Image of Bill Owen

Bill Owen

British born actor known for playing working class characters on film and TV. Born William Rowbotham, the son of a tram driver and laundress, he started playing drums in London nightclubs and toured music halls with his own cabaret act to pay for acting classes. He entertained at Butlin's holiday camps and performed in repertory, joining the Unity Theatre where he attained respect as a stage producer. His career was interrupted by military service with the Royal Army Ordinance Corps where he was injured in an explosion during a battle training course. Returning to acting, he started making a name for himself in such films as Johnny in the Clouds (1945), When the Bough Breaks (1947), Maniacs on Wheels (1949), and The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952). He continued to perform in the theatre limelight and peaked in roles with Katharine Hepburn in "As You Like It" in 1950, and with "The Threepenny Opera" and "The Mikado", which made use of his musical talents. A writer at heart, he penned songs, musicals and plays over the years. Partnered with Mike Sammes, he wrote songs recorded by Pat Boone, Harry Secombe, Engelbert Humperdinck and Sir Cliff Richard, who had a hit with his 1980 song "Marianne". In the 60s he produced the stage musical, "The Matchgirl", and focused heavily on film slapstick with the 'Carry On' series. TV stardom came late, in the role of Compo in the BBC's 1973 series "Last of the Summer Wine". When he died of pancreatic cancer in 1999, he asked to be buried in the Yorkshire village of Holmfirth, where the TV series was filmed. Owen was awarded the MBE in 1976 for his steadfast work for the National Association of Boys Clubs and for his role as chairman of the Performing Arts Advising Panel.

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Mar 14, 1914 In Acton, London, England, UK
Movie/TV Credits:
First Appeared:
In the movie Tank Patrol 1941-06-16
Latest Project:
Movie The Entertainer 1993-12-04
Known For
Poster of Tales of the Unexpected
Poster of Angels
Poster of Last of the Summer Wine
Poster of Sherlock Holmes
Movie The Entertainer Billy Rice 1993-12-04
Movie Laughterhouse Amos 1985-10-01
Series Brideshead Revisited Lunt 1981-10-12
Series Tales of the Unexpected Meakins 1979-03-24
Movie The Comeback Mr. B 1978-06-16
Movie In Celebration Mr. Shaw 1975-03-17
Series Angels Unknown 1975-09-01
Series Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? Unknown 1973-01-09
Series Last of the Summer Wine Compo (archive footage) 1973-01-04
Movie O Lucky Man! Supt. Barlow / Insp. Carding 1973-03-25
Series Shirley's World Unknown 1972-04-07
Series Coppers End Unknown 1971-02-19
Series Catweazle Pickle 1970-02-15
Movie Unfair! Worker 1970-11-15
Movie Mischief Unknown 1969-12-01
Movie Headline Hunters Unknown 1968-09-01
Series Man in a Suitcase Unknown 1967-09-27
Movie Georgy Girl Ted 1966-08-04
Movie The Fighting Prince of Donegal Officer Powell 1966-10-01
Series Thirty-Minute Theatre Unknown 1965-10-07
Movie Kiss Me Kate Gangster 1964-04-20
Movie The Secret of Blood Island George Bludgin 1964-12-01
Movie Carry On Cabby Smiley Sims 1963-06-01
Movie The Hellfire Club Martin 1961-02-03
Movie Carry On Regardless Mike Weston 1961-04-04
Movie On the Fiddle Cpl. Gittens 1961-10-10
Movie The Shakedown David Spettigue 1960-01-01
Movie Carry On Nurse Percy 'Perc' Hickson 1959-03-10
Movie Davy Eric 1958-01-02
Movie Carry On Sergeant Corporal Bill Copping 1958-08-15
Movie Carve Her Name with Pride N.C.O. Instructor 1958-02-18
Movie Not So Dusty Unknown 1956-02-16
Series The Buccaneers Unknown 1956-09-19
Movie The Ship That Died of Shame Birdie 1955-04-19
Movie The Rainbow Jacket Sam 1954-05-27
Movie There Was a Young Lady Joe 1953-01-01
Movie The Square Ring Happy Burns 1953-07-13
Movie A Day to Remember Shorty Sharpe 1953-11-10
Movie The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men Stutely 1952-05-26
Movie Hotel Sahara Private Binns 1951-07-09
Series Sherlock Holmes Inspector Lestrade 1951-10-20
Movie The Girl Who Couldn't Quite Tim 1950-01-01
Movie Once a Jolly Swagman Lag Gibbon 1949-02-02
Movie Diamond City Pinto 1949-09-20
Movie Trottie True Joe Jugg 1949-09-29
Movie Easy Money Mr. Lee 1948-01-20
Movie Daybreak Ron 1948-05-18
Movie My Brother's Keeper Syd Evans 1948-08-19
Movie Trouble in the Air Unknown 1948-11-01
Movie The Weaker Sex Soldier with Chicken 1948-10-11
Movie Dancing with Crime Dave Robinson 1947-06-25
Movie When The Bough Breaks Bill Collins 1947-11-19
Movie School for Secrets Paratroop Sergeant 1946-12-23
Movie A City Reborn Unknown 1945-01-01
Movie The Way to the Stars Sgt. 'Nobby' Clarke 1945-06-16
Movie Breathing Space (uncredited) 1943-09-30
Movie Tank Patrol Geordie 1941-06-16