The Making of 'Mary Poppins
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“You cannot capture a man’s entire life in two hours. All you can hope is to leave the impression of one”.
Frankie Howerd: Rather You Than Me (2008)
Though Frankie Howerd was known for his mastery of the ad-lib and double entendre, each aside to the camera and “titter ye not” was carefully planned beforehand. “I’m useless if I haven’t got a script” he confides to his chauffeur cum manager Dennis Heymer. It was a secret that Howerd kept well-hidden till his death. That, and the fact that Heymer was his long-term partner for over thirty years. Homosexuality was illegal at the time and accepting the truth was difficult for many to come to terms with. None more so than for Howerd himself.
“I hate the way I am! It’s dirty”, Howerd screams at his lover. “What we do together makes me want to vomit”. The torment inflicted by Howerd’s hatred of his sexuality defines the couple’s relationship. Despite greeting Heymer’s proclamations of love with the constant reminder that he needs to be discreet, Howerd’s own promiscuity often leads to blackmail. In desperation he undergoes LSD-based psychotherapy, all the while concealing Heymer’s existence.
Framed by Howerd’s 1990 performance at The Oxford Union, Frankie Howerd: Rather You Than Me focuses on the late 50’s and early 60’s when the comic’s career was in decline. Coupled with his aforementioned self-loathing, this biopic could have been a very dour affair. Even Howerd’s time worn comedy routines are portrayed in an unfavourable light. Nevertheless, buoyed by fine performances by David Walliams and Rafe Spall, Frankie Howerd: Rather You Than Me constantly surprises, providing a good level of detail and insight within its relatively short running time. Refreshingly, the depiction of homosexual activity is handled with an ease that seems to have escaped Howerd.
Produced by the BBC as part of its ‘Curse of Comedy’ season, other titles included Hancock & Joan and The Curse of Steptoe.
as Frankie Howerd
as Peter Cook
""It's false and unflattering. I'd urge fans to switch off."
Biopic implies Howerd and Heymer met shortly after the comic’s appearance at 1954’s Royal Variety Performance, whereas they actually met four years later.
Heymer claimed he was never unfaithful to Howerd.
Biopic contains no scene recreations of Frankie Howerd's film career.