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Thursday, 14 May 2015

BOOK REVIEW -ASK ME IF I'M HAPPY BY PETER BOWLES

Ask Me If I'm Happy

Ask Me I'm Happy
by Peter Bowles

BLURB:

'Peter Bowles was born in London to parents who were servants to two of the most influential families in Britain. From New York's Broadway in 1956 to London's Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2006, Peter has starred in many successful plays, whilst playing villains in such iconic TV series as THE SAINT, THE AVENGERS, THE PERSUADERS, SPACE 1999 and THE PRISONER. He has also starred in many hit TV series including RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY, ONLY WHEN I LAUGH, THE IRISH R.M., LYTTON'S DIARY and, of course, TO THE MANOR BORN. ASK ME IF I'M HAPPY is the personal story of an actor who was told on leaving drama school that he would never play an Englishman (and didn't), to becoming known as the quintessential Englishman (and isn't).'

I love most showbiz autobiographies, especially those written by people who have a life to write about. I'm not too fond of teenage and twenty-something celebrities writing (via ghosts) about "life" and sharing their "wisdom" (whizz dumb).

Peter Bowles is 78.  He wrote this book in 2010 and it is a great read.  He tells of his years of struggle trying to earn a living as an actor.  His early career progression was painfully slow and frustrating but he stuck with it, cutting his teeth in all sorts of minor theatre roles.  In the 1960s, he seemed to be the go-to guy to play foreign villains in popular television shows.  He jockeyed back and forth between screen and stage and through hard work and grind developed a decent CV and a list of valuable friends and contacts along the way.

At the age of 43, it all started to happen for him. He was cast as Richard DeVere opposite Penelope Keith's Audrey fforbes-Hamilton in To The Manor Born and the 22 episodes of that show linger long in the fond memories of TV viewers.  From there, he could not do a lot wrong as he embarked on a string of television hits, as mentioned in the blurb,

My favourite role of his is Guthrie Featherstone in the sublime Rumpole of the Bailey.

I saw Peter Bowles in Noel Coward's 'Hay Fever" at the Haymarket Theatre, London a few years back. The cast included Dame Judi Dench and it was terrific.

'Ask Me If I'm Happy" is an interesting appraisal of an acting career and the acting profession.  It is thoroughly entertaining and more than a few names are dropped and anecdotes told about the ups and downs of life on the boards and on screen.  There is some padding out of stories that don't warrant too much attention but by and large, this is a fine autobiography from one of Britain's most successful actors.

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