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Charles Hawtrey 1914-1988: The Man Who Was Private Widdle Paperback – 7 Oct 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (7 Oct. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571210899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571210893
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 292,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

(a) brilliant little biography. -- The Stage, May 2002

(a) pungent, opinionated and brilliantly intuitive biography of the saddest act in the history of British cinema. -- New Statesman, September 2001

Lewis evokes Hawtrey’s weird by wholly joyful persona in a monograph worthy of Ken Tynan. -- Spectator, November 2001

Roger Lewis’s small but perfectly formed biography. . . like its subject, Lewis’s book may be slim but it packs a surprising amount between its covers. -- Evening Standard, November 2001

this brief book rewards reading. -- Observer, November 2001

Book Description

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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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

127 of 132 people found the following review helpful By Charles Midden on 3 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
Oh dear oh dear! How did this hastily assembled collection of notes and off topic ramblings by a hack author make it into a hardback book? A poorly researched and condescending appreciation of an actor with over sixty years of cinema work to his name, who surely deserved a lot better from his first major biography than this slim and poorly written polemic pamphlet. Lewis is a sneering and haughtily superior writer who casts his snickering scorn and disdain on Hawtrey's career and mocks all his major achievements and those of his contemporaries. Will Hay and the Carry Ons, milestones in British comedy as well as Hawtrey's life, are laughingly brushed aside with a kind of offhand snobbish attitude. I honestly believe most people would learn more about Hawtrey from conducting their own research rather than raking over the half baked nonsense and pointless suppositions that Lewis regurgitates endlessly, including a frankly sickening dialogue which reimagines Hawtrey as Peter Pan. Lacking narrative, coherence, a point and attempt at an engaging style, this is a unilluminating and patronising tome that insults both the memory of a great comic actor and the intelligence of his fans. Avoid at all costs unless you are a masochistic Carry On completist. This book treats the reader and its subject with utter scorn.
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77 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Toby Howard on 31 Dec. 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I tried to like this book -- I really did. I've been a fan of Hawtrey for 30 years and I really wanted to find out about the man behind the twitchy, sadly under-used, Carry-On "Oh Hello" character, and about his previous career on stage and film. So, I tried to like this book -- I really did.

I couldn't like it one bit.

Why? Because on almost every page we get the opinions and suppositions of the author written large, and proper biography of his subject written small. This is a terrible shame, and a terrible waste of ink, paper and publishing. I am interested in Charles Hawtrey, NOT his biographer's outlook on the world, and his opinions on British comedy.

It was actually terrible timing, because I happened to read this shabby book immediately after reading Graham McCann's SUPERB biography of Frankie Howerd, which is a model of good, authoritative biography of a 20th Century British comedian. McCann worships Howerd, which of course has coloured his biography, but you don't care because McCann has invested a huge amount of care and reserach in his book, and it really shows. Roger Lewis, on the other hand, in his slim, thin, unsatisfying biography of Charles Hawtrey, has not. (To make matters worse, in "Hawtrey", Roger Lewis makes references to Frankie Howerd that go no deeper than Frankie's catchphrases -- indicating, at least to me, that Mr Lewis really has no clue at all about character and talent, except perhaps an exaggerated view of his own).

Mr Lewis is often lacking in taste.
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89 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Freddie Valentine on 30 April 2005
Format: Paperback
A missed opportunity. This book is more about the author than about the life and career of Charles Hawtrey.
If you want to find out more about the eccentric life of the mysterious Hawtrey you will be fed a few scraps of information tucked within what Lewis thinks of the Carry On's, what Lewis thinks of Kenneth Williams, what Lewis thinks of Kenneth Connor, diversions into far less interesting subjects and ridiculous Peter Pan analogies.
It reads more like a pretentious student thesis rather than an informative biog and the amount of research is minimal.
For instance, one of Hawtrey's last TV appearances was in the series Supergran and this is just mentioned in a footnote and Lewis had never hard of the programme, named the wrong actress who played her and didn't even bother to get a copy of the show to watch. Considering how reclusive and obstinate Hawtrey was in the 80's it would be interesing to hear how this appearance came about and what he was like to work with during the filming of it.
Lewis didn't bother finding out.
In fact, he shouldn't have bothered at all really.
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful By "joncollyns2" on 27 Feb. 2003
Format: Paperback
The author of the inpenetrable and cumbersome Life and Death of Peter Sellers brings us this work on the much-recognised but little understood figure of Charles Hawtrey.
And it is awful. Really awful. What precious little new facts and slants Lewis gives is totally outweighed by his ridiculous observations (Hawtrey was a proper actor whilst Kenneth Williams always played himself - the other way round surely?) and his irrelevant prejudices and viewpoints. He also draws a most laborious and inaccurate similie between the Carry On stars and Peter Pan, which appears to be concocted for the sole reason of comparing Hawtrey to the childlike Pan. Sid James as the Crocodile? Bernard Bresslaw as Captain Hook? Laughable.
For anyone who wants to know about Hawtrey and Hawtrey solely, then unfortunately this is the book for you - there are no other choices. But if you want to know more about the Carry On films generally and the stars who featured in them then you would do much better to consult Robert Ross' superb Carry On Companion. Written by an author who actually understands and appreciates his subject, it provides many more anecdotes and facts than this poor excuse for a work.
Rather like Hawtrey himself, this book is sad and rather pathetic.
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