Thursday 12 November 2015

Valerie Leon: Seventies Icon

Valerie Leon represents complete and utter glamour to a certain generation of the British public. During the 1960s and 1970s she was always cast in a certain kind of role. She captured the spirit of the era and played the part exceptionally well.

Valerie had the stature, the figure and the looks. Yet she also had a memorable career, spanning theatre, television and most importantly, film. While her assets were often first and foremost in the viewing public's mind, she has an impressive body of work (if you excuse the pun) to her name. Thankfully Valerie is still very much around today and has a loyal fan base. I would say this is mainly due to her rather unique position in having starring roles in not just one famous British film franchise but three.

As well as popping up in six Carry On films, Valerie appeared in two Bond films - opposite Roger Moore in 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me and then six years later opposite Sean Connery in the unofficial series entry Never Say Never Again. She also played a lead role in a classic Hammer Horror film, Blood From The Mummy's Tomb, released in 1971.  These films have given her an immense cult following. I believe the only other actor to have achieved this is Madeline Smith who worked for Hammer films, played Miss Caruso in Live and Let Die with Roger Moore and featured in a cameo in Carry On Matron.

Here at Carry On Blogging, we love Valerie Leon for adding glamour to the proceedings in six Carry Ons. She started off with an uncredited role as one of the girls in Carry On Up The Khyber. She returned later in 1968 to film a scene in the camping shop opposite Bernard Bresslaw and Sid James in Carry On Camping. This bigger, credited role led to two further appearances the following year. The first, as Deirdre with Jim Dale's Dr Nookey in Again Doctor and then, one of her best roles in the series as Leda in Carry On Up The Jungle.

It would then be a couple of years before Valerie would appear in another Carry On at Pinewood. As Jane Darling in Carry On Matron, Valerie plays a famous film star who gives birth to triplets with a little help from Kenneth Cope in drag as a nurse! Valerie would make her last Carry On appearance in 1973, playing Bernard Bresslaw's wife Paula in Carry On Girls. This is probably her most sizeable role in the series and involves an impressive dual role. Valerie also made an appearance in the 1972 Carry On Christmas special, Carry On Stuffing, as a serving wench.

Away from Pinewood, Valerie Leon turned up in a myriad of productions back in the day. She is still remembered as the Hai Karate girl from those adverts for that infamous aftershave. On film, she made cameo appearances in several classics - The Italian Job, No Sex Please We're British, Revenge of the Pink Panther - as well as several less well remembered entries - Zeta One or The Ups and Downs of A Handyman anybody?

On television, Valerie appeared in many of the classic shows of the day. Those included The Goodies, The Avengers, The Saint, Up Pompeii and a particularly memorable turn in an episode of The Persuaders opposite Tony Curtis and Roger Moore. 

Valerie was married to the BBC comedy producer Michael Mills from 1974 until his death in 1988. Together they had two children, Leon born in 1975 and Merope two years later. Merope is now a journalist working for the Guardian newspaper. Valerie continues to make guest appearances at fan conventions and in documentaries about the famous films she was involved in. She is quite rightly a legend of British film and television and long may that continue!

You can visit Valerie's website here

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan

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