Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Bowman dropped out of the University of Cincinnati Law School to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He was spotted by a Paramount agent and went to Hollywood in 1934, but was not used at first. Instead he worked as a radio singer and appeared in stock plays including The Old Lady Shows His Medals.
Bowman eventually made his film debut in I Met Him in Paris (1937) for Paramount. He worked at that studio for a while, then RKO before moving to MGM.
The lack of leading men in World War Two was a boost to Bowman's career and he costarred with Rita Hayworth in Cover Girl and Jean Arthur in The Impatient Years. According to a film writer at the time, "his Hollywood career has not been spectacular but has gained him a large following". He signed to Columbia.
The Impatient Years was a hit and Bowman was described in late 1944 as "now a very hot commodity in Hollywood".
However he never quite progressed beyond supporting female stars and his status as a leading man faded.
Bowman was a much in demand radio actor, and worked on Broadway.
After making his TV debut in The Silver Theatre in 1950, he appeared regularly on television including several guest appearances in the television series Robert Montgomery Presents and Playhouse 90.
Bowman hosted the short-lived game show What's Going On? on ABC in late 1954. He was the first television Ellery Queen.
In 1961 he co-starred with Rocky Graziano in the Private Eye series Miami Undercover, the first television series made in its entirety before being sold to a network.
In his later career, Bowman was a pioneer in developing media training for the Republican leadership in Washington. In 1969 he was hired by the Nixon administration to help freshman representatives and politicians from marginal districts with their delivery, content and staging. (The job was described as being similar to Robert Montgomery's work with Dwight Eisenhower.) He also served as Master of Ceremonies for the 1968 and 1972 conventions.
From 1974 until his death, he was Chairman of the Kingstree Group, an international consulting firm, which offers communication advice to business and political leaders all over the world. Kingstree's global headquarters is now located in London, England. Bowman was responsible for developing the 'conversational' approach to spoken communication, which is recognized today as the only successful model for business and political presentations and media interviews.
For fifteen years Bowman was communications consultant for Bethleham Steel Corp.
He died from a heart attack in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, on Christmas Day 1979, three days before his 65th birthday.
Bowman was married to Helene Rosson, Victor Fleming's step daughter. Their son, also called Lee Bowman, continued with the Kingstree Group. Bowman also had a step daughter from an early marriage by Rosson.The Magic and the Loss