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Sally Ann Howes

Sally Ann Howes is a singer/actress born on July 20, 1930, in London, England to British comedian/actor/singer/variety star Bobby Howes (b. 1895, d. 1972) and actress/singer Patricia Malone (b. 1899, d. 1971). She is the granddaughter of Capt. J.A.E. Malone, theatrical director of musicals, and she has an older brother, Peter Howes, who is a professional musician.

As she came from a theatrical background, it was inevitable that an agent friend of the Howes family eventually suggested the young Sally Ann Howes for a role in an upcoming movie, and he submitted a grainy picture of her. Sally Ann got her first film audition on her 12th birthday and was cast in the title role of Thursday's Child (1943). A second film, The Halfway House (1944), led to her being put under contract by Michael Balcon of Ealing Studios, and this led to many other film roles as a child actress including Dead of Night (1945) with Sir Michael Redgrave, Pink String and Sealing Wax (1946), Nicholas Nickleby (1947), My Sister and I (1948), Anna Karenina (1948), opposite Vivien Leigh. She said of Vivien Leigh, "She always made you feel that you were the most important person in her life. Apart from her great physical beauty, she was the kindest of friends with the most beautiful manners. You don't get that in the theatre today. You didn't get it then." Of being a child actor, she said to Brenda Baxter in Woman magazine in 1969, "In some ways I regret being a child actor. It's a very lonely life. You're working with adults, and you're expected to be professional like an adult. But you're treated as a child and if you're successful, it's because you're a child. So, there's always this great conflict of values."

At age 18 she was given a new, seven-year contract, this time by J. Arthur Rank, and she went on to make the films, Stop Press Girl (1949), The History of Mr. Polly (1949) opposite John Mills, Fools Rush In (1949), and Due mogli sono troppe (1950) aka Honeymoon Deferred (UK). In 1950 her contract with Rank was terminated, and unhappy with the films and being on loan out with Rank, she refused to ever be under studio contract again. Her career was moving in other media directions anyhow, and she was finding gainful employment in television and radio, and she was looking to flex her singing talent, something that both Balcon and Rank had overlooked. While still in her teens, she made her first musical-comedy appearence in Fancy Free. In late 1950 starred in a BBC TV version of Cinderella.

In 1951 she began her professional musical stage career in Glasgow, Scotland, in the Sandy Wilson musical, Caprice in the revue that toured the British Isles for six months. This was followed by Bet Your Life opposite Julie Wilson, Arthur Askey and Brian Reece. She was also simultaneously on the radio with Arthur Askey and Brian Reece. In 1953 she starred on the West End in Paint Your Wagon with her father, Bobby Howes. The show ran for 18 months. It was followed by Summer Song, also on the West End, and she had firmly established herself as a leading musical comedy star on the West End. In the early to mid-1950s, she also mixed her theater with television appearances an even modelling, and she became a popular celebrity in England, even appearing as a comic-strip character in TV Fun booklets and annuals, usually as a young, wholesome teacher in the wild American west at a time when Western TV shows were very popular. She appeared on the cover of many magazines, not the least of which was LIFE MAGAZINE (3 March 1958) when she came to the United States to take over My Fair Lady on Broadway.

She took a short break from the stage to film the popular The Admirable Crichton (1957). In late 1957 she was offered the part (for the third time) of taking over for Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady on Broadway. She accepted, but at a higher salary than Julie. She became an instant hit as a very fiery Eliza Doolittle. Americans audiences instantly fell in love with her and she appeared on many TV shows including Perry Como, Dinah Shore, Jack Paar (who enjoyed introducing her as Sally....an' how!), The Tonight Show, plus appearing in The Bell Telephone Hour, The Kraft Music Hall, The United States Steel Hour. She appeared on Ed Sullivan's show four times, was personally requested to sing for three US Presidents (Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson), and was hugely popular. She was also a frequent guest on game shows and was known for her quick, spontaneous answers.

After leaving My Fair Lady, she returned to England to tape six one-hour variety shows entitled The Sally Ann Howes Show for the British commercial television network.

She returned to Broadway in 1961 in the short run of Kwamina, which was written for her, and in 1963 she starred in a short revival of the musical Brigadoon and received a Tony nomination, the first performer to be nominated for a revival performance. In 1964 she starred opposite Robert Alda and Steve Lawrence in the energetic What Makes Sammy Run?, which lasted for over 500 performances.

She returned to familiar territory on TV in 1966 with Brigadoon opposite Robert Goulet, Peter Falk and some of her Broadway cast, and it became a huge hit on television, garnering seven Emmy awards.

In 1967 she began the long film shoot for what would become a celebrated children's classic, and a role for which she would achieve new and everlasting fame, that of Truly Scrumptious in the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). The film went significantly over budget, but was a smashing hit and a marketing phenomenon. The movie did not, however, launch a new career for her in episodic television despite several guest-starring attempts and even the pilot Prudence and the Chief which was a spoof on The King and I. In addition, musicals were now failing at the box office and that venue was closed to her. As a result, she returned almost exclusively to the musical stage, appearing in only a few more films/TV productions. Her last film was the 1992 miniseries Judith Krantz's Secrets. That marked her 50th year in film. What I love about the British audiences, she said, "is that they never forget you. If you're away for two years and come back, they accept it. They welcome you. In America, especially in the theatre, you always have to prove yourself. With each performance, the attitude is, 'Sally Ann Howes? Who's she?'"

Musically, in the 1970's, she began to cross over from regular musicals to operettas. She performed two summers with the Kenley Players in Blossom Time and The Great Waltz, and she later added Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow and then Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music to her repertoire.

In 1990 she debuted her one-woman show, From This Moment On at the Edinburgh Festival and at a benefit for the Long Island AIDS Association at the John Drew Theatre in Easthampton, New York.

Recent projects include her narrations of Cubby Broccoli, The Man Behind Bond on the 2000 year release of the DVD Diamonds Are Forever, The Making of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang The Musical (2002), and her appearance in the documentary, After They Were Famous - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (2004).

Except for occasional lectures, charity functions and some Broadway openings, she is mostly retired (as of 2005). She still performs two or three times per year.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2005.

Sally Ann Howes Facts

OccupationActress, Musician
BirthdayJuly 20, 1930 (91)
BirthplaceLondon, England, United Kingdom

Selected Filmography

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Till The Clouds Roll By
Death Ship
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory & Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Musical Blu Ray Family Set
Anna Karenina
Half A Sixpence
MGM Classic Musicals
The Admirable Crichton
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