Leslie Phillips

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Leslie Samuel Phillips, CBE (born 20 April 1924) is an English actor that provided the voice for the Sorting Hat in the Harry Potter films.


[edit] Early life

Contrary to the impression given by his public persona, Phillips came from a background of poverty. He was born in Tottenham, North London, England, the son of Cecelia Margaret (née Newlove) and Frederick Samuel Phillips,[1] who worked at Glover and Main, manufacturers of cookers in Edmonton, London; the "filthy, sulphurous" air of the factory gave him a weak heart and dropsy, leading to his death at the age of 44. In 1931, the family moved to Chingford, London where Phillips attended primary school.[2]

It was his mother who decided that Phillips should be sent to the Italia Conti Academy to receive elocution lessons in order to lose his natural cockney accent. At that time a strong regional accent from any city was a major impediment to an aspiring actor. It proved to be an astute move and by the age of 14 Phillips was the family's main breadwinner, saving his mother from squalor.

[edit] Career

Phillips made his first film appearances as a child in the 1930s. He is the only actor still alive who performed at Pinewood Studios during the week it opened in 1936. He also understudied for Binkie Beaumont and H.M Tennent in the West End. In 1938, 14-year-old Leslie Phillips appeared with Graeme Muir in the West End play Dear Octopus where Muir was the juvenile lead. During the Second World War shows were frequently interrupted by air-raid sirens and Phillips recalls in his autobiography that "audiences would evaporate and head for cellars or Underground stations".

Due to his acquired upper class accent, Phillips was selected for officer training at Catterick and duly commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in 1943. He was transferred to the Durham Light Infantry in 1944 but was later declared unfit for service after being diagnosed with a neurological condition that caused partial paralysis. He was initially sent to a psychiatric hospital in error but was then sent to the correct facility for treatment.

Demobbed as a Lieutenant in December 1944, Phillips' acting career initially took in "the murkiest rat-infested old playhouses and music halls in the North of England". It was during the 1950s that he became known for playing amusing English stereotypes. His seductive voice is his trademark as well as his catchphrases, "I say, Ding Dong" (originally the catchphrase of Phillips' character Jack Bell in Carry On Nurse), "Hello" and "Lumme!", which were partly, if not wholly, based on those of fellow cad actor Terry-Thomas. He appeared in three of the early Carry On films series (Carry On Nurse, Carry On Teacher and Carry On Constable). After Constable he told Carry On producer Peter Rogers that he did not wish to do any more Carry Ons, though he did return for Carry On Columbus in 1992 in the role of a King playing alongside June Whitfield as the Queen in a small cameo role. He appeared in several films in the 'Doctor' series and from 1959, Phillips became familiar on radio with a leading role in The Navy Lark.

After his marriage to Angela Scoular in 1982 Phillips decided to move away from the type of characters portrayed in much of his previous work. Phillips has remained busy in both stage and television productions, along with character roles in films like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun (1987). Phillips has also provided the voice for the Sorting Hat in the Harry Potter films appearing in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) as well as reprising his role for the new attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey in Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida. He has also appeared in British sitcoms, including Honey for Tea with Felicity Kendal. He has appeared in cameo roles in the police series The Bill.

In 2007 he appeared in Hanif Kureishi's film Venus alongside Peter O'Toole and was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the veteran actor, Ian.[3]

Phillips' autobiography, Hello was published by Orion in 2006. ISBN 0-7528-8178-7. He was upgraded from an Officer (OBE) of the Order of the British Empire to Commander status (CBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours.

[edit] Personal life

Phillips married his first wife, actress Penelope Bartley, on 30 May 1948.[4] They had four children, Caroline, Claudia, Andrew and Roger, but by 1960 Phillips' work commitments began to take their toll on the marriage. As he put it in his autobiography: "Penny never objected to the money coming in, but she had begun to complain about my absences."

In 1962 Phillips starred in a play called The Big Killing and was immediately attracted to the understudy Caroline Mortimer, daughter of writer Penelope Mortimer and stepdaughter of John Mortimer (before marrying John Mortimer, Penelope had had four daughters by three men). At 19, Caroline was 18 years younger than Phillips; however, the attraction was mutual. In his autobiography he writes of his dilemma: despite his public image he had been a loyal and faithful husband up to this point and battled with his conscience. Though his wife Penelope had distanced herself from his career and there was a growing distance between them, still he felt torn. However, as the play's run continued he got more deeply involved with Mortimer, eventually meeting her mother.
"I was certain at first that they didn't consider me very suitable ... Penelope Mortimer took a long-nosed view of the kind of light comedy in which I'd had so much success. Perhaps, like many people, she didn't appreciate that from a technical point of view it was often a great deal harder to bring off than straight drama."

Ultimately Phillips was forced out of the family home against his wishes when a friend of his wife conveyed the information of his affair and Bartley decided she wanted a divorce. Phillips was spending more time with Mortimer's family, taking a foreign cruise with them and being a regular guest at the dinner table. As the divorce dragged on, life became difficult for Phillips who was attempting to maintain contact with his children, providing for them and his by now antagonistic wife, and continuing his relationship with Caroline Mortimer, in addition to dealing with the demands of his career. To compound the situation, the same friend who informed Bartley of his affair (and of whom Phillips has expressed his dislike) contrived to have his beloved dog Pippa put down. However, his contact with John Mortimer did at least result in him playing a judge in two of his television dramas. It was truly a turbulent time for the actor as he neared 40. There was respite in happiness at least, as he and Caroline found the then unspoiled island of Ibiza and bought a farmhouse there which played host over the years to Diana Rigg, Nigel Davenport, Laurence Olivier and Denholm Elliott amongst others. While there Mortimer embraced the hippy life and would drift around barefoot, wearing kaftans and bandanas. Although Phillips writes that he was deeply in love with her, by her mid-twenties she was expressing a desire to get married and have children. He cites his reluctance to do either as the cause of the end of the relationship.

En route to his next job in Australia he was even more baleful when the inflight movie starred no other than Caroline Mortimer. However he soon embarked on a relationship with his co-star Vicki Luke, attracted to her by her sexual energy, attractiveness and unpredictability. During the J. C. Williamson's Australian tour of The Man Most Likely To... Leslie Phillips and Vicki Luke became romantically involved. At the end of the season they travelled to Thailand and then on to India to holiday together. They parted at Bombay airport and went their separate ways in mutual sadness and a degree of distress at the parting. Phillips flew back to London, Vicki Luke returned to Australia with the promise that they would eventually be together. They wrote to each other regularly and finally the letter arrived "Meet me in Barcelona". Luke flew and joined him and the travelled on to his finca on Ibiza together, where they stayed for a week or so before Phillips flew on to Minorca to shoot Spanish Fly (1975) with Terry Thomas. The couple stayed in Phillip's finca with just 2,000 pesetas provided by Philips to pay for the antique furniture he had ordered, and using her own money ran the finca and supported herself for three months. They joined up briefly in Minorca during the filming and then parted once again.

Luke stayed in Ibiza until Phillips finally sorted out his relationship with Caroline Mortimer who was still living in his house in London. Again finally the letter arrived and Luke joined him in London with just £19 to her name, where they lived together for three or so years until he started having a relationship with Angela Scoular without Luke's knowledge. In a retributive action, Mortimer informed Luke of Phillips' affair with Angela Scoular which began during the season of Sextet at the Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly. He was confronted by Luke and admitted the affair and they parted. During their relationship they went on a second holiday to India, Luke smuggled hash in her own suitcase while Phillips used Luke to smuggle antique silver jewellery illegally out of India and into London, on her own person. At customs he turned on his charm and they got away with it.

When he accepted a lead role in the play Sextet in London, he was immediately drawn to his co-star (over whom he had casting approval) actress Angela Scoular, a former Bond girl. Scoular and Phillips began living together at his house in Maida Vale. Around the same time Penelope Bartley had a stroke which left her seriously debilitated. Phillips and Scoular helped her over the years as she struggled with her condition. Phillips has admitted that due to the time they'd spent together he still felt partly married to Bartley. In 1981 he and Scoular left on a tour of a Ray Cooney play in Australia. While there, his daughter Caroline phoned to say that Bartley had died in a fire. Phillips decided to stay in the production as his departure would have meant its closure, so that he didn't return to Britain until 1982. Although the first thing he did was to visit his wife's grave in Horley, Surrey, he has acknowledged that his family has never forgiven him for not coming back to attend the funeral.

In 1982 Phillips and Scoular, 22 years his junior, were married, and remained together until her death on 11 April 2011.[5]Phillips was too ill to attend the inquest into Scoular's death three months later.[6]

[edit] Filmography

[edit] Radio

[edit] Television

  • My Wife Jacqueline (1952) as Tom Bridger. (BBC) (sitcom)
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood – Episode "Friar Tuck" as Sir William of Marmsbury, "Checkmate" as Count De Waldern (series 1:1955), "A Village Wooing" as Wat Longfellow (series 2:1956) and "The Reluctant Rebel" as Herbert (series 4:1958).
  • Tracey and Me (1956) as Wally Forrest (Associated Rediffusion/ITV) (sitcom)
  • H.G.Well's Invisible Man (1958) – "Blind Justice" as Sparrow (ITC film series)
  • Our Man At St.Marks (series 1 only, 1963) as The Reverend Andrew Parker. (Associated Rediffusion/ITV) (sitcom)
  • Comedy Playhouse: "Impasse" – 15 Mar 1963 (BBC)
  • Comedy Playhouse: "The Time and Motion Man" – 29 July 1965 (BBC)
  • Foreign Affairs (1966) as Dennis Proudfoot (BBC) (sitcom)
  • The Galton & Simpson Comedy : "The Suit" – 19 April 1969 (London Weekend Television/LWT)
  • The Culture Vultures (1970) as Dr. Michael Cunningham (BBC) (sitcom)
  • Casanova '73 (1973) as Henry Newhouse (BBC) (sitcom)
  • Summer's Lease (1989) as William Fosdyke (BBC/WGBH Boston/Australian Broadcasting Corporation/TV New Zealand) (4 part adaptation of novel by Sir John Mortimer)
  • The Comic Strip Presents...: "GLC:The Carnage Continues..." 15 February 1990 (BBC) as Sir Horace Cutler
  • Life After Life (Pilot)(1990) as Wing Commander Boyle (LWT)
  • Chancer (Central Television: 1990–91)
  • Honey for Tea (1994) as Sir Dickie Hobhouse (BBC) (sitcom)
  • The House of Windsor (1994) as Lord Montague Bermondsey (Granada) (sitcom)
  • Love on a Branch Line (1994) as Lord Flamborough (BBC)
  • Bermuda Grace (1994) (US TV Pilot)
  • The Canterville Ghost – (1995) as George, Lord Canterville (US TV movie)
  • Midsomer Murders : "Painted in Blood" (2003)
  • The Catherine Tate Show (2006)
  • Loose Women (2008) guest
  • Alan Carr's Celebrity Ding Dong (2008) guest
  • Sex and the Sitcom (2011) BBC4 documentary

[edit] Films

[edit] Video games

Phillips provided his voice for the character of Gex in the UK and European release of Gex: Enter the Gecko.

[edit] References

  1. http://www.filmreference.com/film/18/Leslie-Phillips.html
  2. Moyes, Johnathon (2007-06-27). "Ex-pupil Phillips opens old school". Waltham Forest Guardian. http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/1502804.expupil_phillips_opens_old_school/. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  3. http://www.bafta.org/site/page287.html
  4. Phillips, Lesley (2006). "Hello", The Autobiography. Orion Books Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7528-8178-2. 
  5. Daily Mail news item Retrieved 20 April 2011
  6. [1]

[edit] External links