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Do You Think That's Wise....?: The Life of John Le Mesurier [Illustrated] [Hardcover]

Graham McCann
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
Price: 18.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

25 Sep 2010

As Sergeant Wilson in Dad’s Army John Le Mesurier was the epitome of insouciance
and languor. Cuffs undone, a half smile on his lips, oozing charm for the ladies – to the pompous bantam cock that was Captain Mainwaring everything about his deputy spoke lounge lizard rather than soldier.

The real life of John Le Mesurier, as this authorised and definitive biography shows, was rather more complicated. To some extent Sergeant Wilson was indeed Le Mesurier playing himself – a man who prioritised a thorough perusal of the Racing Post in the morning before buckling down to rehearsals; who once sweet-talked a make-up girl into taking his watch off his wrist, winding it up for him, and tenderly putting it back on; from whom his friends would receive an early-evening phone call at witching hour consisting merely of a murmured, ‘Playtime…?’

But while his acting career, ranging from I’m All Right, Jack to Brideshead Revisited, found a glorious and sustained Indian summer in the greatest situation comedy British television has ever produced, in his private life this mild, quietly-spoken, decent man was plagued by turmoil and heartbreak. Married three times, he saw his first wife succumb to alcoholism, his second – the comedy diva Hattie Jacques – move her lover into the family home, and his third (though devotedly caring for him to the end of his life) enjoy a passionate dalliance with his former screen colleague Tony Hancock.

Ultimately, as this sympathetic and moving book shows, John Le Mesurier was a far more courageous, profound and admirable man than Sergeant Wilson was ever meant to be, and is immortalised in the ubiquitous repeats of Dad’s Army.

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Do You Think That's Wise....?: The Life of John Le Mesurier + Hattie: The Authorised Biography of Hattie Jacques
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd (25 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845135830
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845135836
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 148,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


...a worthy tribute to a modest, much-loved, much-missed actor and will greatly please his legions of fans. --The Magazine

`The author produces a fully rounded picture of Le Mez' March 2011
--This England

About the Author

Graham McCann is the bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Do You Think That’s Wise?: The Life of John Le Mesurier, Bounder! The Biography of Terry-Thomas, Dad’s Army, Fawlty Towers, Morecambe and Wise and Only Fools and Horses.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Charming Book About A Charming Man. 27 Nov 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
John "Le Mez" will always be Sergeant Wilson in my eyes. I had an idea of the sadness he suffered during his life, particularly his marriages but this book filled in a lot of gaps for me. As always with this author the book was very well written, and whilst there were obvious references to earlier works this was essential to give the overall picture of a quite complicated life. What is obvious is the poor light both Le Mesuriers' last two wives are shown in. Hard to believe of Hattie Jaques but there again much of it was covered up so it did not affect her career and I sometimes think poor "Le Mez" was treated like a doormat. Still this all went to shape the actor who was Sergeant Wilson in Dad's Army who was a perfect foil to Arthur Lowe's Captain Mainwaring. It was such a great shame both men had relatively short lives, Lowe died at 66 and Le Mesurier at 71. Thank goodness for DVD and the fact we can still enjoy them at the height of their fame. A lovely book, well worth a read.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous! 28 Nov 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this for my Mum for Christmas, but could not resist reading it first!!! It seemed very well researched and was written in a style that made it hard to put down. Sergeant Wilson has always been my favourite character in Dad's Army (although they are all good in their own way) and I loved the reason behind casting John Le Mesurier for this part "because he suffers so well"!

Do you think that's wise tells John's privileged beginnings and highlights that wealth does not necessarily bring happiness. It is also a thorough narrative on significant people in his life - the tragically sad Tony Hancock, the much loved but troubled Hattie Jacques, his almost parallel dynamics with Arthur Lowe in real life as in the Mainwaring/Wilson dyad and his remarkable strength of character to bounce back from whatever life had to throw at him. It also describes in detail the somewhat mischevious facet of his personality to endearing effect.

A terrific read and hope you enjoy it as much as I did Mum!.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Third Time Lucky 9 Feb 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Just like John Le Mesurier's career, his biography takes a long time to get going, before taking you into the warm embrace of the Dad's Army years, the pinnacle of John's languid life. Getting there involves a long march through a mundane family history before the drama comes in along with the famous names, particularly Hattie Jaques and Tony Hancock. The author is keen to stress what a great actor JLM might have been, given the right job offers (he won a BAFTA in the early seventies for a rare serious role), but the evidence here suggests that John was always happy to avoid challenges and confrontation, not only in his acting, but also in his not-so-private life as his first wife betrayed him for drink, his second (Hattie) betrayed him with a car dealer and then his third wife Joan betrayed him with Hancock.
John absorbs all this hurt with apparent acceptance and forgiveness, managing to stay friends with his first two spouses, and winning back the third. It's only when he achieves some domestic stability that he manages to find the role of Sergeant Wilson that was apparently made for him. The depiction of the cast, crew and making of Dad's Army is what gives this biography its real appeal and sets up the gradual encroachment of death into the story, firstly with the various DA cast members and then John himself leaving his distraught family to raise a smile at his self-penned expiry notice in the paper saying that he'd "conked-out'.
By then, he'd become part of all our furniture and seems to have starred in just about every post-war British black and white comedy film. Maybe it's that, and the tragic early death of one of his sons, that makes the ending so sad. An amazing story that is (eventually) beautifully told.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kindle edition. 1 Jan 2014
By Ghost
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A well written but sad book on La Mez. His tragic attachments to women are heart rending. Gentle English eccentric who sadly is no more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW 30 April 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
one of the best books i've ever read, what a wonderful man and a wonderful journey of a book well organized to encompass as much as possible, about his life both private and work life. Brilliant!!!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Poor start to book but then very good 27 Mar 2014
By Igor
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Too much ancestor and cousin once removed stuff at start but, after that wordy detail, Le Mesurier's fascinating character comes through nicely. Unlike a paperback you aren't necessarily aware that the pictures are at the back & it would have been nice if they could have been interspersed to the relevant part of book. Also would have preferred his age to be stated more often and at the start of each of the major events of his life. But it is well written and encourages further empathy towards the actor. Difficult to put down once the story got going.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Another Graham McCann triumph. He captures the essence of Le Mez and you could almost think he was there when it all happened. Having already done a very good biography of Dad's Army he manages to do another section on the show without resorting to recycling his previous book.
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I enjoyed this book as it was about John Le Mesurier,the man, the husband, the son in fact all aspects that contributed to make John Le Mesurier the person he was. I am not a great student of the theatre, cinema or television, so I was grateful that there was not a blow by blow account of every performance he appeared in, and critical reviews of his performances. I suppose it helps that I have watched Dads Army, and can recognise the laid back character of Sergeant Wilson in the man. He was much put upon by two wife's, and he must have been a very stoical character to allow that to happens. He comes out of the biography as a decent man and was the closest actor to play roLes in a non-theatrical what you saw was what he was.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
To be fair I have yet to get round to reading this book. It arrived on time in good condition and as described. Read more
Published 6 months ago by gagetman
4.0 out of 5 stars Do You Think That's Wise?: The Life of John Le Mesurier
Interesting book and well written as ever by Graham McCann. Recommended for anyone interested in finding out more about Dad's Army in particular but also gives a bit of social... Read more
Published 12 months ago by R. NEIL
4.0 out of 5 stars A Sad Life
I have now finished this book by Graham McCann. I agree with a previous reviewer that there are some details which are either well known anyway or re-cycled but there is still... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars i good insight into being an entertainer
i ejoyed this book very much. john was a very special person both in real life and in his chosend profession.
Published 14 months ago by Miss Linda M. Hodson
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read
A very good read about a fascinating man. In real life he is just like his character in 'Dads Army
Published 22 months ago by J. Green
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Impressed
I am a huge Dad's Army fan and having just read Arthur Lowe's biography could not resist reading John Le Mesurier's. Do You Think That's Wise? was my first Amazon Kindle book. Read more
Published on 10 Aug 2011 by David
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Book
This is the only book about John Le Mesurier that I have read and it is totally all about him right from the beginning.
From when he was born and about his parents etc. Read more
Published on 27 July 2011 by Mr. T. Beachem
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and written with warmth
This is an excellent biography of one of Britain's best known faces and character actors of the post war period. Read more
Published on 24 May 2011 by Stephen Croft
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