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Phillips, Leslie (1924-)


Main image of Phillips, Leslie (1924-)

A debonair light comedy (latterly character) actor with a film career stretching from Lassie from Lancashire (d. John Paddy Carstairs, 1938) to Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (US/UK/Germany/Japan, d. Simon West, 2001). In the period 1959-76 his image was defined in the public imagination: fair-haired, with thin moustache, rakish charm and distinctive leery laugh.

From Italia Conti stage school he made his London debut in 1935, and post-WW2 service had smallish roles in British films, but it was Lt. Pouter in the hit BBC-radio comedy series The Navy Lark in 1958 (filmed 1959, d. Gordon Parry) which made him a star. An expert farceur, he was very busy in British comedy films between 1959 and 1963 - in four Carry Ons, and a foxy replacement for Dirk Bogarde in three Doctor films.

As the good taste and budget of British film comedy declined in the '70s, he was missing from films to be reborn as a character actor in the '80s, playing colonial types in two US productions Out of Africa (d. Sydney Pollack, 1985) and Empire of the Sun (d. Steven Spielberg, 1987), and perfect as Lord Astor in Scandal (d. Michael Caton-Jones, 1989). Busy since in British and US film, stage and TV, specialising in vicars, louche aristocrats and aged roués, always suggesting a rich history, and a notable Falstaff for the RSC (1997). He was awarded the OBE in 1998. His first wife was Penelope Bartley, whose only film was The Big Chance (d. Peter Graham Scott, 1957), his second is Angela Scoular.

Roger Philip Mellor, Encyclopedia of British Film


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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Carry On Constable (1960)Carry On Constable (1960)

Fourth in the series, welcoming Sid James to the team

Thumbnail image of Carry On Nurse (1958)Carry On Nurse (1958)

The second Carry On, with the team beginning to take shape

Thumbnail image of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Second outing for the fantastically popular boy wizard

Thumbnail image of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)

The film that brought J.K. Rowling's boy wizard to the big screen

Thumbnail image of Just My Luck (1957)Just My Luck (1957)

Comedy with Norman Wisdom as a shop assistant who takes up gambling

Thumbnail image of Pool of London (1950)Pool of London (1950)

Two sailors on leave are caught up in a diamond smuggling racket

Thumbnail image of Smallest Show on Earth, The (1957)Smallest Show on Earth, The (1957)

Nostalgic comedy about a couple who inherit a failing cinema

Thumbnail image of Sound Barrier, The (1952)Sound Barrier, The (1952)

Little-known David Lean film about ambition, courage and jet aircraft

Thumbnail image of Agatha Christie's The Pale Horse (1997)Agatha Christie's The Pale Horse (1997)

Unusual Christie adaptation set in 1960s England

Thumbnail image of Trials of Oz, The (1991)Trials of Oz, The (1991)

Dramatisation of the notorious 'Oz' magazine obscenity trial

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