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Peter Bowles, star of To The Manor Born, dies at 85

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To The Manor Born star Peter Bowles has died of cancer at the age of 85.

Bowles was best known for his role as Richard DeVere on the BBC sitcom that ran from 1979 to 1981, playing the self-made businessman opposite Dame Penelope Keith, with the pair reprising their roles in a special. from 2007.

A statement to the PA news agency said: “Actor Peter Bowles has sadly passed away at the age of 85 from cancer.

“Beginning his career at the Old Vic Theater in 1956, he starred in 45 stage productions ending at the age of 81 in The Exorcist at the Phoenix Theatre.

Bowles starred alongside Dame Penelope Keith in the popular series To The Manor Born (PA)

“He worked steadily on stage and screen, becoming a household name on television as the archetypal English gentleman in To The Manor Born, Only When I Laugh, The Bounder and Lytton’s Diary, which he masterminded.

“He leaves behind his wife of over 60 years, Sue, and their three children Guy, Adam and Sasha.”

Born in London in 1936, he grew up in Nottingham and won a scholarship to the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) before starting on stage with the Old Vic Company.

He played villains in several television series, including The Avengers and The Saint, but it was with a mustache in To The Manor Born, co-starring Dame Penelope and commanding an audience of 20 million, that he became best known.

Michael Gambon with Bowles in Alan Ayckbourn's Man of the Moment at London's Globe Theater in 1990

Michael Gambon with Bowles in Alan Ayckbourn’s Man of the Moment at London’s Globe Theater in 1990 (PA)

His role as DeVere came when he was 40, but his other TV credits include shows like Only When I Laugh, Lytton’s Diary, The Bounder and Perfect Scoundrels, with reports also saying he had previously turned down a role on The Good Life.

Speaking about his success on sitcoms, he told the PA news agency in 2010: “If you have a big hit on TV, particularly comedy, people don’t think you can act on stage.

“People thought I was just a comedy actor and the BBC told me I would never work in drama again. I didn’t know there were two worlds. It was new to me. I found it very strange and frustrating.”

Growing up, her parents were servants to the nobility: her father was a valet and chauffeur to one of the Earl of Sandwich’s sons, her mother a nanny employed by the heir to the Duke of Argyll in Scotland.

Old Men of the Year Awards

Bowles, pictured in 2019, had a career that spanned television, film and theater (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

During World War II his father worked as an engineer at Rolls-Royce and when Bowles was six years old the family moved to one of Nottingham’s poorest working-class districts. His house had an outside bathroom and he had no bathroom.

“We were in a Coronation Street environment, but everyone was extremely nice and there were a lot of kids. It was great,” she previously said.

After appearing in amateur plays in Nottingham, when he won his Rada scholarship, he lost his northern accent and became involved in a melting pot of talent with his peers, including names like Alan Bates, Peter O’Toole and Sian Phillips, and shared a flat with fellow student Albert Finney.

Dame Penelope and Bowles with Sarah Ferguson in 2008

Dame Penelope and Bowles with Sarah Ferguson in 2008 (PA)

He was reunited with Dame Penelope on a regional tour of Sheridan’s The Rivals, conducted by Sir Peter Hall, in 2010.

Throughout his career, he appeared in many films, including 1970’s Eyewitness, 1995’s The Steal, 2005’s Color Me Kubrick, and 2008’s The Bank Job.

He also starred in the BBC Two series Murder in 2016, which delved into the psyche of everyone involved in a murder case through testimony delivered directly to the camera by each character.

He recently starred alongside Jenna Coleman in the popular ITV series Victoria, playing the role of the Duke of Wellington.

Mark Linsey, managing director of scripts at BBC Studios Productions, was among those who paid tribute.

He said: “Peter very often in his long and illustrious career fully embodied the role of the charming and witty English gentleman in brilliant fashion.

“This was never more on display than in To The Manor Born, where his Richard DeVere provided the perfect comic and charismatic foil for Dame Penelope Keith’s no-nonsense Audrey Forbes-Hamilton.

“Our condolences to his family, friends and supporters.”

Bowles was married to actress Susan Bennett and the couple had three children.

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