Seen on the Green
Famous Faces From Chingford
by Thom Goddard
This Month: Leslie Phillips
There aren't many people who grew up in Chingford in the 1930s with upper class accents so refined that during Army recruitment in the Second World War were conscripted and immediately promoted to Officer Training. But then again, there aren't many people like Chingford old boy Leslie Phillips.
Contrary to his public persona, Leslie Phillips CBE was born in poverty with a natural cockney accent on 20th April 1924. Samuel Phillips, Leslie's father, worked for Thomas Glover, once called the most hated man in Britain for inventing the gas meter, and died when Leslie was young. The Phillips family lived in Middleton Avenue, Chingford where Leslie's mother worked a seamstress and the young boy attended Larkswood Primary School. The school put on many plays and it was here he caught the acting bug. The famous silver tongue was also evident at Larkswood Primary when he talked his way out of being caned for stealing plants.
Leslie Phillips' mother, Cecelia, saw his acting potential and took him to meet the drama diva Italia Conti. Miss Conti was so impressed by the young boy's rendition of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar that she allowed Leslie to join the now famous stage academy for free. Although still growing up in Chingford, Phillips' elocution lessons removed any hint of a London accent and by the age of 14 he was treading the boards in the West End and in his first feature film at Pinewood Studios. In fact, Leslie Phillips remains the only actor alive today to perform at Pinewood Film Studios the week it opened.
The Second World War took Leslie Phillips away from Chingford and he was, indeed, promoted to Officer Training just because of his posh accent. After the war, he continued as an actor. The 'Carry On' film series created Leslie's cad persona when in the 1959 motion picture 'Carry On Nurse' he asked Shirley Eaton her name, she replied "Why, Nurse Bell, sir" and Phillips' quipped "Ding Dong. Carry on...". But the 3 Carry On films in which he starred are just a small part of a career that has spanned 132 motion picture appearances, BAFTA Award nominations, an OBE and then CBE for services to drama, and starring roles with Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich and Christian Bale.
Leslie Phillips' Chingford connection has never waned. He would often spend time with his mother Cecelia in Chingford, revisited Larkswood Primary in 2007 to reopen the renovated school and even in the 1963 film 'The Fast Lady' Leslie had to outwit Charles Chingford to win the heart of Chingford's daughter. Leslie Phillips stealing Chingford's heart? Ding Dong! So keep a look out for anyone you meet in the Mount or have seen on the Green!
If you spot anyone contact: email@example.com