Alan Mowbray

Alan Mowbray MM (born Alfred Ernest Allen; 18 August 1896 – 25 March 1969) was an English stage and film actor who found success in Hollywood.

Alan Mowbray
Alan Mowbray in Topper Takes a Trip trailer.jpg
from the trailer for Topper Takes a Trip (1939)
Alfred Ernest Allen

(1896-08-18)18 August 1896
London, England
Died25 March 1969(1969-03-25) (aged 72)
Years active1922–1969
Lorraine Carpenter
(m. 1927)

Early lifeEdit

Mowbray was born in London, England. He served with distinction in the British Army in World War I, being awarded the Military Medal and the French Croix de Guerre for bravery in action.[citation needed] He applied for transfer to the Royal Air Force, which was granted just six days before the war ended. This placed him in London on Armistice Day. His service came to an end when the Royal Air Force wanted another seven years from him.[1]


Mowbray began his stage career in London in 1922, as an actor and stage manager. In 1923 he arrived in the United States[2] and was soon acting with New York stock companies. He debuted on Broadway in The Sport of Kings (1926); in 1929 he wrote, directed and starred in the unsuccessful Dinner Is Served.[3]

Mowbray made his film debut in God's Gift to Women (1931) playing a butler, a role in which he was thereafter often cast. So often that famed ‘30s novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler lampooned Mowbray's screen persona in his pulp magazine story Mandarin's Jade (1937):

"The Philip Courtney Prendergasts lived on one of those wide, curving streets where the houses seem to be too close together for their size and the amount of money they represent... The house had an English slate roof and a porte-cochère, some nice imported trees, a trellis with bougainvillaea. It was a nice place and not loud. But Beverly Hills is Beverly Hills, so the butler had a wing collar and an accent like Alan Mowbray.”[4]

Mowbray appeared in five more pictures in 1931, notably portraying George Washington in Alexander Hamilton. In 1935, he played one of the male leads in Becky Sharp, the first feature-length film in full-colour Technicolor, as well as playing the lead in the farcical Night Life of the Gods, based on a Thorne Smith novel. It was for another Thorne Smith–derived film, Topper (1937), that Mowbray may be best remembered; he played Topper's butler Wilkins, a role he reprised the following year in Topper Takes a Trip. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Mowbray worked steadily, appearing in over 120 films.[5]

In the 1950s, Mowbray's film roles decreased, and he began to appear on television. He played the title role in the DuMont TV series Colonel Humphrey Flack, which first aired in 1953–54 and was revived in 1958–59. In the 1954–55 television season, Mowbray played Mr. Swift, the drama coach of the character Mickey Mulligan, in NBC's short-lived The Mickey Rooney Show: Hey, Mulligan. He portrayed the character Stewart Styles, a maitre d with a checkered past in the 1960-1961 adventure/drama series Dante, reprising a role he had originally played in several episodes of Four Star Theatre. Mowbray appeared in the titular role as a crooked astrologer in the 1959 episode "The Misfortune Teller" of the Maverick television series starring James Garner and Kathleen Crowley, and as Cranshaw in the episode "Quite a Woman" of the 1961 series The Investigators starring James Franciscus.

In 1956, Mowbray appeared in three major films, The King and I, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Around the World in 80 Days.[5] His final film role was as Captain Norcross in A Majority of One in 1961. In 1963, he returned to Broadway in the successful comedy Enter Laughing, playing Marlowe, the unscrupulous mentor to David Kolowitz (played by Alan Arkin).

Mowbray was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild in 1933, writing a personal check to fund the group's incorporation and serving as the first vice president.[3][6]

Personal lifeEdit

Mowbray married Lorraine Carpenter in 1927. Together they had two children, including daughter Patricia, who at age 28 married her father's friend, (then) 70-year-old actor Douglass Dumbrille, in 1960.[7]

Mowbray was among the founders of the Hollywood Cricket Club.[8] He was a prominent early member of the Masquers Club,[9] and donated the group's long-time clubhouse on Sycamore in Hollywood.[10]

Mowbray died of a heart attack in 1969 in Hollywood, survived by his wife and children. His body is interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.[11]


TV appearancesEdit


  1. ^ Wearing, J.P. (2014). The London Stage 1920–1929: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 190–200. ISBN 978-0-8108-9302-3.
  2. ^ Moreno, Barry (2008). Ellis Island's Famous Immigrants. Arcadia. p. 98. ISBN 978-1-4396-2003-8.
  3. ^ a b Mank, Gregory W. (2007). Hollywood's Hellfire Club: The Misadventures of John Barrymore, W.C. Fields, Errol Flynn and the "Bundy Drive" Boys. Feral House. pp. 152–53. ISBN 978-1-932595-24-6.
  4. ^ Chandler, Raymond T. 1937. 'Mandarin's Jade' originally published in Dime Detective Magazine, November, 1937. Republished in Raymond Chandler: Collected Stories. 2002. Everyman's Library, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, p. 667.
  5. ^ a b Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the silent era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 531–32. ISBN 978-1-55783-551-2.
  6. ^ Prindle, David F. (2012). The Politics of Glamour: Ideology and Democracy in the Screen Actors Guild. Univ of Wisconsin Press. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-0-299-11813-6.
  7. ^ Kear, Lynn; Rossman, John (2016). The Complete Kay Francis Career Record: All Film, Stage, Radio and Television Appearances. McFarland. p. 243. ISBN 9781476602875. Retrieved 26 April 2021 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ Sentance, P. David (2006). Cricket in America, 1710–2000. McFarland. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-7864-2040-7.
  9. ^ "Masquers Club". SAG–AFTRA. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  10. ^ Dean, Paul (25 April 1985). "Unmasking Masquers: End of a Landmark?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  11. ^ Brooks, Patricia; Brooks, Jonathan (2006). Laid to Rest in California: A Guide to the Cemeteries and Grave Sites of the Rich and Famous. Globe Pequot. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-7627-4101-4.

External linksEdit