November 3rd, 2008


Well, Hello!

I wanted to read Hello The Autobiography by Leslie Phillips because I thought it would be interesting to learn how the Cockney boy became the suave actor. What do I get? Within the first few pages, a lurid account of how he lost his virginity. Too much information! Not to mention another example of the cynical assumption by publishers that the public will only read autobiographies which have been gratuitously spiced up (see also John Prescott, Cherie Booth, Edwina Currie, Sue McGregor etc. etc. ad nauseam).

I’m persevering though and only posting about the book now because, for those who care about such things, Phillips’ early years in the theatre are pure Ballet Shoes. His family was really poor: father died young, mother took in mending, older brother and sister drudging, young Leslie doing any odd jobs a boy could. Then his mother, ‘uncharacteristically’, he says, heard about the Italia Conti School and took him for an audition. He was given a free place on condition the school took 20% of his future earnings. Before long he was appearing in West End shows with the required chaperone and working with famous actors. See what I mean? Just call him Pauline: he was pretty enough.

He appeared in Peter Pan, first as a wolf, later as John Darling and played a cherub in Dorothy L Sayers’ The Zeal of Thy House. Apparently, Sayers took a great interest in the production and the players, was terribly nice to everybody and helped make the show a success. He also worked with Vivien Leigh, Rex Harrison and Yvonne Arnaud, met Laurence Olivier and a host of other famous theatrical types. This didn’t stop him doing other odd jobs which came up, working as a paid fire watcher and planting an allotment. As a result he was able to give his mother plenty of money and still save £1,000 (a lot in those days!) before he was called up. Not surprisingly, all this changed him and he even ascribes his being accepted for OCTU training to his ‘newly acquired upper crust accent’ and ‘looking the part’. Over modest, surely?

Yet again I have to complain about publishers (who have the nerve to charge £18.99 for this book) who can’t be bothered with decent editing. So far I’ve been irritated by ‘Lord Peter Whimsey’, a double negative and various spelling mistakes. Orion, you despise your buyers. Don’t worry folks, you can buy this book anywhere for nothing or get it from the library. Now, can I be bothered to read on? I’ll try and get as far as the peerless Navy Lark.