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John Howard Davies, Former Child Actor, Dies at 72

August 24, 2011

John Howard Davies, a wistful child actor of British movie dramas, memorable as the title orphan of “Oliver Twist,” who became a comedy director and producer who nurtured such enduring programs as “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and “Fawlty Towers,” died Aug. 22 at his home in Blewbury, England.

He was 72 and had cancer, his son William Davies told the Associated Press.

Mr. Davies, the son of a film critic and screenwriter, was 8 when a family friend, director David Lean, hired the boy to star in his 1948 version of “Oliver Twist.”

Lean described the actor as a “pale, angelic-looking lad, with large expressive eyes.” He proved an ideal Oliver for his adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel about an orphan boy who becomes a pickpocket under the tutelage of abusive masters, Fagin (Alec Guinness) and Bill Sikes (Robert Newton).

Writing in the New York Times, reviewer Bosley Crowther called “Oliver Twist” “a superb piece of motion picture art and, beyond doubt, one of the finest screen translations of a literary classic ever made.” Read More