Charles Hawtrey 1914-1988
Charles Hawtrey 1914-1988: The Man Who Was Private Widdle, by Roger Lewis, is a small masterpiece of biographical investigation, shining a light on the comic genius of the Carry On films.
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This is a small masterpiece of biographical investigation, and fitting testament to a comic genius whose place in British cultural history is now assured. Charles Hawtrey, the skinny one with the granny glasses, was everybody’s favourite in the Carry Ons – but who exactly was he? Up to now the man has remained a mystery.
Examining Hawtrey’s origins as a child star and performer in revue and the Will Hay films, this wonderful little book looks at his career in radio and television, and then to the sad and slow decline of a belligerent recluse on the Kent coast. The high camp exuberance of his acting gave way to bitterness and alcoholism and if you asked Hawtrey for an autograph he’d be more likely to call the police instead.
Roger Lewis’s short life of Hawtrey opens out like a Chinese box to address such issues as the nature of fame, neglect, loss, sexual confusion, Drambuie, betrayal, marine bandsmen, and fine cambric knickers trimmed with lace and blue ribbon. Its moral would seem to be that you don’t necessarily turn out as the person you thought you’d become.
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