Hi-De-Hi actor Barry Howard dies

Barry Howard, best known for his role as Barry Stuart-Hargreaves in BBC One sitcom Hi-de-Hi! has died aged 78.

Barry Howard Hi-De-Hi first episode titles

“The much loved actor Barry Howard, best known for his exquisitely supercilious Barry Stuart-Hargreaves, the champion ballroom dancer in BBC’s hugely popular Hi-de-Hi, passed away today aged 78.”- Sharry Clark, agent

Born in Nottingham, in July 1937, he began his acting career behind the scenes at the Birmingham Alexandra Theatre making the switch to television in 1968. After several small roles in programmes such as suburban sitcom Terry and June, starring comedian Terry Scott and actress June Whitfield, he was cast as the camp ballroom dancer Barry Stuart-Hargreaves in the Jimmy Perry and David Croft devised period situation comedy Hi-de-Hi!. He was partnered with former Crossroads actress Diane Holland who played his snobby wife Yvonne Hargreaves.

Set in a fictional 1950s holiday camp, Maplins, the comedy centred around the entertainment staff at the far from luxury resort and their escapades to entertain the campers as well as survive the season. Co-stars included Paul Shane (Coronation Street) Jeffery Holland (Crossroads) and Su Pollard (Two Up, Two Down).

Barry and Yvonne in Hi-De-Hi

Barry Howard and Diane Holland in the series one episode ‘The Day of Reckoning’

Barry Howard as a snake in Hi De Hi

Barry Howard as theĀ Serpent of the Garden of Eden in the series four episode ‘Sing You Sinners’

The characters of Barry and Yvonne became hugely popular with the audiences and were regularly featured in each episode. The comedy between Barry and Yvonne came notably from her distaste at the vulgar entertainment they were often asked to participate in such as the ‘That’s Your Bum‘ contest, dressing as a Pixie to entertain children, being trampled in a ‘gold rush’ game, and made to take part in a ‘religious fundraiser’ which saw Barry as the Serpent in the Garden of Eden while Yvonne featured as Delilah to resident jockey Fred Quilley‘s Samson (actor Felix Bowness). Other comedy stems in episodes from Barry’s seemingly closeted homosexuality, making their marriage one of business rather than any pleasure and her distaste at having to work in such a working class environment.

They found the whole holiday camp experience degrading, pinning wallpaper onto their chalet walls to make it more acceptable and were pretty much outsiders to the other Maplins staff, who they generally found uncouth apart from the toff entertainment boss Jeffery Fairbrother (Simon Cadell) whom they felt they were more socially level with. The series two episode ‘Nice People with Nice Manners’ centres on Barry and Yvonne as they plan to host a small party in their chalet, for the more refined staff; banning those who don’t fit their remit, such as Gladys Pugh played by Ruth Madoc, who is too lustful for their taste. Of course it doesn’t go to plan and their refined party turns into a booze up with all the staff they didn’t invite.

Barry and Yvonne Hi-De-Hi

Diane Holland and Barry Howard as Yvonne and Barry in the series one episode ‘Charity Begins at Home’

Hi-De-Hi Stuart and Yvonne

Barry Howard and Diane Holland in the series one episode ‘No Dogs Allowed’

Running from 1980 to 1988 the series at its peak drew in 16 million viewers, set in the fictional coastal town of Crimpton-on-Sea in Essex it finally ended after a number of cast departures which saw the storylines not as entertaining and a fall in viewers. The departure of Simon Cadell as the entertainments manager after five series was blow to the show followed by Leslie Dwyer pulling out in the early part of the sixth series due to ill health. The final major character departure was that of Barry Stuart in 1986 when Barry Howard decided to depart the Hawaiian Ballroom for the final time too. It would run for a further two series without Barry, but it was never quite the same.

In later years he felt the sitcom had typecast him somewhat with producers wanting him to play a ‘gay character’. Despite this he did make a number of television returns including in 1920s BBC comedy You Rang, M’Lord – which also reunited several of the Hi-de-Hi! cast – George Cole lead comedy drama Dad, Granada Television’s The House of Windsor for ITV and most recently the 2009 Doctor Who Christmas episodes starring alongside David Tennant. He also performed frequently on stage in the years following Hi-de-Hi! (including in stage versions of the Maplins saga) and was well known as ‘an incredible pantomime dame’.

“It is with much sadness that I heard just this afternoon of the sad death of my old Hi-de-Hi colleague Barry Howard. He had been suffering with a bone marrow leukaemia problem for some time and last time I saw him in his native Poole last February I thought how fragile he was looking then. Barry, as the tight-lipped ballroom dance champion in the show, had some of the funniest sniping one-liners and never failed to make the most of all the venom he could muster! He made us all laugh so much! Rest now Barry, and give our love to all the others over there in Maplin’s Heaven!” Hi-de-Hi co-star Jeffrey Holland.

His agent announced the actor had died today after being treated for blood cancer. Co-star Diane Holland died in January 2009.

Barry Howard and Diane Holland in Hi-De-Hi

Barry Howard and Diane Holland in the series one episode ‘The Partridge Season’


Barry Howard and Diane Holland in the series one episode ‘No Dogs Allowed’

Pictures: BBC Television