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FENELLA FIELDING (THE VILLAGE VOICE). Profile by Rick Davy, with thanks to Simon Mckay.
With an unmistakable voice and incredible acting talent, Fenella Fielding had a long career in a variety of roles, and will probably be most remembered for her 'Carry On' roles including the classic 'Carry on Screaming'. But to fans of 'The Prisoner' she will always be the unseen Voice of The Village.
Her extensive stage and revue career began in the early 1950s, but by the end of the decade she was establishing herself as a star of both stage and screen. She worked twice with Patrick McGoohan, firstly on 'Danger Man' in a half-hour episode called 'An Affair of State'. Director Peter Graham Scott would later remark that in this brief role, of trying to seduce McGoohan's John Drake character, was "worth every penny".
She was then asked to provide a series of short voiceovers for 'The Prisoner'. In researching for her memoirs (see below), Fenella and her best friend Simon McKay came across Fenella's diary entry for her 'The Prisoner' recordings, and TUW is very grateful for them sharing this with readers (below). It appears that her voiceover session took place on 21st December 1966 at a studio in Soho.
Fenella would later recall that it was only a few hours work and that her only brief from McGoohan was "don't make it too sexy!"
In an interesting coincidence, when Fenella made these recordings for the series she was living in Connaught Place, just a matter of yards from Marble Arch, which of course appeared in the 'Prisoner' episode 'Many Happy Returns'.
She would return to visit the location of her former home in 2015 (seen below pointing at the actual balcony).
Photo (c) Simon Mckay
1966 would not, however, be her last involvement with the series. Although she did not attend the Portmeirion location at the time of the filming, she did visit the location on three subsequent Prisoner-related occasions.
Firstly, Friday 13th May 2005 marked a special occasion in Prisoner and Portmeirion history, as a plaque commemorating the series' filming at the North Wales location was unveiled above the Prisoner Shop doorway. The plaque, organised by the Wales Screen Commission, was unveiled by Fenella. The ceremony was introduced by WSC's Richard Coombs, who spoke of the series enduring popularity. Robin Llywelyn then talked about his grandfather's love of plaques, and finally Miss Fielding said a few words before the formal unveiling, which was filmed by BBC, ITV and Sky crews. Miss Fielding then undertook interviews on the small terrace "behind" the shop and posed for photographs with fans (full photo report HERE).
Photo (c) Simon Mckay
She then returned the following year as the 'This Morning' ITV cameras filmed from Portmeirion and she was interviewed alongside historian Robert Fairclough (full photo report HERE).
Photo (c) Simon Mckay
In 2017 Fenella was invited back once more, as special guest of Network's 'Fall In - The Prisoner at 50' event, one of three official celebration events held for the 50th anniversary of 'The Prisoner' (Fenella also was involved in the other two, providing voiceovers for the Seattle-based events for the series and the 'Fifty Years of The Prisoner' celebration at Elstree Studios), and who better to announce each of the days events over a PA/speaker system which covered the whole of Portmeirion.
Fenella. Photo (c) Tori Davy.
As you can see from the following video of her first announcement, her voice sounded as alluring and velvety as it did back in 1966/67.
Catherine McGoohan, Patrick's daughter, came over to speak to Fenella at the event and said that her father had said that Fenella's voice was a very important part of creating the atmosphere of the Village.
One other 'Prisoner' connection is that she owned some Staffordshire lions, like those seen in the series:
Her list of screen and stage (and radio) appearances is almost endless, such was her talent in all media, and a full listing can be found HERE. Shortly before she passed away, 'Do You Mind if I Smoke?' (the title comes from Fenella's iconic line from the film 'Carry on Screaming') was published, her memoirs, and is a fascinating read, covering her long life and career.
It was also available as an audio book.
Fenella passed away following a stroke and short illness in September 2018, with a memorial service held a year later.
The service, organised by her best friend Simon McKay, took place at the Actor's Church in Covent Garden, and was attended by dozens of famous names from stage and screen (including William Gaunt, Myriam Margolyes, Liza Goddard, Valerie Leon, and many others) with 'Prisoner' crew member Tony Sloman and Rick Davy of The Unmutual representing the world of 'The Prisoner'.
Readings were performed by Barry Cryer, Gyles Brandreth, Mark Kermode and others, and there were musical and variety performances from the likes of Anita Harris, Dame Cleo Laine, Andy Bell, Wang Chung, and David McAlmont and others.
All of these joyous and respectful tributes were interspersed by performances from the students of LAMDA and the Sylvia Young Theatre School, and exerpts from Fenella's unmistakable voiceover work, including many of her 'The Prisoner' announcements. A plaque at the church was also unveiled in Fenella's honour.
Fenella was a wonderful actress and a remarkable woman, and the memorial was a fitting tribute to her.
The Fenella Fielding Foundation has since been set up by Simon HERE as a way of preserving and sharing and exhibiting Fenella's work and work which she has inspired, including in late 2022 an exhibition of commissioned art of Fenella, which includes this fabulous piece by Sal Jones entitiled 'Devastating Darling'. The Foundation is to celebrate the life and career of Fenella - the first project is the portraits.
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