About the Archive
What is in the archive?
The Frankie Howerd archive is a previously unknown collection of scripts, agency correspondence and contracts, as well as correspondence documenting the management of his estate following his untimely death in 1992.
The scripts and typescripts span his whole career, from his first appearance on BBC Variety Bandbox in 1946, to his sixties revival and his later period as one the elder statesmen of British standup comedy. Many are annotated and marked by him to indicate edits, revisions and performance style. There are scripts for his early radio performances, as well as film and television roles including in the Carry On franchise and for Up Pompeii. In some cases, the scripts are believed to relate to roles Howerd was offered but did not accept. Some of the scripts were stored in Howerd’s original travelling suitcase bearing his name.
The agency correspondence, contracts and agreements cover the period from 1959 to 2010, and are from his management by Beryl Vertue and later, Tessa le Bars, through to the posthumous management of Frankie Howerd’s estate. Contracts include those for roles which were never seen on screen – such as his appearance in the Beatles’ movie Help (1965), which was cut from the final edit – and for roles where unfortunately no scripts exist in the archive – such as The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery (1966).
Why is it important?
The archive is particularly significant as it combines both performance and management information which, along with the correspondence following Howerd’s death, gives as full a picture as surviving evidence permits of a significant professional career. As noted above, the collection is previously unseen, and as such it has the potential to change our understanding of the process and practice of entertainment performance and management.
The archive also acts as the repository for the early works of Howerd’s writing teams, and more information on this aspect can be found in the Writing for Frankie section of this site.
The agency correspondence and contracts give a unique insight into the financial affairs and strategic decision-making which underpinned a successful artist. Files of correspondence also document the posthumous development of Howerd’s legacy through the participation of his estate in documentaries and biographies, defining and exploring his personal life and reputation - arguably, as important in creating ‘Frankie Howerd’ as his body of work was when alive.
Overall, the Frankie Howerd archive documents the process of change: in popular entertainment styles; in cultural norms; in attitudes to the political establishment and authority; in radio and television production (much of which now lost from the BBC and other institutional archives); but also changes in audience opinion of both the performer and their shows; of what we found acceptable in comedy; and of crucially, what made us titter.
The archive was previously held by Howerd's agent, Tessa le Bars, and at a London solicitor's office until acquisition by the Borthwick in 2021. The acquisition of the archive was supported via Neil Pearson Rare Books limited.
Take a look inside the Archive in this short video