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Arthur's idea of a holiday is working!

Source: ABC Film Review, 1979

Arthur Lowe, pictured in his latest release 'The Lady Vanishes', is interviewed by Dave Badger.

Having enjoyed Arthur Lowe's performance as Charters, the cricket-mad enthusiast in The Lady Vanishes, I didn't hesitate to accept the invitation to call on him at his elegant London home. He sank into an upright chair in front of a very elegant desk (more about it later) and confided in me that he was a tired man.

He had just returned from four days driving around Derbyshire (where he was born) and Bucks with his actress wife Joan Cooper where they visited their parents and one set of grandchildren belonging to his elder son. "Thank God my younger son lives in London," he said. Driving doesn't usually tire the usually indefatigable Arthur Lowe but this trip followed close on the heels of his completing six further episodes of TV's "Potter" and eight of "Bless Me Father".

Six days after his interview with me he would be working alongside Eric Sykes in a TV version of Eric's movie The Plank, a short which told without dialogue the adventures of two men collecting and taking home a long plank of wood. "I have a great respect for Eric," Arthur told me, "and from the script it looks like its going to be very enjoyable." Finding a sense of enjoyment in his work is what has kept 64-year-old Arthur in the business of acting. "It's nice," he said "to be able to claim one enjoys one's work. So many people don't you know."

Arthur Lowe is one of the few actors who enjoys success in all showbusiness media. He first shot to fame as Leonard Swindley in "Coronation Street", leaving to return to the stage which he admits is his first love.

"I began my acting on the stage and I think whichever medium gives you your start becomes your mother craft," he told me. "Personally I like to mix all three each year - films, TV and stage. I do a summer season in theatre every year. I count it as my holiday, I enjoy it so much."

The second time Arthur left a well loved TV series was at the end of an incredible nine years of "Dad's Army" during which he was acclaimed for his portrayal of the pompous Captain Mainwaring. He repeated the characterisation in a movie version, one of the more successful TV spin-offs. Arthur's film career began in 1948 with London Belongs To Me. Arthur has appeared in three films for Lindsay Anderson - This sporting Life, If and O Lucky Man. In the last named he had three roles. At the other end of the scale is No Sex Please - We're British. His long line of films comes up to date with The Lady Vanishes and Sweet William.

In The Lady Vanishes he and Ian Carmichael portray a couple of cricket mad Englishmen on a train passing through Bavaria shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. Cybill Shepherd and Elliott Gould are fellow passengers who discover a plot concerning spies and a missing English nanny (Angela Lansbury). Lowe and Carmichael are, however, much more interested in learning the test match score. I asked Arthur if that character - the very English, old-fashioned, foolhardily brave, Empire-loving cricket enthusiast-matched his own. "I suppose it does fit me a bit," he replied. "And I do like cricket." He, like the critics and general public, found the film "very enjoyable - a nice family film."

Then he added, "Now the other one, Sweet William, is quite a different kettle of fish. It's a strange film about a strange character. "I play Jenny Agutter's father, a retired army captain - not a bit like Mainwaring though. Jenny has a torrid affair with William (played by Sam Waterston), a man who latches onto any woman he can. The girl becomes pregnant. In one sequence she comes home for Christmas, a desperate suburban atmosphere with auntie and uncle all there. I've guessed my daughter's pregnant but don't let on."

Now we came to Arthur's elegant desk. "It's new," he said. "Do you like it?" I admitted I did and he told me proudly, "it's a copy of the desk at No 10, Downing Street." He showed me a little brass plaque inside a cupboard, which indicated that the desk was one of only 50 reproductions of the Prime Ministers desk made by Chippendale for William Pitt in 1760. I was impressed and silently wondered what it might have cost. Arthur didn't say. It didn't matter because he was so proud of it and it could be justifiably be said to be one of the repayments to a man who has brought so much enjoyment to so many people.

Transcribed by Andy Howells, with thanks to Iain S Wilson for supplying the Interview - September 2000

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