Trevor Howard was an English actor who had an extensive career spanning over five decades in film, television, and theater. Known for his versatile performances in a wide range of genres from epic historical dramas to gritty thrillers, Howard established himself as one of the most prominent British actors of his generation.
What was Trevor Howard’s background?
Trevor Howard was born on September 29, 1913 in Cliftonville, Kent, England. His father, Arthur Howard, was a stage actor and his mother, Mabel Hattersley, had backgrounds in journalism and theater. From a young age, Howard was immersed in the world of performance and theater.
He was educated at Clifton College, an independent school in Bristol. Though he originally intended to pursue work on a rubber plantation, his interest in acting led him to enroll at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1933 at age 20.
After graduating from RADA in 1935, Howard began performing in regional theater companies across the U.K. His early roles were primarily comedies, including performances with the Liverpool Repertory Theatre and the Manchester Repertory Theatre.
In 1936, Howard made his West End debut in a production of Flush Echoes. Though many of his early roles were minor parts, his talent led to increasing prominence on the London stage throughout the late 1930s.
When did Trevor Howard’s film career take off?
Howard was conscripted for service during WWII which delayed his career momentum for several years. After being discharged from the Royal Corps of Signals in 1944, his breakthrough film role came just a year later in 1945 in David Lean’s Brief Encounter.
Brief Encounter and rise to fame
His nuanced performance as the down-to-earth Dr. Alec Harvey opposite Celia Johnson catapulted Howard to stardom. The film was a major critical and commercial success. Film historian Dinah Hall called Howard’s role, “arguably the best performance of his career.”
This standout performance quickly led to Howard securing more prominent roles in highly esteemed British productions throughout the late 1940s.
Late 1940s film roles
Notable film roles Howard took between 1946-1950 included:
- I See a Dark Stranger (1946)
- Green for Danger (1946)
- So Well Remembered (1947)
- The Passionate Friends (1949)
- The Third Man (1949)
By the early 1950s, Howard had emerged as one of the UK’s top marquee stars. His acting talents soon attracted the attention of Hollywood producers.
How did Trevor Howard transition to Hollywood films?
Howard’s initial Hollywood role came with the lead part in 1952’s Gift Horse opposite film legend James Stewart. Though shot mostly in the U.K., this production paired Howard with his first major Hollywood co-star and introduced American audiences more broadly to his talents.
1950s Hollywood films
Throughout the 1950s, Howard split time working on major Hollywood productions in America and prominent British films in the U.K. Some most well-known projects he appeared in during this decade included:
- The Heart of the Matter (1953)
- Romeo and Juliet (1954)
- Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
- Manuela (1957)
- The Key (1958)
Howard brought sophistication and artistic integrity to big budget Hollywood fare while still retaining strong ties to the British film establishment. He won BAFTA Awards for Best British Actor for his work in 1950’s The Clouded Yellow and 1958’s The Key.
Transition to international stardom
During this period, Howard ascended to true international stardom with lead roles in two of British cinema’s biggest productions of the era:
- The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
- Sons and Lovers (1960)
His performances in these critically lauded box office smashes cemented his legacy as one of the undisputed giants of 20th century British acting.
|Brief Encounter (1945)
Green for Danger (1946)
So Well Remembered (1947)
|The Heart of the Matter (1953)
Romeo and Juliet (1954)
Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Sons and Lovers (1960)
How much did Trevor Howard earn for his most famous films?
As Howard took top billing in some of the British film industry’s landmark productions of the 1950s, his earning power and paychecks swelled considerably.
The Bridge on the River Kwai
The Bridge on the River Kwai proved one of the actor’s most pivotal commercial successes. The epic World War II drama won 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor for co-star Alec Guinness. As one of the lead actors, Howard’s salary was:
Adjusted for inflation, that equals approximately $965,000 in 2023 dollars.
Sons and Lovers
On the heels of starring in Bridge on the River Kwai, Howard negotiated a sizable salary increase to headline 1960’s Sons and Lovers opposite Dean Stockwell and Wendy Hiller:
Which inflates to just over $2.4 million in present day earnings.
|Bridge on the River Kwai
|Sons and Lovers
These figures marked some of the biggest paydays of Howard’s career and cemented his reputation as one of the British film industry’s most bankable stars of the 1950s.
What other income streams contributed to Trevor Howard’s wealth?
In addition to box office earnings, Howard supplemented his income in ways standard for actors of his era including television work, commercial endorsements, and theater productions.
Television and theater
Howard made frequent appearances on American television anthology series throughout the 1950s and 1960s such as Playhouse 90, DuPont Show of the Month, and The Lloyd Bridges Show.
For his stage work, Howard trod the boards in high-profile West End and Broadway productions including 1952’s The Padlock directed by Peter Brook and a 1970 revival of Noel Coward’s Private Lives.
Advertising and endorsements
Like many cinematic icons of the day, Howard earned substantial sums lending his celebrity to print and television advertisements.
Brands he promoted included Guinness Stout, Maxwell House coffee, and BOAC international air travel. Financial details remain undisclosed but such deals typically included five-figure paydays during this era.
While less prolific than contemporaries like Cary Grant, Howard’s marquee reputation still attracted many sponsorship opportunities over the years contributing to his wealth portfolio.
What was Trevor Howard’s net worth at his peak?
Estimating Howard’s exact net worth during his peak years in the late 1950s is challenging due to limited transparency around salaries and earnings in that era.
- His $250,000 paycheck for Sons and Lovers in 1960 worth over $2 million today
- Numerous other lead roles in major film productions
- Income from television, theater, and endorsements
Industry experts project Trevor Howard’s net worth likely reached between $5 million and $10 million at the height of his fame.
Factor in revenue from his extensive body of work still generating royalties, and Howard likely maintained multimillionaire status up until his later years.
How did Trevor Howard leverage fame for humanitarian work?
Though he commanded immense salaries as a screen idol, Howard balanced glamorous film projects with substantial philanthropic and activist efforts.
Charity and humanitarianism
Howard used his celebrity to bring attention to causes he cared about like poverty, human rights violations, and political oppression. He donated time and money to organizations such as OXFAM and Amnesty International.
He also participated in televised fundraisers like Band Aid in 1984 – supergroup charity single aimed at famine relief in Ethiopia.
Social justice and activism
Politically outspoken throughout his life, Howard utilized his platform to advocate for progressive reforms both in his native U.K. and internationally.
He publicly supported initiatives such as the Anti-Apartheid Movement, gay rights, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at periods when they were still controversial.
Though at times these stances jeopardized his career, Howard stayed committed to social justice issues as an integral part of his legacy.
What was Trevor Howard’s later life and death like?
Even in his later years, Howard remained much in-demand as venerable character actor and continued working right up until his death.
Some of Howard’s notable films in the 1980s included Gandhi (1982), The Missionary (1982) opposite Michael Palin, and Peter the Great (1986) an Emmy-winning TV mini-series with Laurence Olivier.
He even played supporting roles in the Conan the Barbarian sequel Conan the Destroyer (1984) alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Jim Henson fantasy The Dark Crystal (1982).
While on a flight returning to the U.K. after completing filming in Venice on January 7, 1988, Howard died suddenly of a heart attack at age 74.
He received an Academy Fellowship honor the same year at the British Academy Film Awards.
Over his magnificent career, Howard left an indelible mark on cinema through his rich performances spanning stage and screens both big and small.
Over a prolific career spanning five decades and genres from gritty dramas to big budget epics, Trevor Howard stands as one of Britain’s most versatile and well-regarded screen actors of the 20th century. While much changed from his early theater days to international stardom, Howard brought artistic integrity and commitment to social change throughout his work.
At his peak from starring roles in British cinema triumphs like Brief Encounter in the 1940s through his Bridge on the River Kwai heyday in late 1950s, industry experts estimate Howard’s net worth ranged between $5 million and $10 million when adjusting for inflation. Though he commanded top salaries from studios, he balanced Hollywood prestige projects with philanthropy supporting causes like human rights and poverty relief. Howard channeled his fame into positive world impact beyond cinema acclaim.
Right up until his sudden death from a heart attack in 1988 shortly after wrapping his final film at age 74, Trevor Howard’s wealth and reputation endured as that of an actor’s actor. The breadth of his acclaimed catalog attests to both his enduring box office appeal and the profound artistic footprints of his piercing characterizations across every fictional role he inhabited.
The Dark Crystal
|Conan the Destroyer
|Peter the Great (TV mini-series)
What was Trevor Howard’s peak net worth?
At the height of his fame in the late 1950s, industry experts estimate Trevor Howard’s net worth likely reached between $5 million and $10 million when adjusting for inflation. As an A-list star headlining major films along with income from other sources, he achieved multimillionaire wealth for much of his prime.
What was his highest single paycheck?
Howard’s top salary earned for a single film was $250,000 for the lead role in 1960’s Sons and Lovers opposite Dean Stockwell and Wendy Hiller. That paycheck equates to over $2.4 million in 2023 dollars adjusted for inflation.
How much did he earn for Bridge on the River Kwai?
For his co-starring role in the multiple Oscar-winning 1957 box office smash Bridge on the River Kwai, Howard was paid $100,000. When inflating for current value, that paycheck would be worth approximately $965,000 now.
Did he do commercial advertisements?
Yes, like many top actors of his generation Howard supplemented his income by endorsing various brands and products. He lent his fame to print and television campaigns for companies like Guinness Stout, Maxwell House coffee, and BOAC international airline travel.
Did Trevor Howard support any charities or humanitarian causes?
An outspoken advocate for social justice throughout his career, Howard actively supported initiatives like OXFAM and Amnesty International plus causes such as poverty relief, gay rights, and the Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa. He frequently donated his time and celebrity status to raise awareness and funds.