Fenella Fielding

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Fenella Fielding

Fenella Fielding on her 90th Birthday.jpg
Fenella Fielding on her 90th birthday in 2017
Fenella Marion Feldman

(1927-11-17)17 November 1927
Hackney, London, England
Died11 September 2018(2018-09-11) (aged 90)
Hammersmith, London, England
Years active1952–2018
Relatives Basil Feldman, Baron Feldman (brother)
Website http://www.fenellafielding.com/

Fenella Fielding, OBE (17 November 1927 11 September 2018) [1] was an English stage, film and television actress who rose to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s, and was often referred to as "England's first lady of the double entendre". [2] She was known for her seductive image and distinctively husky voice. Fielding appeared in two Carry On films, Carry On Regardless (1961) and Carry On Screaming! (1966). [3]

Order of the British Empire order of chivalry of British constitutional monarchy

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of, the order.

Double entendre

A double entendre is a figure of speech or a particular way of wording that is devised to be understood in two ways, having a double meaning. Typically one of the meanings is obvious, given the context, whereas the other may require more thought. The innuendo may convey a message that would be socially awkward, sexually suggestive, or offensive to state directly.

<i>Carry On Regardless</i> 1961 British comedy film directed by Ralph Thomas and Gerald Thomas

Carry On Regardless was the fifth in the series of Carry On films to be made being released in 1961. The film revolves loosely around the activities of a job agency, 'Helping Hands', run by Sid James' character, Bert Handy. By now a fairly regular team was established with Sid James, Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims and Kenneth Williams all having appeared in previous entries. Hattie Jacques – who was also a regular – makes a cameo appearance during a hospital scene. "Professor" Stanley Unwin appears in a guest role, playing his trademark "gobbledegook" speaking act. This would be the final appearance in the series for early regular Terence Longdon. Liz Fraser makes her debut in Carry On Regardless and would appear in a further three Carry On films.


Early life and education

Fenella Marion Feldman was born on 17 November 1927 [4] in Hackney, London, [5] to a Romanian Jewish mother, Tilly ( née Katz; 1902–1977), and a Lithuanian Jewish father, Philip Feldman. [6] [7]

Metropolitan Borough of Hackney

The Metropolitan Borough of Hackney was a Metropolitan borough of the County of London from 1900 to 1965. Its area became part of the London Borough of Hackney.

Lithuanian Jews Jews with roots in the present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Latvia, northeastern Suwałki and Białystok region of Poland and some border areas of Russia and Ukraine

Lithuanian Jews or Litvaks are Jews with roots in the present-day Lithuania, Belarus, Latvia, northeastern Suwałki and Białystok region of Poland and some border areas of Russia and Ukraine. The term is sometimes used to cover all Orthodox Jews who follow a "Lithuanian" style of life and learning, whatever their ethnic background. The area where Lithuanian Jews lived is referred to in Yiddish as ליטע Lite, hence the Hebrew term Lita'im (לִיטָאִים‎).

She was the younger sister of Basil, later Baron Feldman. She grew up in Lower Clapton and later Edgware where she attended North London Collegiate School. Her father at one time managed a cinema in Silvertown, east London. [2] She later resided in Chiswick, west London.

Basil Samuel Feldman, Baron Feldman is a former Conservative member of the House of Lords. He sat in the House from 1996 until his retirement in 2017.

Lower Clapton district of East London in the London Borough of Hackney, London, England

Lower Clapton is a district of East London in the London Borough of Hackney, lying immediately north of Hackney Central, the borough's administrative and retail centre.

Edgware district of north London, in the London Borough of Barnet

Edgware is a district of northern Greater London, in the London Borough of Barnet. Edgware is centred 9.5 miles (15.3 km) north-northwest of Charing Cross and has its own commercial centre. Edgware has a generally suburban character, typical of the rural-urban fringe. It was an ancient parish in the county of Middlesex. The community benefits from some elevated woodland on a high ridge marking the Hertfordshire border of gravel and sand. Edgware is identified in the London Plan as one of the capital's 35 major centres. Edgware is principally a shopping and residential area and one of the northern termini of the Northern line. It has a bus garage, a shopping centre called the Broadwalk, a library, a hospital—Edgware Community Hospital, and two streams—Edgware Brook and Deans Brook, both tributaries of a small brook known as Silk Stream, which in turn merges with the River Brent at Brent Reservoir.


Fielding began her acting career in 1952, concentrating on stage productions. She was given her first break when she accompanied the then unknown actor Ron Moody to an audition (they had met in an amateur production at the London School of Economics). Her performance in Sandy Wilson's musical version of Valmouth made her a star in 1958. By 1959 she was appearing with Kenneth Williams in the comedy revue Pieces of Eight , written by Harold Pinter and Peter Cook. [2] Fielding also guested in the Hancock's Half Hour episode "The Poetry Society" broadcast in December 1959. [8]

Ron Moody British actor

Ron Moody was an English actor, singer, composer and writer best known for his portrayal of Fagin in Oliver! (1968) and its 1983 Broadway revival. Moody earned a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination for the film, as well as a Tony Award nomination for the stage production. Other notable projects include The Mouse on the Moon (1963), Mel Brooks's The Twelve Chairs (1970) and Flight of the Doves (1971), in which Moody shared the screen with Oliver! co-star Jack Wild.

London School of Economics public research university in London, United Kingdom

The London School of Economics is a public research university located in London, England, and a constituent college of the federal University of London. Founded in 1895 by Fabian Society members Sidney Webb, Beatrice Webb, Graham Wallas, and George Bernard Shaw for the betterment of society, LSE joined the University of London in 1900 and established its first degree courses under the auspices of the University in 1901. The LSE started awarding its own degrees in 2008, prior to which it awarded degrees of the University of London.

Alexander Galbraith "Sandy" Wilson was an English composer and lyricist, best known for his musical The Boy Friend (1953).

Fielding starred in her own television programme Izeena (1966). [9] She had occasional guest appearances in television programmes such as The Avengers [10] (after being passed over as Patrick Macnee's regular partner in favour of Honor Blackman) [11] and in Danger Man . [12] She appeared in four episodes of Morecambe and Wise Show between 1969 and 1972. [9] She was in two of the Carry On films, the second was her role as the vampish Valeria in Carry On Screaming! (1966), and three of the Doctor films (including Doctor in Clover ). [13] She interspersed these with performances in plays by Ibsen, Shakespeare and Henry James, reputedly keeping an edition of Plato's writings by her bed. [2] Other theatre credits around this time included Sheridan and Chekhov. [9] In 1977 she appeared on BBC TV's long running show, The Good Old Days performing riotously, 'Only a glass of champagne' and 'How'd you like to spoon with me', in her own unique and totally inimitable manner. [14]

<i>The Avengers</i> (TV series) espionage British television series created in the 1960s

The Avengers is an espionage British television series created in 1961. It initially focused on Dr. David Keel, aided by John Steed. Hendry left after the first series; Steed then became the main character, partnered by a succession of assistants. His most famous assistants were intelligent, stylish and assertive women: Cathy Gale, Emma Peel and Tara King. The series ran from 1961 until 1969, screening as one-hour episodes for its entire run. The pilot episode, "Hot Snow", aired on 7 January 1961. The final episode, "Bizarre", aired on 21 April 1969 in the United States, and on 21 May 1969 in the United Kingdom.

Patrick Macnee English-American actor

Daniel Patrick Macnee was a British film and television actor. He was best known for his role as the secret agent John Steed in the British television series The Avengers.

Honor Blackman English actress

Honor Blackman is an English actress, widely known for the roles of Cathy Gale in The Avengers (1962–64), Bond girl Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964), Julia Daggett in Shalako (1968) and Hera in Jason and the Argonauts (1963). She is also notable for her role as Laura West in the ITV sitcom The Upper Hand (1990–1996).

Fielding was the uncredited Village announcer in The Prisoner (1967–68), and co-starred with Tom Poston and Robert Morley in the remake of The Old Dark House (1963).[ citation needed ] In Dougal and the Blue Cat , based on The Magic Roundabout , she voiced the character of the Blue Voice—referred to as "Madam" by both Buxton (the blue cat of the title) and Dougal at various stages throughout the film. [15]

The Village (<i>The Prisoner</i>)

The Village is the fictional setting of the 1960s UK television series The Prisoner where the main character, Number Six, is held with other former spies and operatives. The theme of the series is his captors' attempts to find out why Number Six resigned from his job and his attempts to escape from the Village and learn the identity of Number One. Beyond its explicit physical setting, the Village is also viewed as an allegory for humanity and society during the Cold War era. Patrick McGoohan notes that the Village is "within all of us...we all live in a little Village...Your village may be different from other people's villages but we are all prisoners."

<i>The Prisoner</i> British television series

The Prisoner is a 1967 British science fiction-allegorical television series about an unidentified British intelligence agent who is abducted and imprisoned in a mysterious coastal village, where his captors try to find out why he abruptly resigned from his job. It was created by Patrick McGoohan and George Markstein with McGoohan playing the main role of Number Six. Episodes covered various plots from spy fiction with elements of science fiction, allegory and psychological drama. It was produced by Everyman Films for distribution by Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment company.

Tom Poston American actor

Thomas Gordon Poston was an American television and film actor. He starred on television in a career that began in 1950. He appeared as a comic actor, game show panelist, comedy/variety show host, film actor, television actor, and Broadway performer.

In the late 1960s, she was approached by Federico Fellini to work on one of his films, but turned the work down because she was already booked to perform on stage at the Chichester Festival Theatre. [2]

Fielding also starred in the children's television series Uncle Jack from 1990-1993 as the notorious villainess, The Vixen. In 1999, Fielding starred in Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson's film Guest House Paradiso . She toured in a production of Lady Windermere's Fan the same year. [9] In 2011, Fielding appeared at the Jermyn Street Theatre, London in an English Chamber Theatre presentation of Jane McCulloch's Dearest Nancy, Darling Evelyn, the dramatised letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh. [13]

From 2012, Fielding performed readings of English translations of Greek classics by David Stuttard. Her partners for this were Simon Russell Beale and later Stephen Greif. Her autobiography [16] was published in both audio and book form in 2017 and led to a number of appearances on stage reading extracts from it in places such as London, Liverpool and Newcastle. [6] Fielding was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2018 Birthday Honours for services to drama and charity. [17]

Voice work

Fielding voiced 'MOOD', the quirky supercomputer in the video game Martian Gothic in a script written by science fiction author Stephen Marley. Since 2000 she has been recorded with Savoy, a book publishing and recording company. Her work with them includes readings of Colette, J.G. Ballard's Crash and T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets . She made an album of cover songs including Robbie Williams's "Angels", Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out of My Head", New Order's "Blue Monday" and the White Stripes' "Passive Manipulation". [2] In 2006, she toured Ireland in The Vagina Monologues . [2] She provided the voice to two tracks on the Graham Roos album Quest. [18] In the following years, Fielding was a regular guest contributor on BBC Radio 4's PM and Broadcasting House. [9]

Critical reception

A 2007 article in The Independent remarked that it was "one of the mysteries of British life that Fenella Fielding, whose wit and distinctive stage presence captivated figures such as Kenneth Tynan, Noël Coward and Federico Fellini, should have drifted into obscurity rather than being celebrated", and the same article quotes The Times as saying that Fielding's performance as Hedda Gabler was "one of the experiences of a lifetime". [2] A 2017 article in The Guardian highlighted a career "renaissance in recent years" and describes Fielding as a phenomenal storyteller. "She reminds me of the great raconteur Quentin Crisp – the same love of language, mastery of its rhythms, perfectly formed sentences, and a joie de vivre even when relating her profound despair." [6]

In contemporary culture

People Are Very Free With Their Bad Advice... Metafenella, screen capture, 2014 Screen capture of metaFenella, a digital work of public art by Martin Firrell 2014.jpg
People Are Very Free With Their Bad Advice... Metafenella, screen capture, 2014

Fielding is the subject of MetaFenella, a contemporary public artwork by artist Martin Firrell. [19]


Fielding suffered a stroke on 25 August 2018 and died two weeks later at Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith, on 11 September 2018, aged 90. [20] She never married or had children. [21]

Selected filmography

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