Felicity Kendal: An old bohemian

AN ELGIN EXCLUSIVE FEATURE by Kavishvi pahwa

She’s an old bohemian at heart, and all the things you’d hope for – funny, thoughtful, bright, and quirky. Felicity became a beloved household name starring in The Good Life, despite running for just 30 episodes over four series. Since the 1960s, the British star has been in the spotlight, taking on various roles in TV shows and film. However, it was her appearance in The Good Life that really got people talking. She and Richard Briers starred as Barbara and Tom Nice, a middle-class suburban couple who, much to the dismay of their snobbish but well-meaning neighbor Margo and her down-to-earth husband Jerry Leadbetter, plan to escape the rat race and become self-sufficient.

Felicity Kendal, Elgin Hotels and Resorts
Image by @karankapoor_photographer, Instagram
“Romantic, emotional, infuriating and glorious – it is a country that, for all my many years in England, I still think of as home.” – Felicity Kendal

Felicity Kendal was born in the English town of Olton, Warwickshire, in 1946. She is the youngest daughter of an actress and manager named Laura Liddell and Geoffrey Kendal. Jennifer Kendal, her older sibling, was an actress as well. Felicity was six, when her parents, Geoffrey and Laura, set out with Shakespeareana, his troupe of actors, for the subcontinent. Felicity recalls a ‘terribly uncomfortable’ childhood with ‘mosquitoes, illness, bad food, long hours traveling’ and a succession of schools. The family made their living by touring Shakespeare through Indian colleges.

Felicity Kendal, Elgin Hotels and Resorts
Image by @karankapoor_photographer, Instagram
No, I’m not obedient and nice … I’m utterly independent – Felicity Kendal

“It was in India that I started my acting career, courtesy of my parents, long before I set foot on stage in England. They headed a company of traveling players performing Shakespeare up and down the land. Geoffrey and Laura Kendal’s lifetime love affair with the Far East had begun during the Second World War, when they were offered the chance to tour with the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), traveling and performing for the troops and, although they had returned to England when the war was over, India had captured my father’s heart” said Felicity Kendal on growing up in the Far East and why she considers it home.

Interestingly, the Kendal family, who lived here for almost 30 years, were among the longest staying visitors of Elgin Fairlawn. Fairlawn is this little haven tucked away on Sudder Street. This little sanctuary tucked away on Sudder Street is Fairlawn. It is still painted green, surrounded by creepers and plastic plants dripping with fruit and flowers! At the entrance, the cane furniture entices you to linger and chat with Mrs. Smith, the owner who used to sit downstairs chatting with her clients every morning. People from all over the world come to Fairlawn, taking their little universe away from home into this exquisite oasis.

Felicity Kendal, Elgin Hotels and Resorts

Image by @filmhistorypics, Instagram

At Berlinale, Berlin International Film Festival, 1965 – Satyajit Ray’s ‘Charulata’ was awarded the Silver Bear award for best director.

Felicity was in the midst of her first, tricky marriage to actor Drewe Henley, with whom she has a 40-year-old son, Charley when she worked on The Good Life. Before she returned to the screens and her horticultural heritage in 2003, Kendal went on to follow a promising stage career, playing the green-fingered crime-buster Rosemary in the iconic murder mystery series Rosemary and Thyme. Kendal was raised as a Catholic. At the time of her second marriage, she converted to Judaism, and spoke of the conversion – ‘I felt I was returning to my roots.’ Her conversion took more than three years; she said it had nothing to do with her then-husband.

She’s a tiny woman, a lively face overshadowed by a big expressive mouth-she acknowledges that she talks too much: fun to be around. After half a century later, she returned to her childhood land with a BBC film crew to explore her love affair with India. She has a utopian personality and spent her life trying to realize some aspect of her utopian dream, sacrificing money, time, and energy for a better world. Her broad outlook on life allowed her to see the big picture, always.