Leslie Phillips

Leslie Samuel Phillips CBE (born 20 April 1924) is an English actor. He achieved prominence in the 1950s, often playing smooth, upper-class comic roles utilising his "Ding Dong" and "He-llo" catchphrases. He appeared in the Carry On and Doctor in the House film series as well as the long-running BBC radio comedy series The Navy Lark. In his later career, Phillips took on dramatic roles including providing the voice for the Sorting Hat in the Harry Potter films.

Leslie Phillips

LesliePhillipsBAFTA07 crop and mirror.jpg
Phillips at the Orange British Academy Film Awards in February 2007
Leslie Samuel Phillips

(1924-04-20) 20 April 1924 (age 97)
Tottenham, London, England
OccupationActor, voice-over artist, author
Years active1934[1]–2012
Notable work
See below
Penelope Bartley
(m. 1948; div. 1965)

(m. 1982; died 2011)

Zara Carr
(m. 2013)

Early lifeEdit

Phillips was born in Tottenham, North London, England, the son of Cecelia Margaret (née Newlove) and Frederick Samuel Phillips,[2] who worked at Glover and Main, manufacturers of cookers in Edmonton; the "filthy, sulphurous" air of the factory gave Frederick a weak heart and edema, leading to his death at the age of 44. In 1931, the family moved to Chingford, Essex, where Phillips attended Larkswood Primary School.[3]

It was his mother who decided that Phillips should be sent to the Italia Conti Academy to receive elocution lessons to lose his cockney accent.[4] At that time a strong regional accent was a major impediment to an aspiring actor. It proved to be an astute move and was a major factor in his subsequent success.[5]


Early workEdit

Phillips made his stage debut at the age of ten in Peter Pan alongside Anna Neagle at the London Palladium.[6][7]

Phillips made his first film appearances as a child in the 1930s. He is the only actor still alive who performed at Pinewood Studios in its first week of opening in 1936. He also worked for Binkie Beaumont and H. M. Tennent in several plays in the West End. 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".

Called up to the British Army in 1942, Phillips rose to the rank of Lance-Bombardier in the Royal Artillery. 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.[5] In his autobiography, he would recall that his anti-aircraft battery destroyed numerous German V1 flying bombs launched against the UK during the period. He was transferred to the Durham Light Infantry in 1944 but was later declared unfit for service just before D-Day after being diagnosed with a neurological condition that caused partial paralysis.[5] 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 first lead role in a television serial was in the sitcom My Wife Jacqueline (1952).[8] 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), and "He-llo" with a suggestive intonation, which were partly, if not wholly, based on those of fellow actor Terry Thomas who was also known for playing cads.

His big break in the films was in the Gene Kelly musical Les Girls (1957).[5] Although the film was a critical success, he decided against a move to Hollywood, in part as he considered himself primarily a theatre actor.[7] Soon after he appeared in three of the early Carry On films; Carry On Nurse, Carry On Teacher (both 1959) and Carry On Constable (1960), which cemented his reputation for playing upper class fools and lecherous smoothies.[5] After Constable, he told producer Peter Rogers that he did not wish to do any more Carry Ons, though he did return much later for Carry On Columbus (1992). In the 1960s, he took over from Dirk Bogarde in several of the Doctor film comedies.

In 1959 he played in Italy the role of an english journalist on a business trip to the Kingdom of Naples in the comedy film Ferdinando I °, Re di Napoli (Ferdinand the 1st, King of Naples) starring the brothers Eduardo, Peppino and Titina De Filippo, neapolitan leading figures of italian theater. In the cast also other glorious names of Italian comedy such as Aldo Fabrizi, Vittorio De Sica, Renato Rascel as well as a young Marcello Mastroianni.

Between 1959 and 1977, Phillips became familiar on radio, as Sub-Lieutenant Phillips in the comedy The Navy Lark alongside Jon Pertwee and Ronnie Barker.[9] He also appeared in the film version of The Navy Lark (1959), the only cast member of the radio series to do so.

Later workEdit

After his marriage to Angela Scoular in 1982, Phillips decided to move away from playing the kind of lecherous twits with suave chat-up lines which had characterised much of his previous work. Phillips remained busy in both stage and television productions, along with character roles in films such as Empire of the Sun (1987) directed by Steven Spielberg and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001). Phillips 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 in the final film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011). He has also appeared in British television sitcoms including Honey for Tea with Felicity Kendal and appeared in guest roles in popular series such as The Bill, Holby City and Midsomer Murders.

He appeared in Hanif Kureishi's film Venus (2006), alongside Peter O'Toole and was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor in 2007 for his role as the veteran actor, Ian.[10]

Phillips' autobiography, Hello (ISBN 0-7528-8178-7), was published by Orion in 2006.

He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1998 Birthday Honours and was promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours.[6]

Phillips, in conjunction with Jules Williams and Back Door Productions,[11] co-produced the Sky Arts series Living The Life[12] which ran for three series.

In 2012, in conjunction with Amazing Journeys Publishing, Phillips voiced the audiobook, Chequered Justice by former racing driver John Bartlett (ISBN 9780956910486).

Personal lifeEdit

Phillips married his first wife, actress Penelope Bartley (1925–1981), on 30 May 1948.[13] The couple had four children.[6]

In 1962, Phillips began a romantic relationship with actress Caroline Mortimer (1942–2020), daughter of writer Penelope Mortimer and stepdaughter of John Mortimer, who was an understudy in a stage play in which Phillips starred. Phillips and Bartley separated at that point and were divorced in 1965.[13]

After his relationship with Mortimer ended, Phillips embarked on a relationship with actress Vicki Luke, with whom he lived, for approximately three years.

He moved in with actress Angela Scoular (1945–2011) in 1977, at which time she was pregnant by another actor. He raised her son as his own.[14]

While on tour in Australia in 1981 he was notified that Penelope Bartley (his first wife) had died in a fire. Phillips elected to continue in the production and not to attend her funeral. He has acknowledged that his family has never forgiven him for not coming back to attend the funeral.[13]

Following the death of his former wife in 1981, he married Scoular in 1982.[14] They remained together until her death on 11 April 2011. Scoular was suffering from bowel cancer and bipolar disorder.[15] Phillips was too ill to attend the inquest into Scoular's death three months later. The coroner recorded that Scoular had "killed herself while the balance of her mind was disturbed", and stated that her death was not suicide.[15]

On 20 December 2013, Phillips married Zara Carr (born 1963), his third wife.[16]

He is a long-term fan of Tottenham Hotspur, and made an appearance on the pitch as part of the half-time entertainment during the team's home match against Swansea City on 1 April 2012.[17]

He received the Freedom of the City of London on 16 November 2010.




Video gamesEdit


  1. ^ Loose Women Interview, 2 July 2010
  2. ^ "Leslie Phillips Biography (1924–)". Filmreference.com. 20 April 1924. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  3. ^ Moyes, Johnathon (27 June 2007). "Ex-pupil Phillips opens old school". Waltham Forest Guardian. Retrieved 10 May 2009.
  4. ^ "'Hel-low. Aren't you a gorgeous creature?'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Happy 95th Birthday to Leslie Phillips". The Oldie. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  6. ^ a b c "CBE for Carry On actor Phillips". BBC News. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  7. ^ a b "With my reputation?". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2004.
  8. ^ Phillips, Leslie (2006). Hello: The Autobiography. Orion Publishing Group. ISBN 0752868896.
  9. ^ "Tenniel Evens:Taffy Goldstein in 'The Navy Lark'". Independent. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  10. ^ "BAFTA Awards winners and nominees". Bafta.org. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  11. ^ "Back Door Productions". Archived from the original on 29 October 2013.
  12. ^ "Living The Life – Sky Arts". Sky Arts / BSkyB.
  13. ^ a b c Phillips, Lesley (2006). "Hello", The Autobiography. Orion Books Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7528-8178-2.
  14. ^ a b "Angela Scoular obituary". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  15. ^ a b "BBC News – Bond actress Angela Scoular died drinking acid cleaner". Bbc.co.uk. 20 July 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  16. ^ "Daily Telegraph - Leslie Phillips marries third wife at 89". telegraph.co.uk. 22 December 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  17. ^ "Tottenham Hotspur 3 Swansea City 1: Match Report". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg ch ci cj ck "Leslie Phillips". BFI. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  19. ^ "Three Men in a boat". BBC Radio 4 Extra. BBC. Retrieved 3 August 2021.

External linksEdit