Images above: Fenella Fielding on stage and with Paul McCartney
One of Britain’s best know actresses, who lived in Chiswick
There is an exhibition of paintings of Fenella Fielding on show in Earls Court until Sunday 18 December.
The actress who was best known for her parts in Carry On films, despite many years of serious and very successful acting in the theatre, lived in Chiswick for 40 years and died in 2018. She is instantly recognisable by her striking good looks but most of all from her deep, husky, sensual voice.
She met Simon McKay a few years before her death at a west London pilates class. One week when the instructor did not turn up they went for a coffee, which became a regular event. They became friends and eventually he persuaded her to write her memoirs.
“She was quite resistant” Simon told The Chiswick Calendar. They worked on the project for six years.
“It was only when she performed them live, reading the first few chapters at the Phoenix artists club on Charing Cross Rd that she saw the point. The audience loved it. She had them in the palm of her hand and she was hooked.”
The resulting book Do You Mind If I Smoke? and the audio book which she read herself, was published in 2017 on the eve of her 90th birthday and launched in Waterstones and Bookcase London in Chiswick. After she died Simon set up the Fenella Fielding Foundation to celebrate her life and career.
The paintings, on show at 286 Earl’s Court Rd, SW5 9AS, have been created over the past couple of years by five artists using photographs from her long and glamorous career.
Images above: (L) Fionn Wilson’s painting of Fenella as Colette (1970); (R) Cathy Lomax painting, Shadow
Images above: (L) Natalie Dowse, Do You Mind If I Smoke; Jeanette Watkins, A Day with Cecil Beaton, Ready or Not
The exhibition also has posters of some of her photographs from the sixties and seventies, with quotes of her more colourful comments, it has on show one of her wigs and some of her dresses.
Among the quotes:
“I’m not just a hairdo, this dress, this scent. I have another dress, and I may change my scent tomorrow. Don’t ask me what I’m really like, find out for yourself. Look at me, listen to me, sense me. There’s an infinite range of human possibilities, and I’m my own amalgam. Come up and see me sometime.”
And her observation on men, that she could tell immediately, just by the way a man moved, whether he would be a terrific lover or not.
“One knows, my dear, whether’s he’s going to be a Rolls or just a darling runabout. Don’t ask me how.”
Images above: Fenella and her memoir written with Simon McKay
Do You Mind If I Smoke?
Her memoir is also available to buy at the exhibition.
Do You Mind If I Smoke reveals stories from her childhood in east London, with a posh mother and father who hit her, who took her out of drama school after only one year, despite her having received a scholarship, as it was not what they wanted their daughter to do.
She takes us through the early days of her career as an ingénue wising up fast living in Soho and Mayfair, through her successes on stage and in films, always working, doing voiceovers with that fabulous voice of hers, cabaret and revues.
It offers a window on the sixties: Vidal Sasoon, Mary Quant and the photographers. There is a chapter on London tarts and gangsters and another about working with Kenneth Williams. The Carry Ons… not just the ones you know about, but what about the ones she turned down and why?
TV shows; The Avengers, Morecambe & Wise, Groucho Marx!, Dougal & The Blue Cat and much later Skins. The stories are witty and beautifully observed scenes from her life and all told in that unmistakable and ever alluring Fenella Fielding voice.
The exhibition is open on Wednesday from 12-7pm and on Thursday – Sunday from 12-4pm, until Sunday 18 December at 286 Earl’s Court Rd, SW5 9AS
Images above: ‘Call me Fenella’ by Sal Jones; Fenella & Simon by Etienne Gilfillan (2018), Fenella wearing Neil Cunningham Suit, hair & makeup by Darren Evans
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