Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I'm Fed Up with Being the Nation's Sweetheart; Scene&Heard Felicity Kendal Is the Toast of the West End Once Again. but She'd Much Rather Be at Home with Her Family

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I'm Fed Up with Being the Nation's Sweetheart; Scene&Heard Felicity Kendal Is the Toast of the West End Once Again. but She'd Much Rather Be at Home with Her Family

Article excerpt

Byline: NICK CURTIS

HALF WAY through my chat with Felicity Kendal, I mention I'm about to go away for the weekend with three male friends, all of whom had expressed blistering envy that I was meeting her. "Oh, good," says Kendal, in much the same winsomely explosive way that she used to say "Oh, Tom!" as Barbara Good in The Good Life. "I'll come with you, and leave all this behind."

She's referring to the Arts Theatre, where she's suffering her usual pre-performance nerves before going on as Winnie, the half-buried heroine of Samuel Beckett's Happy Days.

But there's also a hint that she'd leave her partner, her two sons and her brood of grandchildren in Chelsea to take off on a naughty jaunt.

Kendal, a staggeringly well preserved 57, claims to have given up flirting, but old habits clearly die hard.

Even if you discount the old gag that half of the male population is secretly in love with her while the other half makes no secret of it, this two time winner of the Rear of the Year award still enjoys a unique position in the British psyche as an emblem of warm sexuality. "I really don't know if that 'nation's sweetheart' thing is true," she pouts. "It's just a very nice label that keeps being applied to me. I certainly don't think my family sees me that way."

Kendal is quite keen to reposition herself these days as a jobbing actress and a Jewish matriarch (following her conversion in the Eighties) to her extended family. But everyone just keeps going on about how cute she is. Even yesterday's glowing reviews commented as much on her appearance as on her performance. The Daily Mail, for example, noted her "full bosom" as well as her "syllable-perfect articulation".

There are reasons for this, of course. Her own romantic history reads like a picaresque sexual adventure. After a childhood spent "in a post-war time warp" with her parents' touring theatre company in India, Felicity Kendal arrived in England as a "very protected" 19-year-old in 1965.

She fell in love with and married actor Drewe Henley, with whom she had a son, Charley, now 30. Henley turned out to be a manic-depressive, and the marriage ended in 1979. …

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