Stop Messing About
As 2018 draws to a close, we take a closer look at some of the highlights of the year…
Adam Endacott looks back at the career of Carry On Legend Kenneth Williams in a brand new compendium.
The Kenneth Williams Companion is the first, and only, definitive book on the career of Kenneth Williams. The book details all his stage, radio, TV, recordings and film work as a chronology. The book sits alongside the biographies and diaries, previously published, to catalogue and celebrate the genius.
Kenneth is my hero and I have been a lifelong fan, collecting everything Kenneth since 1988 – from stills and programmes to action figures and plates. I like to think of myself as a working fountain of knowledge on Kenneth Williams! This has been the passion behind this 700 page volume which brings together an in-depth and comprehensive guide to all his credits with fascinating facts, and memories from his contemporaries, many of whom haven’t spoken before. This reference book is everything you ever needed to know about the career of one of Britain’s greatest comedy actors, from a career spanning 40 years.
The origins of the concept of this book dates back to about 1998. As a fan, I tried to compile together comprehensive lists of Kenneth’s film, radio and television career to help me keep a record of what I had seen or heard and what I was missing. These lists developed and grew over time until the moment of realisation that there actually was no book or portal which documented his career in detail, so I began work on writing a book! I was greatly supported and encouraged to put the book together by Kenneth’s good chum, Michael Whittaker, who has been a great support alongside Michael Anderson, Kenneth’s former agent.
The book has forewords by actresses Nanette Newman and Lorraine Chase and a wealth of Kenneth’s friends and colleagues have assisted with my research and these include, amongst many, Stanley Baxter, Christopher Biggins, Barry Cryer, Galton & Simpson, Sarah Greene, Juliet Mills, Mavis Nicholson, Nicholas Parsons, DameJune Whitfield and Dame Barbara Windsor. I have also been in contact and corresponded with a number of producers, co-stars and those behind the scenes who all bring fresh material on Kenneth. I unearthed hidden gems from the archives including images from television productions that had been wiped or recorded live, unseen since their first broadcast over 50 years ago. Radio interviews and programmes have been discovered along with many other mediums including Kenneth’s recording career – he did it all!
My research has taken me across the country ranging from the BBC Written Archives in Caversham to hours of viewing at the BFI Library. I have watched and listened to all material that survives from Kenneth’s career (which is a lot, as you can imagine). I travelled across the country to visit libraries and discovered missing theatre programmes which covered Kenneth’s repertory years ranging from Newquay to Scarborough.
Years before hitting the West End stage, he featured in numerous stage productions from restoration comedy to modern day dramas. A certain Maggie Smith made her revue debut with Kenneth in Share My Lettuce, which led to a lifelong friendship and even today you can see the influence that he has had on her acting and performances.
I hope readers will discover that he wasn’t just in the Carry On films and a turn on the chat show circuit – in fact he had an immense body of work across all the mediums, even though he would write in his diary that he didn’t have much work! The breadth and range of his work was quite staggering from appearing in popular game or quiz shows of the day, taking part in debates or panel discussions, training films and voice overs for advertisements amongst the films, radio series’ and chat show appearances. The book is designed so that you can dip in and out of it at anytime or you can read it from cover to cover.
The book was launched on 15 April 2018, exactly thirty years to the day he died, at Elstree Studios with around 250 guests to celebrate the life and career of Kenneth. Nanette and Lorraine took to the stage in Q & A Panels alongside actress Valerie Leon, broadcaster and writer Nigel Rees and Jeremy Swan, producer and director of Jackanory, amongst other presentations. The event was hosted by Morris Bright MBE, Chairman of the Studios. It was a very memorable afternoon and I was honoured to have so many people who had supported the book amongst my guests. We had Kenneth cupcakes and Julian and Sandy were recreated on stage in a special performance by Colin Elmer. A short snapshot of the day can be seen on YouTube with highlights from the launch.
Following the success of the book, I was recruited as the ‘expert’ for the upcoming The Undiscovered Kenneth Williams documentary to be broadcast on the Sky Arts channel at Christmas. The programme will include footage that hasn’t been seen since it was first broadcast.
I am now on the search for missing footage or recordings or if anybody has anything that is Kenneth related then it would be great to hear from you… You never know, it may mean a revised edition in years to come!