Special effects expert for Lawrence of Arabia film dies

Eddie Fowlie

Peter O'Toole hands Eddie a glass of water during filming for Lawrence of Arabia

First published in News by

A Hollywood special effects expert whose humble beginnings transformed into a remarkable career rubbing shoulders with the stars has died aged 89.

From creating quicksand in Lawrence of Arabia, to blowing up a bridge on the River Kwai, Eddie Fowlie led an adventurous life.

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.

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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 his death in 1991.

He worked on all of Lean’s films and the pair became inseparable as working colleagues and friends.

Mr Fowlie’s retirement to Spain coincided with the boom of special effects in cinema, however, his skill is still recognised as remarkable.

He received a standing ovation when he was presented a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to film making at the International Short Film Festival in Almería in December 2009.

But Mr Fowlie never forgot his roots and when asked which film school he went to he would always say he “learned everything playing in Hampton Court Palace and Richmond Park as a boy”.

He was also drawn to Kingston’s Super Cinema saying that “despite being very old, dilapidated and infested with rats, we were drawn to like a magnet”.

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.

Did you know Eddie? Leave a comment below.

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