Date of Birth: 9 July 1937, Nottingham, UK
Birth Name: Barry Fredrick Howard
Nicknames: Barry Howard
Barry Howard was best known to TV viewers for his role in the BBC sitcom Hi-de-Hi! as Barry Stuart-Hargreaves, who, with his wife, Yvonne, teaches ballroom dancing at Maplins holiday camp.
Set at the turn of the 1950s, Hi-de-Hi! was created by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, based on their experience of staging summer shows at Butlin’s. Howard had started his own career at Butlin’s after learning ballroom dancing at school.
Whereas once Barry and Yvonne (played by Diane Holland) had swept across the country’s top dance floors, they were now reduced to imparting their skills to holidaymakers in the fictional Essex seaside town of Crimpton-on-Sea and even taking part in what they saw as demeaning shows alongside the yellowcoats hired by the entertainments manager, Jeffrey Fairbrother (Simon Cadell). Having spaghetti stuffed down his trousers and dressing up as Percy the pixie were an embarrassing come-down for Barry Stuart-Hargreaves.
The dance instructors’ frustrations were compounded by strains in their own relationship, not helped by Yvonne’s previous infidelities. Howard played every situation deadpan, often with a sideways glance and flare of the nostrils, whether making caustic comments about Yvonne or the guests.
After the 1980 pilot and seven series (1981-86), Howard was written out and Barry was replaced as Yvonne’s dancing partner by Julian Dalrymple-Sykes (Ben Aris), one of her former lovers. “I used to drink more than was good for me in those days and got into trouble for shoving one of the yellowcoat girls into the pool,” Howard said. “I enjoyed any type of drink and made front-page news. I wasn’t well enough to continue for the last two series.”
However, the actor did return to his role for a 2010 stage tour of Hi-de-Hi!, one of only two original cast members to do so. Nikki Kelly, who had appeared as the yellowcoat Sylvia Garnsey in the series, took the role of Yvonne. Howard and the TV cast had originally appeared in the stage show Hi-de-Hi – The Holiday Musical, which was performed at the Victoria Palace theatre, London (1983-84), sandwiched between summer seasons in Bournemouth and Blackpool.
Howard was born in Nottingham to Gladys (nee Booth) and Frederick, a butcher, and did national service in the Royal Air Force after leaving grammar school. Wanting to train as an actor but unable to get a grant, he worked backstage at the Alexandra theatre, Birmingham, for almost two years to fund himself through Birmingham Theatre School.
He then performed at Butlin’s Ayr holiday camp, followed by theatre summer seasons at other seaside resorts. After Howard and John Inman appeared together in a 1964-65 tour of the musical Salad Days, they formed a partnership as a long-running Ugly Sisters act in pantomimes and ran up their own costumes dresses of lime green and purple, puce and crimson, lemon and black, embroidered and trimmed with lace, feathers, net, fur or sequins.
The double act continued until Inman found fame as Mr Humphries in the TV sitcom Are You Being Served?, but Howard continued to play pantomime dames.
After his West End debut in 1964 as Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night during a Shakespeare season at the Comedy theatre, he took the roles of Mr Sowerberry in the first national tour of Oliver! (1964-65) and Herr Schultz in Cabaret at Bristol Old Vic (1977-8), appeared in the Churchill musical Winnie at the Victoria Palace (1988), was the narrator of The Rocky Horror Show on tour (1991-92) and, between 2003 and 2013, was Jacob Marley opposite Tommy Steele’s Ebenezer in Scrooge: The Musical on tour and at the London Palladium.
His television appearances were few before he became a star through Hi-de-Hi!, but Howard subsequently had a cameo role as Count Zarkhov in a 1990 episode of the Perry-Croft “upstairs, downstairs” comedy You Rang, M’Lord? and played the footman Danny Jackson for the entire run of the royal household sitcom The House of Windsor (1994).
Later, he was seen in the 2009 Doctor Who story The End of Time as Oliver Barnes, one of the Silver Cloak group of pensioners also including June Whitfield, searching for David Tennant’s abducted Time Lord.