He made one silent film, The Rotters (d. A.V. Bramble, 1921), but entered films in earnest in the 1930s, revealing a huge demotic appeal that was noticeable in an essentially middle-class cinema.
His first talkie was a film version of his concert-party revue, The Co-Optimists (d. Edwin Greenwood, 1929), and some of his other 1930s movies enabled him to film his famous monologues (e.g., the animated films Sam and His Musket and Drummed Out, both d. Anson Dyer, 1935), but his real fame as a character star came in the 1940s.
He brings a bluff lower-middle to middle-class solidity and authenticity to such roles as the former Parliament House stoker in The Way Ahead (d. Carol Reed, 1944), the next-door neighbour in This Happy Breed (d. David Lean, 1944), the police sergeant in Wanted for Murder (d. Lawrence Huntington, 1946), the bottom-smacking porter in Brief Encounter (d. David Lean, 1945), the shopkeeper-councillor in Passport to Pimlico (d. Henry Cornelius, 1949), Alec Guinness's souvenir-making colleague ("Anne 'athaway cottages for string") in The Lavender Hill Mob (d. Charles Crichton, 1951), the embattled householder in The Happy Family (d. Muriel Box, 1952), the turning-worm husband in Meet Me Tonight (d. Anthony Pélissier, 1952, "Fumed Oak" episode), the true Labour man who tells MP Peter Finch "You learnt the words but not the music" in No Love for Johnnie (d. Ralph Thomas, 1961) - and so on.
As well, there are cherishable breaks with realism in, say, his Vincent Crummles in Nicholas Nickleby (d. Cavalcanti, 1947) and the Gravedigger in Hamlet (d. Laurence Olivier, 1948).
And, for many people, the crowning achievement of a great career was his originating of Doolittle in My Fair Lady (US, d. George Cukor, 1964), his famous song from which, "Wiv a little bit of luck", provided the title for his 1969 autobiography. By then, he'd become an institution on stage, screen and TV. He was the father of Julian Holloway.
World War II documentaries
When World War 2 started in 1939, Holloway was 49 and deemed too old to be sent on active service, so he decided to make his contribution in boosting morale for Britain in short propaganda pieces on behalf of the British Film Institute and Pathe News. He would narrate documentaries on behalf of film makers on subjects which were aimed at lifting morale in a war-torn Britain. So successful were these that he used his character's "Sam Small" and "Albert Ramsbottom" in a few pieces including "Albert's savings", written by Marriott Edgar and "Albert Evacuated". At the start of the war, Holloway became one of a list of actors, including Laurence Olivier, Michael Redgrave, John Gielgud and Noel Coward, who would regularly narrate morale campaigns for the family of serviceman at home in Britain, while their loved ones fought the war abroad. The stories were written by a host of poets and writers who included Arthur Koestler, Rudyard Kipling, E.M Forster and Marriott Edgar. Holloway's stories included;
- Albert's Savings - an 'Albert'-style monologue which instilled the nation of the importance of investing in Savings Certificates for the war effort, in a script written by Marriott Edgar in (1940)
- Worker And Warfront No.8 - About a worker who was to scared to get his wounds checked - and who then contracts blood poisoning in a script written by E.C Bentley in (1943)
These were later compiled into a DVD entitled 'Britain's Home Front At War: Words For Battle.
Post-war and into the 1950s, he was approached by Warner Bros, who were the new owners of Pathe News, and was asked to record several morale-boosting documentaries in a series called "Time To Remember", where he narrated over old news reels from significant dates in history. These included:
- Your country needs you! depicted 1915 - which looked at the training of Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener volunteer army.
- The better 'OLE depicted 1916 - which both looked at life in the trenches, and viewed coverage of the Eastern, Western and Home fronts abroad during World War 1
- Enough of Everything depicted 1917 - which looked back at the Russian Revolution, the US entry into the War and women at work.
- Short Sharp Shower depicted 1926 - which touched on the events of 1926 including the General Strike, international politics, weather, record breaking feats, the death of Rudolph Valentino and life in post war Britain.
- The end of the Beginning depicted 1942 - which was about the events of 1942 and America's entry into World War II.
Holloway was married twice, the first being to Alice 'Queenie' Foran. They had met in June 1913 in Clacton - On - Sea, while he was performing in a concert party and she was selling charity flags on behalf of the RNLI. Queenie was orphaned at the age of 16, something which Holloway felt he and Queenie had in common, as his mother had died that year and his father had seemingly disowned him and his sister Millie. He married Queenie in November 1913.
They had four children: Joan, born on Stanley's 24th birthday in 1914, Patricia (b. 1920), John (b. 1925) and Mary (b. 1928). Years previously, Queenie had inherited some property in Southampton Row, London from her wealthy mother and upon her death in 1908, she would receive regular payments from the tenants who lived there During the First World War, while Holloway was away fighting in France, Queenie began to have money troubles as the tenants' cheques were not being received. Out of desperation, she approached several loan sharks in order to survive, thus incurring a huge debt about which Holloway knew nothing. By this time she had started to drink heavily, as the pressures from the war and being a lone parent with virtually no money had taken its toll. Upon Holloway's return from the war, the debt was paid off and they lived semi-happily until Queenie's death in 1937, at age 45, from Cirrhosis of the Liver
Little is known about the children from his first marriage, although it is known that his youngest daughter Mary worked for British Petroleum for many years and elder son John worked as an engineer in an electrics company.
Later life and death
Holloway was still performing well into his 80s, touring Asia and Australia in 1977 with the Pleasure of His Company, a Noel Coward tribute show, and made his last appearance performing at the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium in 1980 aged 89. He died of a stroke 18 months later at the Nightingale Nursing Home in Littlehampton, Sussex, on 30 January 1982, aged 91. He is buried along with his wife Violet, at St. Mary the Virgin Church in East Preston, West Sussex.
( Stanley Holloway with wife Violet and Son Julian arriving at an American Airport in 1962)