 1953, then as a syndicated series in 1958.

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