It was around the mid-1950s that Leslie Phillips began to make a name for himself in films, with Brothers in Law (1957) and The Smallest Show on Earth (1957) revealing him as the incorrigable 'charmer' that was to become his trademark.
In Carry On Constable (1960) Phillips is the playboy PC Tim Potter who pushes his inspector into a garden pond but makes amends by helping Sally (Shirley Eaton) through her pre-wedding nerves. Thirty two years later, Leslie Phillips accepted the small role of King Ferdinand in Carry On Columbus (1992), as a favour to the director Gerald Thomas, in what was to be his last 'Carry On' film before his death in 1993.
Leslie Phillips was born into a working class family in Tottenham, London, in 1924. When he was 9 years old, his father died and the family moved to Chingford. Leslie had always wanted to be an actor, taking elocution lessons as a boy, to lose his cockney accent, and then attending the Italia Conti Academy in London to study drama.
His first starring role was in The Man Who Liked Funerals (1959), and many more parts followed in quick succession, including The Navy Lark (1959), a film version of the very popular BBC radio show in which Phillips was long associated. This began a decade full of comedy roles which included three 'Doctor' films - Doctor In Love (1960), Doctor In Clover (1966) and Doctor In Trouble (1970).
He also signed my Carry On book, Carry On poster and a photograph. I then had my photo taken with him.
Leslie Phillips with Kenneth Connor and
Leslie Phillips signed this photograph
It was during this time that Leslie Phillips was cast in three 'Carry On' films. In Carry On Nurse (1959) he plays the character Jack Bell, anxious to get his bunion operation over so that he could take his girlfriend Meg (June Whitfield) on a romantic weekend! It was playing Jack Bell that led to Phillips' catchphrase "Ding Dong" whenever he saw an attractive woman.
Phillips served with the Durham Light Infantry during the war, but was invalided out and, because 'proper' jobs were hard to find, went back to doing 'theatre'. He had several uncredited 'bit parts' in films in the 1940s.
I was very pleased to have the opportunity to visit Pinewood in September 2006 for an afternoon with Leslie Phillips. He gave a fascinating talk about his long career in film, TV and the theatre, and signed copies of his book Hello.
In Carry On Teacher (1959) Phillips plays a child psychologist with an eye for the ladies, Alistair Grigg. Grigg is delighted when PT mistress Sarah (Joan Sims) is provided with a pair of shorts that are much too small!
Throughout the 1970s and early 80s, Phillips virtually turned his back on film-making (after a disastrous starring role in the 1967 spy thriller Maroc 7) to direct and star in a variety of stage plays, mainly comedy and farce, with just the occasional film role, as in Don't just Lie There, Say Something (1973), as usual playing an aristocratic cad, cavorting with the girls.
On stage with Joanne Dainton in Frederick
Kenneth Williams in Carry On Constable
Carry On Constable
(left) with Joan Sims in
Carry On Teacher
(above) with Shirley Eaton in
In 1998, Leslie Phillips, one of Britain's best-loved comedy actors and credited with over 130 screen roles (including a spell in Hollywood), was awarded the OBE for his services to drama. This was upgraded to Commander status (CBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours list.
Leslie Phillips is married to the actress Angela Scoular who played Ruby Bartlett in the James Bond film On Her Majesties Secret Service.
Leslie Phillips' autobiography "Hello" (another of his catchphrases) was published in 2006 and you can find a link below which takes you to a review by Sue Magee of this fascinating book.
During the 1990s, TV 'character roles' came thick and fast in series like Chancer (1990), Ruth Rendell Mysteries (1995), The Bill (1996), Dalziel and Pascoe (1999), Midsummer Murders (2003), Where The Heart Is (2003), & Heartbeat (2006).
Recently, Leslie Phillips was highly praised for his role as Ian in the much-acclaimed, and award-nominated, film Venus (2006). Ian, Maurice (Peter O'Toole) and Donald (Richard Griffiths) are ageing actors, consumed by the past. All is well until Ian's neice Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) appears on the scene. With Maurice eventually falling in love with Jessie, fifty years his junior, the old actors' lives are turned completely upsidedown! Phillips won a British Independent Film Award in 2006, for best supporting actor for his role in this film.
for me at Pinewood
Knott's Dial M for Murder
...my copy of his book
Leslie Phillips signs.......
...my 'Carry On' book
... my 'Carry On' poster
Leslie Phillips & Peter O'Toole in Venus
Leslie Phillips is a familiar
face in TV drama
Film Poster for No Kidding (1960)
He also consciously took on serious stage roles including Falstaff with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and a Chekhov play. He even had his own one-man show which he called On The Whole It's Been Jolly Good.
Leslie Phillips & Peter O'Toole in Venus
Leslie Phillips receives his CBE in May 2008
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