Leslie Phillips has died aged 98.
The ‘Carry On’ actor, famed for his catchphrases “Ding Dong” and “I Say” in the films, passed away Monday (07.11.22) after a long illness.
His wife Zara, 63, said: “I've lost a wonderful husband and the public has lost a truly great showman.
“He was quite simply a national treasure. People loved him. He was mobbed everywhere he went.
“When we married he cheekily introduced me to the Press as royalty, insisting I was the new Zara Phillips and that I was related to the Queen.”
Leslie, who recently attracted a new generation of fans as the voice of The Sorting Hat in the ‘Harry Potter’ films, featured in more than 200 films, TV and radio series over his decades-long career.
The accomplished Shakespearean actor had often joked his saucy ‘Carry On’ catchphrases would follow him to the grave, with one of them probably inscribed on his headstone.
He was honoured by Queen Elizabeth with an OBE in 1998 and made a CBE for services to showbusiness 10 years later.
His death leaves Jim Dale, 86, the last surviving regular from the ‘Carry On’ films.
Born Leslie Samuel Phillips in 1924, Leslie was the third child of a working class family, with his dad Fred a factory employee who died age 44 from the fume-filled conditions.
His mum Margaret sent him to the Italia Conte stage school to lose his Cockney accent, with Leslie saying: “All my friends and family were Londoners, real Cockneys. They found it hard to recognise the new me, though my voice has without doubt played an enormous part in my success.”
By 14, he was working in West End plays alongside Hollywood icons including Vivien Leigh and Rex Harrison and two years later made his first film appearance in ‘The Thief of Baghdad’.
He was also a World War II veteran who served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Durham Light Infantry, but was declared unfit for service just before D-Day with an illness that caused partial paralysis.
His love and family lives were marred with tragedy.
Leslie married actress Penelope Bartley in 1948 and they had two sons and two daughters.
After he had an affair with Caroline Mortimer – stepdaughter of ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’ creator John Mortimer – Penny divorced him in 1965, and was killed in a house fire in 1981.
At the time of Penny’s death, Leslie was starring in a play in Australia and did not return to the UK.
The following year he married Bond girl Angela Scoular, and in 1993 more tragedy hit the actor when his mum was mugged at a bus stop by teenagers aged 92.
Several of her bones were broken by the thugs who dragged her along a road and she died a few weeks later.
His sister Doris – who acted as a carer for their mum – never recovered from the shock and died of a stroke six months later.
Then Leslie’s wife Angela took a cocktail of drugs and alcohol to ease her agony from terminal bowel cancer and died in hospital the following day.
He later married Zara Carr after she helped him through the pain of Angela’s death and she once saved his life by getting him quickly into hospital after he suffered a major stroke that left him wheelchair-bound.