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on 20 May 2010
The title of this book is rather ironic as it was forever his fate that upon his appearance on the the television sets and cinemas of this Country, Charles Hawtrey's presence would be met by someone in the audience saying, "It's him, what's his name? The fella' with the funny glasses!"

What this book draws out is how much Hawtrey wanted to be recognised as so much more, an actor, nay thespian, who would garner the same respect as Guinness or Gielgud. Hawtrey's bad luck was to be born with the Peter Pan quality of always looking like a school boy, and having the general 'weedy' demeanour that the Carry On films would take to their bosom and ultimately suffocate through typecasting.

This book does a great effort in bringing to life - or misery - the peculiar, weird and downright tragic life of a comedy genius. That he was quite megalomaniac right from the off in demanding top billing, even in his early days of radio broadcasting, supports the general view that has been held that Hawtrey was ultimately dropped from the Carry On series because his demands of top billing were getting more and more strident. Indeed, one thing that does come out is that Hawtrey never learnt when to keep quiet and not rock the boat, this was at a high cost to his career as many people in the 'business' grew tired of such behaviour, or were weary of hiring him.

Hawtrey's life is therefore revealed in all its many guises, from the early years detailing his many begging letters to the BBC, to the final years when we get to see the glorious pictures of a dishevelled Hawtrey (minus toupee) outside his burning house in Kent having just been rescued from certain death after a rent boy he was entertaining decided to ignite the abode because of some argument over payment.

In a way this book is the perfect complement to Mr Butter's previous biography on Kenneth Williams. Both were similar men in many ways, although Hawtrey was never the Pied Piper that Williams used to be on Carry On sets, both were to an extent coloured far too much by their mothers and it was the fate of these two giants of post-war British comedy to end up being celebrated - and forever ingrained on our conscience - for a film series they both hated artistically.
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on 13 September 2010
The first in-depth biography of Charles Hawtrey, this book has everything you'll want to know about the Carry On legend.

Not many people know he was a boy soprano and acted in movies since the silent days. He worked with Will Hay and had a distinguished career on BBC radio and the pre-war London stage.

But the Carry On films, though his greatest achievement, typecast him heavily and made him increasingly bitter, mainly because of disputes over billing and low wages.

In his personal life, he was ashamed of his working-class roots, looked after increasingly senile mother and, after her death and his dismissal from the Carry Ons for unrealibility, lived out the rest of his days as a drunken and unsociable mess in Deal.

A very good book but a very sad story about the man who'd only have to appear in a Carry On and utter "Ooh, hello!" to made the audiences who adord him laugh.
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on 31 August 2013
An odd title for the book, seeing as Charles Hawtrey is one of the familiar and well loved stars of the Carry Ons - a better title would have been "Charles Hawtrey - Oh Hello!".

This is an extremely well researched and well written book, written by an author who appreciates, understands and has such a feel for his subject; but who never flinches from showing us the most unpleasant sides to Mr Hawtrey's character. On screen, Mr Hawtrey was a delight, gleefully flitting about with a mischievous wit and naughty élan few could ever approach. Off screen, we learn of the darkness, the loneliness, the demons and of how he was often far from a delight. This biography is by no means a dish the dirt biography, it is just that it does not attempt a whitewash. It is a touching, sad story of a man who gave such much to entertain others and was so loved, yet whose story was in so many ways so tragic. A man who was frequently hard to love, but who had love in his heart - the part covering the death of his little cat illustrates this.

For anyone who is a fan of the Carry Ons; those joyous unashamed pleasures, (and how could you not be?) this is an indispensable work. It is superb, filled with insight, information, sadness and laughter. Even if you were not a fan of the Carry Ons, this is a very well written account of a very complex and interesting man. We learn so much and gain such insight into the life and character of Mr Hawtrey, this is an illuminating work and one to be heartily recommended.

Now Mr Butters should write about Sid James.
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on 22 May 2010
Wes Butters proved his pedigree as a biographer with the excellent Kenneth Williams Unseen, but he really steps into top gear with this brilliant book about the enigmatic Charles Hawtrey. Hawtrey has been surrounded by myth and half truths simply due to the failure of the man himself to provide any real information in the public domain into his life. Butters counters this by talking to Hawtrey's small inner circle of friends and relatives as well as those who worked with him. A picture emerges of a man who failed to realise his own worth, not content with any form of shared billing, Hawtrey set about alienating co-stars and more importantly producers and directors. His slow decline into a world of secluded alcoholism is not unique, but still sad. Butters however imbues the book with such respect and admiration for the subject that we don't end up disliking the man, which is quite a skill as a writer given a lot of the excesses that are detailed so starkly by those who witnessed them. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. BUY IT, you won't be disappointed and the cover price is worth the rare array of photographs alone. Truly a masterful piece of writing and research.
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I personally love reading about the lives of past and present comedy stars and as the author acknowledges, Charles Hawtrey's face is known to many, but his name may not be. Apparently, during his lifetime many biographies were truncated, sometimes by the author, but most often, but the subject himself. It's a substantial hardback book, full of interesting photocopies, pictures, hand-written notes and quite frankly, a goldmine for any comedy aficionado. I really liked the author's approach.

It's quite a sad story in many ways and incredibly moving; reminiscent of the 'sad clown' personality type. The former boy soprano followed a humdrum career in entertainment, which later led to many a starring role in the 'Carry On' series of films. Unfortunately, Hawtrey's close relationship with both his mother and the demon drink was his undoing and soured much of his later career. He seemed a very difficult individual to work with, which is a huge issue if you're part of a comedy repertory group such as the 'Carry On' gang.

His later years and death in the Kent seaside town of Deal are pithily told. Hawtrey slipped into a series of drunken escapades (some of whom are hilariously told) and ended up drinking himself to death in obscurity.

I will now check out the author, Wes Butters' other books.
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on 12 August 2010
This book is not a substantial biography by any means - it reads more like the folder for a radio profile that's been handed over to someone to re-hash as a book. I'm not trying to be mean to the author, who is clearly a fan and has obviously gone to some trouble to collect plenty of cuttings and, more importantly, conduct plenty of interviews, but there's no real analysis or reflection. It's a 'bright and breezy' survey of opinions, with quite a few amusing and/or disturbing anecdotes about the actor's off-stage antics. If you know little about Hawtrey, you'll benefit from reading this. If you want to know a great deal more about what made him tick, this will leave you dissatisfied.
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on 13 August 2010
I have been waiting to read this book for years. I once tried my hand at writing Hawtrey's biography but it came to nothing, mainly because it was too hard to find any new information. Butters is right when he says Hawtrey was "too secretive, reliably erratic and utterly disinterested in leaving any accurate account of his life" (p.242). When the Roger Lewis biography was announced I was incredibly excited and went to Waterstones the morning of its release. Well, like most, I thought it was some kind of joke. Even my crude attempt out-researched his. As far as I am concerned this is a definitive biography and can well believe it took Butters years to write.

Like his previous book, Kenneth Williams Unseen, Whatshisname allows those who knew Hawtrey to tell his story. This is a refreshing and somewhat unique style which I suspect has been born out of the author's background in radio. I've read it three times now - in fact it's here with me now - and every page has an interesting fact, anecdote, insight, from either Butters or the interviewee. (I'm still laughing about him exploding a can of baked beans!) It's incredibly easy to read; you can dip in and out of it. Most importantly, I think, it gives us as firsthand account as possible of Hawtrey's life and social circle. These interviews tell us so much about Hawtrey's psyche and personality. Comparing it to the Private Widdle biog, Butters is self-effacing and thoughtful in his text (not forgetting in the editing of his interviews), and certainly by the end of the book I found I was sympathetic to Hawtrey's plight and well-informed about his life.

It's also worth praising the unseen photographs (most Carry On biographies or documentaries tend to use the same images that we've all seen before) and the 40-odd pages of appendices which includes source notes, filmography and lists of TV, theatre and radio work.
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on 7 June 2010
Instantly recognised and loved by so many, this beautifully researched biography details the "highs" & "lows" of this actor so fondly remembered for his roles in "Carry Ons". Judging by the many fellow actors that knew and worked with him Hawtry was a deeply unhappy man who was tormented by his sexuality. The book is honest in deplicting this but also highlights the many people who loved and respected him. Having been a fan of British films all my life I found this long overdue tribute to Hawtry a fantastic read and would highly recommend to all lovers of this genre.
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Although I found all the pictures, film details and the few theatrical posters etc of great interest I feel that you do not get a real insight into the man because the bulk of interviews are with those who worked with him later in his career. For me there is too much on his later and non productive years. Like many such books they are written too late when contemporaries are no longer around.
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on 15 July 2014
Fautless. A real work of art from a great writer who has meticulously researched one of the most secretive, elusive and reclusive figures in British cinema. I'm a massive fan of Carry On films and have bought just about every book that has anything to do with the series. This is easily the best book I've read about one of the series' stars. Well done, Mr Butters!
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