Leslie Phillips, the reliable, archetypal and ever so suave British actor with a penchant for da laydeeez , has finally written his autobiography. Aptly titled Hello - a two-syllable word the actor appears to have made his own due to a pronounciation that stems from an impunity to contain his eighty-two year old erection – it makes for a more than comprehensive and thoroughly enjoyable read.
Unlike the current plethora of utterly futile (auto)biographies by a seemingly endless spate of of slappers’n’wankers barely out of suck school (many of whom are from Brighton no-less!), Hello delves into all areas of the actor’s expansive and rather formidable career: from his early days in London theatre to The Navy Lark – of which there were 250 episodes recorded over a seventeen year period – to his knave like roles in the Doctor and inevitable Carry On films. The latter of which, triggered an entire industry, and in the case of Carry On Nurse, an acknowledgement of looming social marginalization: ‘’The scripts of the Carry Ons conveyed the World According to (producer) P. Rogers – not a message of great gravitas, it must be said, but nevertheless relevant, and a hint to an orderly nation that our great institutions were not as beyond reproach as was widely perceived, especially, in this case, the NHS.’’
An orderly nation? How times have indeed changed, which may account for Phillips donning a more serious mantle of acting roles in later life (two stage productions for the RSC and quintessential film roles in Steven Spielberg’s Empire Of The Sun and Sydney Pollack’s Out Of Africa).
Written with a politically correct persuasion - which one would expect from a man of his cinematic and theatrical calibre - Hello is amusing, (at times) daring, and not without a twinkle in the eye of its author. Ding-Dong!
By Leslie Phillips
Orion Books - £18.99