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Frankie Howerd: Rather You Than Me (2008)

In the 1950s Frankie Howerd, the famous radio and film comedian, meets a young waiter Dennis Heymer, who, like himself, is a closet homosexual.


John Alexander


Peter Harness
1 win. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
David Walliams ... Frankie Howerd
Rafe Spall ... Dennis Heymer
Peter Sandys-Clarke ... Sheridan
Sally Leonard Sally Leonard ... Jane
Paul Anderson ... Roger
Benedict Martin ... Gunman
Melanie Hill ... Ruth
Dilys Laye ... Edith Howerd
Jeffrey Perry Jeffrey Perry ... Director
Chris New ... Rent Boy
Peter Harness Peter Harness ... Promoter
Paul Courtenay Hyu Paul Courtenay Hyu ... Dr. Ling (as Paul Courtenay-Hyu)
Jake Maskall ... Don
David Reed ... Peter Cook
Tom Allen ... Lighting Technician


In the 1950s Frankie Howerd, the famous radio and film comedian, meets a young waiter Dennis Heymer, who, like himself, is a closet homosexual. Their relationship blossoms into a partnership, rather than a purely sexual one, and Dennis becomes Frankie's manager. By the early 1960s however things are looking bleak for Frankie. He has lost popularity with mainstream audiences and suffered a nervous breakdown. He is full of self hatred about his appearance - he wears a wig - and his homosexuality, puts huge stress on his relationship with Dennis. Matters are not helped by the death of Frankie's mother Edith. However, Frankie is able to reinvent himself as a satirical comedian, with a gig at Peter Cook's Establishment Club and his fortunes soar, with successful television comedies and a well-publicized appearance at the Oxford Union. Written by don @ minifie-1

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis





Official Sites:

BBC [UK] | BBC Four [UK]





Release Date:

9 April 2008 (UK) See more »

Filming Locations:

London, England, UK See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

BBC Drama Group See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


David Walliams was a lifelong fan of Frankie Howerd's and even managed to get his autograph after one of his live performances. See more »

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User Reviews

Rather Sad Telefilm About the Private Life of a Much-Loved Comedian
15 August 2014 | by l_rawjalaurenceSee all my reviews

RATHER YOU THAN ME concentrates on the private life of comedian Frankie Howerd (David Walliams), a closet homosexual at a time when such practices were against the law in Great Britain. He lived what might be described as a 'discreet' existence with Dennis Heymer (Rafe Spall), making sure that they never embraced in public. Peter Harness' drama focuses on Howerd's tortured mental state: the experience of being abused as a child scarred his existence for life, rendering him both fearful yet disgusted with his sexual tendencies. He had a close attachment to his mother (Dilys Laye) who rarely said anything about her son's proclivities, yet was obviously well aware of them. This play concentrates mainly on Howerd's career during the Fifties, when he was one of radio's top comedians, then experienced a period of alarming decline. It was only when Peter Cook (David Reed) asked him to appear for a season at the newly-created Establishment Club that Howerd's career fortunes improved. The experience of failure rendered him even more bitter - forcing Heymer to threaten to leave him more than once. But the two eventually remained together for many years, right up to Howerd's late-flowering fortunes in the Eighties and early Nineties, when he was invited to perform at the Oxford Union. David Walliams gives a creditable performance as Howerd, even though he tends to put his tongue in cheek (literally) a little too much. What makes this drama so engaging are the quality of the supporting characterizations, from Spall's long-suffering Dennis, to Sally Leonard's Jane (Howerd's long-term female companion). A melancholy tale, certainly, but one which emphasizes the difficulties, both mental and physical, experienced by many personalities at a time when they could not reveal their true sexualities in public.

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