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Tributes paid after actor Towb dies

Tributes have been paid to distinguished Belfast actor Harry Towb after he died from cancer at the age of 83.

The star of stage and screen, who was born in Larne but grew up in Belfast, died at his home in London on Friday.

He had been battling cancer for a short time.

Mr Towb was most recently seen on television in December, when he played the role of Janine Butcher’s elderly fiance David in EastEnders.

He began his acting career in Northern Ireland, working with a number of theatrical groups before moving to England in the 1950s.

As well as starring in the National Theatre production of Brighton Beach Memoirs, he also starred in Little Shop of Horrors, Bar Mitzvah Boy, Death of a Salesman and The Mandate.

He also helped bring Sherlock Holmes and Travesties to Broadway with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

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Back home in Belfast, he played Tiresias in Antigone at the Waterfront Hall, while at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin he starred in The Rivals, The Importance of Being Earnest and Philadelphia Here I Come.

His television credits were numerous too and include Z Cars, The Avengers, Dr Who, Heartbeat, Casualty and The Bill.

On the big screen he starred in The 39 Steps, Digby The Biggest Dog in the World, Carry On At Your Convenience and The Most Fertile Man in Ireland.

In 1991 he starred alongside Warren Mitchell in the BBC Northern Ireland comedy So You Think You’ve Got Troubles.

Mr Towb is survived by his wife, actress Diana Hoddinott, children Emily, Daniel and Joshua and three grand-daughters.

Joshua led tributes to his father, saying he was a great family man who loved his work.

“He loved his family very much,” he said. “But he never liked not to be working.

He worked all the way through his illness as long as he could, right up until a few months ago,” he added.

Mr Towb had his last great triumph at home playing a character he said could have been him in real life.

For exactly two years ago at the Grand Opera House he was a hit in the Sam McCready play New York State of Mind, as veteran actor RJ McGibbon, the mentor to a young lad from Northern Ireland trying to break into the big time on Broadway.

“Sam could have written that drama for me,” the actor said at the time.

“I could have been living my own life when I was on stage in this play at the Baby Grand Theatre. I was definitely emotionally involved.”

Mr Towb got a big break in New York in 1966 playing opposite legendary actress the late Shelley Winters in the Saul Bellow play Under the Weather on Broadway.

He and Shelley, who died two years ago at the age of 85, were in the enormous hit in the same year that she was in the movie Alfie with Michael Caine and just 12 months after she won an Oscar for her performance in A Patch of Blue.

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