Despite recent depressing reports about bad behaviour in show biz, I have been lucky in meeting so many of the good ones. And there are many…… we are not all harassing monsters, nor are we all predatory people trying to claim five minutes of fame ….. maybe compensation…sad though the stories are….. I do not doubt that there are some, which are simply not true and not proved.
One of the delightful people I have met a few times is the wonderful Fenella Fielding and had the pleasure of spending time with her again in Portmeirion in Wales, where we were both appearing at the 50th anniversary Convention for the television series “The Prisoner“. Fenella is a funny, witty highly intelligent person, shortly to be 90 and she has just published her book “Do You Mind if I Smoke“. The Guardian English newspaper wrote a feature about her and I am stealing a bit of it, as feature writer Simon Hattestone put it so much better than I can:
“Fenella Fielding, 90 this month, has lost none of her comic timing. She is about to publish her memoirs, and I tell her it’s a great gossipy read. “What’s that darling, endoscopy?” Her hearing isn’t what it was. but she’s grinning mischievously. “I thought that was something medical.”
Fielding is probably still best remembered for her star turn in Carry on Screaming! as voracious vamp Valeria. The title of the book is taken from her famous line in the film: “Do you mind if I smoke?” (At which point whirls of smoke rise from her writhing body.)
Half a century later, her lipstick is still blood red, her hair dark brown (a wig, of course, as it was in Carry on Screaming!), and her voice unchanged: plummy, breathy, sexy, every word perfectly enunciated. The book charts her topsy turvy life – from the autocratic father who ran a cinema, to success on stage and screen, bankruptcy and a life on benefits, and a renaissance in recent years.”
There was a series of films, enormously popular in the UK…the “Carry On” films as they were known and they brought an inordinate amount of pleasure and fun into the lives of the British people…I dont know if they ever “crossed the pond” to the US, or whether that particular form of slapstick humour would have resonated with the US population, but not all the films we make have to reach everybody. Although making money and certainly making back your investment is the name of the game, it was not the badge of shame that it is now, if a picture did not make the astronomical numbers at the box office expected by the film makers today. Media is now such an integral part of our lives, but the money and/or expectation that goes along with it can have a depressing effect on the business. So, now, many good films go straight to streaming (distributors don’t want to spend the money on the marketing) and you have to search to find them and then you stumble across the little gem and wonder why you have never heard of it.
Fenella Fielding has brought a great deal of pleasure into many people’s lives. To the best of my knowledge she has never been nominated for an Oscar, but she is and has been one of us jobbing actors, who work, like to work, have fun, do our job and give an audience a bit of pleasure and I have enjoyed the pleasure of knowing her. Hats off to Fenella a real star!