Wednesday 14 November 2018

My Review: Bernard Who? 75 Years of Doing Just About Everything!

I've written recently about the launch of Bernard Cribbins' new autobiography, Bernard Who? 75 Years of Doing Just About Everything, and having finished this mighty tome I thought I would blog my thoughts on Bernard's book.

For a start, I think Bernard's memoirs are well overdue! Bernard has been a part of all our lives for decades and holds a pretty unique place in the nation's heart. To some he's a renowned children's entertainer, famed for his countless appearances on Jackanory or voicing The Wombles. To others, he's the voice behind a catchy string of novelty records in the 1960s. He's also the man who transcends generations with his association with Doctor Who. And for the rest of us, the peerless actor who made some cracking comedy films like Carry On Jack, Carry On Spying, Two Way Stretch, The Wrong Arm of The Law, Crooks In Cloisters, not to mention The Railway Children and Hitchcock's Frenzy! And he's still going strong at nearly 90!

Bernard's autobiography is very much written in his own voice and feels thoroughly authentic. Having enjoyed such a long and successful life, it must have been quite a job deciding what to include and what to leave out. We're all familiar with so many aspects of Bernard's career but even the bits I knew felt comforting, like a warm mug of cocoa. The whole tale is told with Cribbins' unique sense of humour and the art of quiet self-deprecation. What I enjoyed most was learning more about Bernard's early life in Oldham, his family background and how he got started in the business, working his way up in rep at the local theatre. Valuable experience for the life that lay ahead. It's refreshing to read of a happy home life, loving parents, warmth and support. There were fascinating early encounters with future greats like Dora Bryan and Eric Sykes too.

I also really enjoyed reading about Bernard's eventful time with the parachute regiment. Quite a time he had, but I think we can call it character forming! He tells these stories with humour and realism, glorying in his triumphs, being honest about his mistakes and not holding back on the downsides of being on active service.

We don't learn that much about Bernard's private life, although he's obviously extremely proud of his long, happy and successful marriage to his wife Gill. It's quite refreshing yet again that it's not a warts and all biography and just because he's telling his life story doesn't mean we need to know everything. Bernard's devotion to the dogs in his life was also a joy to read about as it's a shared passion of mine too. And his fishing exploits are good fun if that's your kind of thing!

Most interesting of all, to us comedy fans, are his tales of working on some of the films for which he's best remembered. He writes very fondly of working and befriending the likes of Peter Sellers, David Lodge, Irene Handl and Peter Cushing. He also got on really well with the Carry Ons' leading man, Sidney James, recounting funny tales of working (and socialising) with Sid while filming the Tommy Steele musical comedy film Tommy the Toreador. And as for the Carry Ons? Well most of the stories I'd heard before, the avid fan that I am, but it's interesting to hear how much he preferred making Carry On Jack to Spying. For me Spying is the better film because it's more in line with the rest of the Carry On series, but Bernard obviously enjoyed the more straight forward swashbuckling high jinks of Jack and loved working with the likes of Juliet Mills and Cecil Parker. There is also a touching few words in tribute to Dame Barbara WIndsor and her current battle with Alzheimer's. 

I recommend Bernard's autobiography to you all. It's a credit to him and his impressive life and career. Cribbins means so much to so many of us and in so many ways so I'm sure this book will be the success it deserves to be. And may Bernard continue to entertain us for many more years to come.

Thank you Bernard, for putting pen to paper and thank you too to James Hogg for all his work on this very special project.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

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