Carry On Fenella
How should you remember a stage actor who mastered roles in Ibsen, Shakespeare, Chekov and Pinter among others, and yet whose life’s work is immortalised as a vamp in a skin-tight dress seeking Harold H. Corbett’s assent to smoke?
With a limerick of course!
It will be obvious to ‘Carry On’ aficionados that I am referring to the death, aged 90, of the classical actor Fenella Fielding who lingers in the memory as Valeria, sister to Kenneth Williams’ Dr Watt in Carry On Screaming.
That role is generally considered to have killed-off her career as a serious actor and, if true, is sad, but she never gave a hint of any bitterness. A survivor of physical abuse as a child, her fortitude and personality saw to that.
A reputed muse to Frederico Fellini, admired by Noel Coward, hater of Norman Wisdom (who had also abused her) and an actor whose Hedda Gabler was, according to The Times, “among the theatrical experiences of a lifetime” (although that could be interpreted in contrasting ways).
What more could be said?
Lots, actually, but I’ll stick to this from the Graun, who interviewed her shortly before her death about the forthcoming release of her autobiography:
Fielding’s older brother Basil Feldman is an ex-Conservative member of the House of Lords (unrelated to the Lord Feldman, the former Tory party chairman). Did she ever consider joining the Conservative party? She looks appalled. “It never occurred to me to touch them with a bargepole.
Good for her! This is what I think…
She was one of the ‘Carry On’ folk
Whose death will be sure to evoke
In any old fella
The sight of Fenella
Reclined, as she asked: “May I smoke?”.
Is this the scene that killed a career? If so, then surely her co-star in the scene would empathise. Corbett, who had also received some acclaim as a serious stage actor, was hideously typecast as ‘arold in the long-running UK TV comedy series Steptoe and Son.
Postscript: ALAW #104 – you know what that means! Two years of ALAW and I have yet to miss a week (famous last words!).