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Howell, Edward Welsford (Teddy) (1902–1986)

by Michelle Arrow

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Edward Welsford Rowsell (Teddy) Howell (1902-1986), actor, writer and producer, was born on 15 July 1902 at Bromley, Kent, England, younger son of Edwin Gilburt Howell, bank clerk and actor, and his wife Madeline Anne, née Rowsell. Edward travelled to Australia in 1912, aged 10, to perform with his father in a J. C. Williamson Ltd touring production of Maurice Maeterlinck’s The Blue Bird. His parents decided to settle in Australia and he completed his education at Sydney Grammar School. In 1919 his father moved to Suva; he followed and studied law while he worked for the government legal department and then the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. Together they founded the Suva Dramatic Guild.

On his return to Sydney in 1924, Howell joined the Playbox Theatre, where he met Mary Cecilia Long, an English actress known as Molly and professionally as Therese Desmond. On 11 May 1927 they married at St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, Sydney. They ran the (Royal) Academy of Dramatic Art for a few years. After some early film and stage work, including the film For the Term of His Natural Life (1927), Howell moved into radio in 1929, when he was asked by the Australian Broadcasting Co. (Commission from 1932) to present a radio play. Author of one of the first variety shows for the ABC in 1930, he later worked as a radio actor, writer, producer and director. He is perhaps best known as the creator and producer of, and an actor in, the popular radio serial `Fred and Maggie Everybody’. This program, which ran under a number of titles from 1932 to 1953, co-starred his wife and depicted the everyday lives of a middle-class couple in a gently comic style. The show was sold to many countries, including New Zealand. At its peak, it was heard on fifty-six stations in Australia.

Howell was the chief drama producer for Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd from 1936 to 1947, then a freelance producer and actor in commercial radio until he travelled to England in April 1949. He worked on British Broadcasting Corporation radio productions and stage plays before returning in June 1950 to Sydney, where he and his wife continued to work for radio and the stage. In 1955 Molly had a stroke that ended her acting career; she died in 1961. Involved in television drama from the 1950s, Howell finished his career in the 1980s in the role of Bert Griffiths in `A Country Practice’. He also appeared in the film Careful, He Might Hear You (1983).

On his retirement from acting in 1985 Howell advised aspiring actors to `learn to speak properly’. An astute spotter of emerging talent, he gave a number of actors their first roles in radio. Known as `Teddy’ to his friends, he was a dapper, well-dressed man who, according to the radio historian Richard Lane, never looked or sounded like a romantic leading man. He was, however, ideally suited to the `everybody’ roles for which he was well known, and his adaptable stage presence allowed him to play a broad range of characters. Survived by his daughter, he died on 20 August 1986 at Chatswood, Sydney, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Lane, The Golden Age of Australian Radio Drama 1923-1960 (1994)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 7 July 1962, p 11, 14 July 1962, p 10
  • H. de Berg, interview with E. Howell (transcript, 1978, National Library of Australia)
  • Edward Howell papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Michelle Arrow, 'Howell, Edward Welsford (Teddy) (1902–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/howell-edward-welsford-teddy-12660/text22815, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 20 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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