…Edward George Fowlie, film production designer: born 8 August 1921; married three times (two daughters); died Carboneras, Spain 22 January 2011. Fowlie married Kathleen, a girl 30 years his junior from Co Kerry he met during Ryan’s Daughter. The two of them ran the Hotel El Dorado at Carboneras in Almeria, Spain. (from Kevin Brownlow’s obituary for Fowlie in The Independent of 25 April 2011.)
From Making Ryan’s Daughter: The Myths, Madness and Mastery (2020), by Paul Benedict Rowan:
“Fowlie was Lean’s dogsbody or right-hand man, depending on who you spoke to, and was the most dedicated of the director’s Maniacs. Lean didn’t have many friends and Fowlie was probably the closest one. He was also considered to be Lean’s alter ego, with a degree of influence over the director that some others in Lean’s tight circle resented. Lean first met Fowlie in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), on the set of The Bridge on the River Kwai. Lean was swimming in the river under the bridge when Fowlie dived in, re-emerged and exclaimed, Bloody millionaire stuff, an outlook that hugely impressed Lean at a time when most of the crew and actors were complaining about the hazards of working in Ceylon’s steaming jungle. Fowlie was Lean’s property master, special effects man and location finder, and those were just his formal roles. He was known to knock down telegraph poles when they were in the camera’s line of sight by driving into them with his Land Rover. He would locate and strangle cockerels when their crowing was disrupting filming. He was regarded as animalistic yet had an artistic side that belied his brutish manner. He was Lean’s go-to man and problem-solver, albeit one who could create new ones just as quickly.
He sometimes wondered whether he had been spoiled by David, and certainly he copied him. He shot stills using a Leica, the make of camera favoured by his employer. Fowlie had estranged himself from his children of former relationships, like David, and joined the Lean tribe that went from film to film.”
From an obituary in the Sutton & Croydon Guardian of 4th February 2011:
“…Born and brought up in Teddington, Mr Fowlie landed his first job at Kingston’s Hawker Aircraft factory, helping to build Fury biplanes. Quickly realising factory work was not for him, he joined the war effort with an 18-month stint before being discharged due to an injured leg. However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. In hospital, pondering his next move, Mr Fowlie got chatting to a soldier in a neighbouring bed, who told him he had worked in a film studio before the war.
Not one to shy from adventure, Mr Fowlie wasted no time in heading to the Warner Brothers film studios in Teddington where he landed himself a job as a set dresser and worked on his first major film, Captain Horatio Hornblower. It was here he became known for his ability to go the extra mile for every film and he cultivated his interest in special effects and explosives. A breath of fresh air to Hollywood, he broke into the golden era of cinema and went on to join some of the world’s leading film directors and worked on some of the biggest films of our time, including Doctor Zhivago, Swiss Family Robinson and The Three Musketeers. On the set of The Bridge on the River Kwai, in 1956, Mr Fowlie forged a friendship with legendary film director David Lean, which lasted until Lean’s death in 1991. He worked on all of Lean’s films and the pair became inseparable as working colleagues and friends.
Mr Fowlie died in his sleep, at his home in Carboneras, Spain, on January 22, just one month after the release of his autobiography, David Lean’s Dedicated Maniac – Memoirs of a Film Specialist. (quoted below)”
“…I found a paradise in which to live out my fantasies a stone’s throw away from where I lived in the huge, green open spaces of Hampton Court Palace, Kew Gardens and Bushey Park.
My Scottish parents – like many before them – fled the Highlands before I was born and happily settled in the south-east of England at No.5, Fairfax Road, Teddington (pictured above), on the outskirts of London (close to the Master Studio, which would become Warner Bros). My father, Jock – or Ned, as my mother Mary called him– was a skilled motor engineer who worked making hand-built AC Cars. He later became the chief of a fleet of huge Daimlers for a funeral company. It was a sign of the times, as they had just decided to change over from black, Belgian horses to motorcars. Jock was a good dad, but occasionally the relationship soured (usually the result of my being informed upon by my mother of a misdemeanour of mine)…
…he died at the age of sixty-two…At the funeral they took the hearse past all the pubs he used to drink at, right down into Sussex. With his death I lost my inspiration and the person I had most looked up to, but rather than withdraw into myself I turned to films for solace.
My initiation into movies was the same as most other people’s. In the junior years a few of us could afford to go to the pictures on Saturday mornings at the Super Cinema in Kingston. Despite being very old, dilapidated and infested with rats, we were drawn to it like a magnet, and for the modest fee of threepence we got to sit high up in the gods. As there were no seats, we sat on the steps almost knee- deep in discarded peanut shells…”