theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…
I knew Fenella Fielding’s death was in the offing as I’d read about her stroke a few days ago. I am very sad as she was always part of my life even though we didn’t know each other well. She and my mother, Benedicta Leigh, were friends at RADA in the late 1940s and they kept in touch, albeit sporadically. I used to be very taken with Fenella’s Christmas card every year in which she was careful to include the names of my brother and myself — I always noticed the people who didn’t! It was not necessarily the picture on the card that took my fancy but the fact that my parents knew someone with such an exotic name and such an expansive signature, or so it seemed to me! I had clearly not realised at this stage that my mother’s name was fairly exotic and unusual.
Fenella punctuated my life in odd ways. I was working behind the counter in Cranks soon after leaving drama school when she came in to buy some bread. The next occasion was at a friend’s party. Later, I worked for an agent she had signed with and I felt like Zelig when she came to the office! The last occasion was about twenty years ago when she came to see her ten-year-old great-niece in a musical version of Alice Through the Looking Glass in which I was playing the Red Queen. I was touched by her compliments on my performance.
RIP, Fenella.She survived a violent upbringing to become the 60s’ favourite comedy vamp. As she turns 90, the star remembers fending off Norman Wisdom, attempting suicide – and having two lovers for 20 years.
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