Leslie Phillips

Leslie Samuel Phillips CBE (born 20 April 1924) is an English actor known for his work in the Carry On, Doctor in the House, and Harry Potter film series.

Leslie Phillips

Phillips at the Orange British Academy Film Awards in February 2007
Leslie Samuel Phillips

(1924-04-20) 20 April 1924
OccupationActor, voice-over artist, author
Years active1934[1]–2013
Notable work
See below
Spouse(s)Penelope Bartley (m. 1948–1965) (divorced)
Angela Scoular (m. 1982–2011) (her death)
Zara Carr (m. 2013)

Early life

Phillips was born in Tottenham, Middlesex, 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 work

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 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 "Hello", 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.

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]

Later work

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), halongside 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.

Personal life

Phillips married his first wife, actress Penelope Bartley, on 30 May 1948.[13] They had four children.[6]

In 1962, Phillips started a romantic relationship with actress Caroline Mortimer, 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 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 had died in a fire. Phillips elected to continue in the production and not 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 and took her own life.[15] Phillips was too ill to attend the inquest into Scoular's death three months later.[15]

On 20 December 2013 Phillips married Zara Carr, 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]




Video games


  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. "Happy 95th Birthday to Leslie Phillips". The Oldie. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  6. "CBE for Carry On actor Phillips". BBC News. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  7. "With my repuation?". 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. Phillips, Lesley (2006). "Hello", The Autobiography. Orion Books Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7528-8178-2.
  14. "Angela Scoular obituary". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  15. "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. "Leslie Phillips". BFI. Retrieved 22 April 2019.

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