Sunday 21 January 2018

The Importance of Peter Eade in the Carry On Story

Peter Eade is an important name in the Carry On story but today he is rarely talked about and indeed, little is known about him. Peter was a theatrical agent who represented a small yet incredibly famous group of actors. Those actors included the legendary Ronnie Barker and two Carry On stars - Kenneth Williams and Joan Sims. 

Eade was a young agent making his way in the business in the early 1950s when he first came across both Kenneth and Joan. Peter was Kenneth's agent from the very early days of his career right up until the late 1970s and the pair formed a close bond. Both bachelors, they shared concerns about life, the business they worked in and living with older parents. Peter was a notable player in the pages of Kenneth's diaries and at one point even references the infamous tomes which lined Williams' living room walls, asking in a pointed way, whether they'd ever be published. Sadly Eade would not live to see that day.

Peter Eade comes across as an extremely patient, kind and generous mentor to the occasionally highly strung, incredibly changeable Kenneth. There was obviously a close bond between them which was essential given the nature of their working relationship. Peter encouraged and coaxed Williams and put up with all sorts of neuroses. Together with his ever faithful assistant, Laurena Dewar, Peter guided Kenneth's career through the ups and downs. He even knew him well enough to attempt to convince Kenneth to spend a few extra bob on his shirts! A brave man indeed!

Kenneth claimed to know Peter better than any of his other clients however another frequent visitor to Peter's Cork Street offices was Joan Sims. Peter first encountered Joan at the very beginning of her theatrical career. Attending press shows at RADA, Peter spotted Joan and invited her to a meeting with the idea that he could represent her professionally. The very green Miss Sims had heard rumours of the infamous casting couch and became convinced Peter Eade's intentions were less than honourable. Eventually a close friend persuaded her to meet Peter and thankfully, she never looked back. As with Kenneth, Joan was represented by Eade for nearly thirty years and he was a powerful, reliable influence in her life. 

In her autobiography, Joan is very honest about her inability to cope with aspects of her professional life, mainly due to a lack of confidence. This probably resulted from her long and troubled relationship with her mother, Gladys. Peter was a sympathetic mentor to Joan and as she herself admitted, became much more than just an agent to her over the years. During some difficult years with her mother, it was Peter's advice Joan sought on how to respond to some fairly unpleasant correspondence regarding Joan's private life. Eade was a big part of Joan's life and his sudden death in April 1979 left a gaping hole that she struggled to move on from. It did help that the same two year period saw Joan lose others close to her - her accountant, her mother and her closest friend, the actress Hattie Jacques.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Williams' shock at losing Peter was movingly documented in his diary. Peter, in his fifties at the time of his death, died suddenly in his office one April day. Laurena Dewar took charge of everything, asking Kenneth to read the eulogy at Peter's funeral. The loss of Peter Eade was a massive blow to both Kenneth and Joan and although both would continue to work, finding new agents in the process, it would not be the same for either of them ever again. 

I think it's a shame that we don't know more about Peter's life. He was a vital component in the professional and personal lives of two of the greatest comic actors this country has produced and two of the most prolific Carry On team players. Thankfully he is a regular presence in Kenneth's diaries, otherwise we'd know practically nothing about the man. As for Laurena Dewar, she was obviously much more than just an assistant. She continued to run the Eade office until the early 1980s and then gave it up to spend more time with her family. I have no idea what happened to her after that point or indeed if she is still alive today. 

I think we owe a debt of gratitude to Peter Eade for nurturing and guiding the careers of Kenneth and Joan. He spotted their unique talents early on and I for one am extremely glad that he did.

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