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Friday 22 June 2012

Corrie originals - Arthur Lowe as Leonard Swindley

First appeared: 16th December 1960

Last appeared: 31st March 1965

Arthur Lowe played the role of pompous draper and lay preacher Leonard Swindley between 1960 and 1965 and then in spin-offs Pardon the Expression (1965-1966) and Turn out the Lights (1967).

Born in Hayfield in Derbyshire in 1915, Arthur Lowe made his acting debut in 1945 in the theatre and made his film debut three years later in London Belongs to Me alongside Richard Attenborough. During the 1950s and 1960s he took roles in The Three Musketeers (1954), ITV Play of the Week (1958-1960), No Hiding Place (1960-1961), Z Cars (1962), ITV Television Playhouse (1960-1963) and Armchair Theatre (1960-1968).

In late 1960, he won the part of 44 year old Leonard Swindley in new serial Coronation Street. Making his debut in the third episode, Lowe would play Swindley for five years. During his tenure, Swindley managed clothes shop Gamma Garments and was chairman of the Mission committee. Among his storylines were clashing with Mission caretaker Ena Sharples; running for council; organising various community activities; and becoming engaged and jilted by assistant Emily Nugent who’d admired him from afar. Swindley left the area in 1965 when he was promoted as Gamma Garments’ Area Manager and left the management of the shop in Emily’s capable hands, who he had remained friends with him despite her jilting him. During his period on the cobbles, Lowe appeared in 200 episodes. Swindley’s fate hasn’t been addressed in the show. In 1980, he sent a telegram congratulating Emily on her second wedding to Arnold Swain. In 2012, Emily referred to Swindley while reminiscing about JFK’s assassination in 1963.

Swindley’s popularity amongst viewers garnered him his own sitcoms after his departure from Coronation Street with both Pardon the Expression and Turn out the Lights being broadcast between 1965 and 1967. In actual fact, Swindley was not a role Arthur enjoyed playing, even though he played it for a total of seven years. It is fair to say that Lowe is the most successful of those actors who left the serial and is indeed best known for playing another character, who was indeed as pompous as Swindley. In 1968, Lowe won the leading role of Captain George Mainwaring in new BBC sitcom Dad’s Army. Dad’s Army was a hit with viewers and in 2004 it was ranked 4th as the Greatest British Sitcom. The sitcom, mainly consisting a cast of vintage actors, ran until 1977 and made Lowe and Mainwaring a household name. Indeed, it is Mainwaring that Lowe is best remembered for portraying, and many people are surprised that he was a regular character on Coronation Street in the early 1960s. Concurrently with starring in Dad’s Army, Lowe had roles in Doctor at Large (1971), The Last of the Baskets (1971-1972) and as the narrator in children TV series Mr Men in 1974.

When Dad’s Army came to an end in 1977, Lowe later secured leading roles in other sitcoms like Bless Me Father (1978-1981) and Potter (1979-1981). Sadly by the early 1980s, Lowe’s alcoholism spiralled out of control and in 1982 he died of a stroke, before he was due to perform on stage in Birmingham. He was 66. He’d made his final interview on Pebble Mill at One only a few hours before his death. He later made posthumous appearances in sitcom A. J. Bentworth, BA in 1982 where he had the leading role and then in TV series Wagner in 1983 that starred Laurence Olivier and Richard Burton.

Arthur had married fellow actress Joan Cooper in 1948 and son Stephen was born in 1953.

Did you ever see or meet Arthur Lowe? Are you fan of Captain Mainwaring and Dad's Army? Do you know any trivia about Lowe?

Research from Wikipedia, Corriepedia and IMDB.

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Anonymous said...

Blimey, people really did look a lot older than their years in the sixties, didn't they?
Am too young (just!) to remember Arthur Lowe in Corrie, but his Captain Mainwairing is a classic!-NN

BarrieT said...

Betty Driver once said that Arthur Lowe was not very nice to work with. When she did "pardon the expression" he wanted all the best lines and when betty's lines got a laugh he complained that he wanted her lines changed so he got the laughs.

Anonymous said...

Before WW2, Lowe wanted to be a cavalryman.After the War-possibly in the late Sixties-a newspaper reported his being seen riding a horse in London.Did he try to keep up-in secret-his interest in horses during his acting career (hard to do)? Does anyone know more? J.H.

Anonymous said...

I remember the last time Mr Swindley appeared on Corrie, it was sad my mum cried! He was playing his cello, don't remember the tune. I wonder if he played for real? A very fine character actor.


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