Goes Marching On
Arthur's son, Stephen, is a willing hand for messing about
on the river.
16-22 September 1970
Years Arthur Lowe was bugged by memories of Coronation Street's
Len Swindley - until Captain Mainwaring's coup de grace
Lowe first strutted down Coronation Street as Leonard Swindley
in 1960, he was supposed to be a foil to Ena Sharples. But within
weeks Swindley was nationally famous and Arthur suddenly became
a star. At first he did not care whether his fame was his or Swindley's
- though most people who stopped him called him Len.
prefers to keep his private life private and more than four years
of Coronation Street notoriety was enough. The snag was.
Swindley was not so easy to kill off.
series followed naturally. He ran a department store in Pardon
the Expression and went ghost-hunting in Turn out the Lights.
"For eight years it was like living with a Siamese twin.
There seemed to be no escape from Swindley. Sometimes I loathed
It is an understandable
attitude because 54-year-old Arthur has little in common with
Swindley who he once described as a "pompous busy-bodying
windbag." Arthur is modest and quietly firm. He looks
as if he would be more at home on the bridge of an ocean going
freighter than in the TV studio. And he probably would, because
he was training to be a merchant navy officer when he failed his
War II looming up he joined the army instead. It was a good thing
for Swindley that he did.
Lowe eventually found himself stationed miles from anywhere on
the edge of the Sinai desert. He built a theatre and produced
a series of plays to keep up his men's morale. He
had never really thought about acting until then, but the bug
soon caught him.
left the Army he set about learning the business thoroughly. He
joined a twice-nightly repertory company in Manchester where he
met his wife, stunning redhead Joan Cooper. Within a few years
he was appearing regularly as a supporting actor in London theatres.
"You could say I started as a private in the acting
profession with a planned promotion scale in mind. "I
had reached the brigadier stage and was very comfortable playing
supporting roles when the Swindley part came up. "He
was supposed to be an incidental character which would not interfere
with my other work. But suddenly I found myself in the general
class, and it came as quite a surprise as Swindley suddenly
took over my life."
and Joan alongside their floating investment.
At first he
regarded Len as a dear friend.
was everyone's little man, always taking on too much and coming
unstuck," Arthur explained. "But
he had the courage of all little people and always got through
- even if he was left with a little egg on his face."
Arthur's dedication by giving him security and national acclaim.
Arthur did not let Coronation Street swamp him. He insisted
on working for the street only six months each year so that he
would be free to do other things. He
continued to appear in West End plays, including John Osbourne's
Inadmissible Evidence, but he could not escape from the
"I like to be myself when I am not acting and I try
to avoid being recognised, but it was not so easy. "After
eight years of it, I began to loathe being called Mr. Swindley,
and was desperate to bury him for good."
So he jumped
at the chance of playing Captain Mainwaring, the bumbling C.O.
of the Home Guard squad in Dad's Army. The part was specially
written for him.
during a break in rehearsals for the current series, he said:
"After two years in Dad's Army, I think I can safely
say that Swindley is dead. May he rest in peace. "Mainwaring
is not the same sort of character at all. "People do not
find it so easy to identify themselves with him. "Perhaps
he is not as real as old Swindley."
LEAVE FOR THE CAPTAIN
Present and correct at a tactical talk are Ian Lavender,
Clive Dunn, James Beck and Arthur Lowe.
and Capt. Mainwaring have kept Arthur fully occupied for five
He has not
had a proper holiday since 1964, and is not likely to get one
before 1972. Whilst making the latest series on TV, the Dad's
Army squad have also being making a film. Now
that the film has been completed, shooting has resumed on the
squad's remaining episodes for TV.
So far this
year, Arthur has already found time to squeeze in seven TV farces
and an appearance on TV as Mr. Micawber.
And the future
looks going on the same way, which is why his holiday arrangements
are mostly long-term. At present he is busy restoring an old Victorian
yacht he found rotting on the Thames.
"I will have spent a lot of money before it is back to
its former glory and ready for sea, but I regard it as a practical
people look forward to retiring to a house in the country. I
prefer a boat. It is possible to spend a fortune on a dream
house and then suddenly all its value is lost. "But a historic
ship like mine can only increase in value.
I do not intend retiring full-time for many years. "I
plan to cut down the amount of work I do and get away from it
all more often. "All I will have to do is up anchor and
head for the open sea."
Even Len Swindley
couldn't tut-tut at an idea like that.
by Andy Howells from the original interview, August, 2002.
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