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The Kenneth Williams Diaries Paperback – 13 Jun 1994

4.6 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 864 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; New Ed edition (13 Jun. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006380905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006380900
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 30,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘Annihilatingly honest…fascinating…these diaries cast a bizarre spell. They appeal, they delight, and now and then do both at once.’ Independent

‘Caustically compelling.’ Time Out

‘Unputdownable…with the appeal of eavesdropping on the conversation of a unique personality.’ Financial Times

‘Hilarious anecdotes abound.’ What’s On

From the Back Cover

For more than forty years the much-loved actor, broadcaster and comedian Kenneth Williams kept a journal whose existence he occasionally used as a thread ('You'll be in my diary!') but whose contents he tantalisingly kept almost completely to himself.
After his death in 1988, rumours that the diaries might one day be published sent a shiver of anticipation and dread through the theatrical world. What would they reveal about friends and colleagues? And what would they disclose of the darker, lonelier side which it was widely suspected lay behind Williams's outrageous public person?

Now the four million words of the diaries have been condensed into a single volume – the most talked-about, controversial and startling theatrical book since 'The Orton Diaries'. Devastatingly honest about himself, Williams is equally unsparing in his verdicts on his fellow-man. In his descriptions of Tony Hancock, Maggie Smith, Joe Orton, Stanley Baxter and countless others, his waspish sense of humour, love of anecdote and ear for dialogue are given full rein. Malicious, hilarious, uninhibited and harrowing, 'The Kenneth Williams Diaries' are a unique portrait of one of Britain's most popular, yet most misunderstood, performers.

"Annihilatingly honest… fascinating… these diaries cast a bizarre spell.
They appal, they delight, and now and then do both at once."
ANTHONY QUINN, 'Independent'

"Caustically compelling."

with the appeal of eavesdropping on the conversation of a unique personality."
MICHAEL CODRON, 'Financial Times'

"Hilarious anecdotes abound… one of the 'most read' books of the summer."

See all Product Description

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Kenneth Williams was almost the archetypal red-nosed clown who longed to be respected as a Serious Actor, so I can't help feeling that he would have been quietly pleased at the reputation his diaries have gained in recent years. In one entry,on a rare day when he was feeling contented with his lot, he said that he felt he had the life of a cultured 18th century gentleman, a la Dr Johnson, and I think that's how he would have loved to have seen himself all the time. Sadly, it was more usually the case that he saw his life in the bleakest, starkest terms: as an actor of great talent reduced to buffooning to pay the bills, living an austere life in a sparten flat, attached to a mother whom he both adored and resented at the same time, and unable to accept that to have a lover you need to get physical with them! Williams almost had a morbid fear of close physical contact with other human beings, and yet at the same time yearned to feel a pair of strong arms around him.
His love/hate relationship with Louie also extended to his fellow Carry On stars. He respected Sid James enormously as an actor, and yet at the same time bitchily poked fun at Sid when he got pretentious. He was very fond of Joan Sims (he once asked her to marry him, on condition that they had separate bedrooms, rather understandably she turned him down!) but couldn't take it when she told him to pipe down at the lunch table. With Charles Hawtrey he obviously had an awful lot in common and yet was constantly exasperated at Hawtrey's messy private life. (The entry where he and some friends go to see Hawtrey in Gravesend and find him completely drunk and unable to take care of himself is quite upsetting).
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Format: Paperback
This book took my breath away,the diaries of the late Carry on star although he would most annoyed to think of himself as just a Carry on 'actor' are one of the best things ever committed to paper.
Williams diaries which span his life from a 16 year old in 1942 until his death by his own hand in 1988 aged 62 chronicle the life of a very talented but a very repressed and unstable and unhappy individual.It also shows an era when to be gay and 'out' was punishable by having your career destroyed and possibly being sent to prison and so having to escape to plaves like Tangiers to fufill a need that he could not find at home.
The book also chronicles Williams career from his first 'hit' as the Dauphin in St Joan thru the Hancock era to the cabaret and Carry Ons which were to be the backbone of his career for nearly 20 years.
It also shows the incredibly strong relationship between Kenneth and his mother Louie who was his greatest fan and accompanied him to all his recordings of radio shows such as Just a Minute,Round the Horne etc and ended up living next door to each other and their funny yet bizarre and frankly weird dependence on each other.Also for someone who was so well loved his spartan and frugal lifestyle was a revelation,someone who didnt cook in fact his cooker was covered in cling film and he would not let anyone use his lavatory.
The last 2 years of the diaries 1986-1988 show Kenneth becoming more and more ill as well as the declining health of his mother continued to gnaw at him and in the end this was the reason he took his own life at the age of 62.I say to anyone who enjoys a good read to buy and savour this book a great writer and diarist in the Pepys league
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By Curns VINE VOICE on 24 Feb. 2003
Format: Paperback
I honestly think Kenneth Williams was unique. He certainly seemed to hate much about himself and didn't have a great deal of time for a lot of other people. Sadly, the Diaries' reputation precedes them and I expected more of the bitchiness that he is - supposedly - famed for. Despite that, there is plenty of Kenneth's acid tongue in this book. His barbs are aimed squarely at his fans, his colleagues and the shows he felt obliged to work in. Some of the most intriguing insights are those that relate to the Carry On film series. Before Carry On made him famous, he was a well-respected stage actor. The Carry On films made him legendary (and wealthy) but he often felt they were beneath him.
Kenneth is well aware of his own nature. On 20 March 1987 he writes, "Everyone was v. nice to me ... it is extraordinary that I'm so liked because I'm invariably rude & tetchy" and that sums up much of the book. You get a sense of love for the theatre, plays, and poetry and even for some of the work. However he is also offensive to many and seemed to have few good words for much of British Theatre. Much of the hate is due to an inner turmoil over the lack of companionship in his life ("Never to speak of my love for a man") and some from the frustrations of his nature. Obsessed by noise and cleanliness the very act of living seems painful - and in the end his illness and genuine pain appear to get too much for him.
The diaries are very well written and Davies' editing not intrusive. Williams certainly didn't appear to edit himself and the result is a frank and articulate book. Words seem to flow easily which is, perhaps, not surprising for a man who made a living in the final years of his life from his large collection of humorous anecdotes.
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