Obituary: Peter Bowles, rabid actor best known for hit TV To the Manor Born and The Irish RM

Peter Bowles, who died aged 85, rose from unknown supporting actor to household name by playing the arriviste Richard DeVere opposite Penelope in the BBC TV sitcom To the Manor Born (1979-81). Played Keith’s aristocrat who fell on hard times.

His character was a Czech-born immigrant with a Caddish mustache who came to Britain as a boy, made millions and bought Audrey’s family home. As the two rubbed brittle together, To the Born mansion developed into a romantic comedy. At its peak, it was viewed by nearly 24 million viewers and ran for three series, culminating in the final episode in which the couple got married.

Bowles was 42 when he made his name. He then first developed a career as a television actor and producer Lytton’s diary (in which he played a Fleet Street gossip columnist), Perfect villains (as a well-heeled scammer) and The Irish RM.

In real life his ability to exploit the nuances of British class attitudes To the Born mansion Possibly arose out of his own experience of ascension from humble beginnings.

Peter Bowles was born in London on October 16, 1936. His parents, Herbert and Sarah, worked for the Beaverbrook family on their Northamptonshire estate, his father as a chauffeur and his mother as a nanny.

However, his childhood was more Coronation Street as Up down for on the outbreak of war his father was seconded to Rolls-Royce and the family moved to a terraced house in Nottingham with an outside toilet and no bathroom, although Peter’s mother did what she could to ‘gentrify’ the place. .

He was educated at the local high school and was inspired after a visit by actor John Turner, an old boy at school who had just won the award for Most Promising Actor of the Year at Rada. Bowles had never heard of Rada, however after a few successes in school plays he went to the audition and was accepted.

The local board of education denied Bowles a scholarship because he failed his high school diploma, so his parents had to come up with 23 guineas to pay his first semester tuition. He soon got a scholarship, but had to continue to support himself and his mother took a part-time job.

As an actor, Bowles attributed his drive to a desire to repay his parents’ self-sacrifice. In later years, when luck finally struck, he bought a Rolls-Royce because “I wanted to show dad I could buy my own cars.”

Bowles studied alongside Peter O’Toole and Alan Bates and shared a flat with the young Albert Finney. Although he received the award for the most promising actor of his year, it was his classmates who rose to youth stardom. “At the time I thought I was going to take the world by storm,” he recalls.

Almost 20 years of frustration followed, spells of unemployment punctuated by supporting roles on stage, film and television. He blew a great opportunity when he was offered the role of Paul Eddington on the BBC sitcom in 1975 The good life.

In 1979, Bowles almost decided to give up acting and applied for a job as a theater director. He had been shortlisted for a job in Adelaide when he was offered the role To the Born mansion. His role I typed him up, but it was worth it and the offers started pouring in,” he said.

As television appearances waned in the mid-1990s, Bowles returned to theater, Appears on a string of West End hits. He had his last film appearance as a priest in the drama-comedy Get off the rails (2021).

In 1961, Bowles married Susan Bennett, whom he had first met at Rada. After her marriage, she gave up her own acting career to support his. They had a daughter and two sons. Obituary: Peter Bowles, rabid actor best known for hit TV To the Manor Born and The Irish RM

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