Leslie Phillips

Leslie Phillips

Date of birth: 20-04-1924

A much-lived comedy actor known for his rakishly debonaie characters – and catchphrase 'I say, ding-dong!' – Phillips was actually born into abject poverty in Tottenham, North London. His father Frederick worked at a cooker factory, where the polluted air led to a weak heart and dropsy, and he died at the age of 44.

His mother Cecelia sent him to the Italia Conti stage school to receive elocution lessons to lose his London accent. It paid off, as he made his West End debut in Peter Pan at age 11 and by the age of 14 was the family's main breadwinner, saving his mother from squalor.

After National Service with the Royal Artillery and Durham Light Infantry, he embarked on the regional theatre circuit, where he developed as a character actor. His break came in the hugely popular BBC radio comedy series The Navy Lark in 1959 , where he played the navigating officer Sub Lieutenant Phillips. It ran for 244 episodes over 18 years.

He was a stalwart of British comedy films of the early Sixties, including three Carry Ons (as well as the 1992 revival Carry on Columbus), and three Doctor films, where his catchphrase was formed.

As British film comedy dwindled, he turned to straight roles in films such as Out of Africa, Empire of the Sun and Scandal . In later years, he has made cameos in various comedies and dramas, ranging from the Lara Croft movie to Heartbeat. His screen credits now run to more than 150 films and TV shows.

He was awarded the OBE in 1998, and the CBE ten years later.

Phillips has four children from actress Penelope Bartley , who he married in 1948, but they split in the Sixties after his affair with actress Caroline Mortimer, stepdaughter of Sir John. He married his second wife Angela Scoular, 22 years his junior, in 1982.

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