September 12, 2018 4:58 am
September 12, 2018 4:58 am
Actress Fenella Fielding Dies, Aged 90

She might have been best known for her work in the theatre, but Fenella Fielding made an indelible, incandescent impact on screens big and small. Fielding has died at the age of 90.

Born Fenella Marion Feldman in London in 1927, she grew up the daughter of a tough Lithuanian father and a Romanian mother, and had an early exposure to performance via her father running a cinema for a time. She channelled her interest into ballet lessons and delighted in performing at the annual end of year show. Her attendance at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art was scuppered by her mother, who would show up to loudly bemoan the sort of people her daughter was associating with, and the funding for her course was withdrawn. Sad.

Several years later, she was performing in an amateur production at the London School of Economics alongside Ron Moody, and attended auditions, convincing producers and directors she was younger than her true age and embracing the chance to appear in comedy revues. Her work in the musical Valmouth in the late 1950s helped her on the path to stage stardom, and she would go on to appear in all manner of productions, both comedic and dramatic. In her time on the stage, Fielding – she changed her name to help launch her career — worked alongside the likes of Ian McKellen and Kennth Williams.

Screen-wise, she found some success, scoring guest roles in shows such as The Avengers (having lost one of the lead credits to Honor Blackman), The Prisoner (she was the uncredited voice of the village) and starred in her own series, Izeena. And though she was offered plenty of film work, she even turned down Federico Fellini in order to act in a local theatre production.

Still, she made an impression for one role in particular, as the sultry Valeria in Carry On Screaming, something she initially regretted when it hindered her career, but named her biography Do You Mind If I Smoke? after one of her most famous lines from it. Other films included several of the Doctor series, Follow A Star, Guest House Paradiso and Carry On Regardless.

Fielding struggled in life too, at one point scammed by a manager which left her temporarily homeless and claiming benefits. Through it all, though, she continued to impress in theatre and found other jobs, putting that famous voice to work.

“It’s hard to imagine, but that bright twinkling star faded slowly and has actually gone out. Since her stroke on 25 August, Fenella has been in hospital where she remained calm, comfortable and divine throughout,’ reads a statement from her biographer and friend, Simon McKay. “It’s been an incredibly sad time, but also life affirming to see her pass with the great dignity she deserved. To quote Fenella’s GP, ‘I have known her for 30 years and she would wish to take a graceful bow and leave the stage like the lady she is.’ She did just that. Fenella Fielding OBE passed away this afternoon peacefully. She died with her eyelashes on!”

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