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One thought on “The Kenneth Williams Diaries

  1. David Cheshire

    The word used to describe Kenneth Williams on the blurb is, predictably, "outrageous." And he could be impossibly rude (in all senses), high-maintenance and difficult. But the surprise is that the Kenneth Williams of these diaries emerges as erudite, self-critical, tortured and a brilliantly sharp critic. Above all he is a brilliant diarist: honest, self-revealing and funny. His diaries give a truthful and compelling picture of a life and career in "the business", the Carry Ons, theatre (one ser [...]

  2. Tosh

    i just finished the Kenneth Williams diaries and what is amazing is that he barely acknowledges the 60's pop culture around him. No Stamp, a little bit of David Bailey, and almost no acknowledgement of The Beatles! His world had no rock n' roll, no hippies, no teddy boys, no mind-expanding drugs, and no free love His world was British variety music halls, radio shows, occasional TV appearance, Carry On film series, classical music (which he adored), Philosophy, and his hatred or unease with his [...]

  3. Kerry

    I’m so glad that I finally took the time to read the diaries that British comedian Kenneth Williams kept throughout his life. At 801 pages long, ‘The Kenneth Williams Diaries’ are not a quick read, but as you follow the actor from his adolescence through to his golden years, you really unravel the true Kenneth Williams, the sad clown behind the camera.A truly encapsulating figure, this book delves firsthand into events that left their mark in British history and popular culture: the Second [...]

  4. David Rain

    The English actor Kenneth Williams, best-known for his roles in the Carry On films, kept a diary from 1942 until his death, probably from suicide, in 1988. This book, a necessarily but expertly edited version, functions in effect as his autobiography. It’s astonishingly vivid, intimate and compelling. This is one of the best pictures we’ll ever have of an actor’s life, of the day-to-day realities of a long career. More than that, it’s funny: bitchily, brilliantly funny. Kenneth Williams [...]

  5. David

    Quite enthralling, though I doubted it when I first started. Quite literally excerpts from Kenneth William’s diaries, which he kept from the age of 16 right up to the night before his death. A very complex character comes through, with a personality that really I would not wish upon anyone. Homosexual, though never coming to terms with it, he seemed totally unable to form normal relationships with anybody of either sex. Fastidious in the extreme and a constant exhibitionist, he seems to have c [...]

  6. Paul Doody

    Astonishing account of a life - from the 1930s to the day of his death. Hugely rewarding and endlessly rereadable.

  7. Tasha

    Kenneth Williams was famous in the UK for his multiple TV and film appearances, including many of the Carry On films. He kept voluminous diaries throughout his life, and they reveal a deeply conflicted, spiritual, arrogant, waspish man who could be his own worst enemy.

  8. David Latham

    What a great and tragic look into one of the greatest performers of the 20th century. He was known for making us laugh yet under the comical persona was a broken soul whose life was filled with pain and a longing to be loved. Which is a great shame because he was loved and admired by so many. Chronicling over 40 years of Kenneth William's life we get to see how he saw the world around him and how it changed and how he saw himself when we could only laugh. Its a momentous achievement to read and [...]

  9. Sarah Tipper

    A huge capacity for sadness and for joy is shown in this fascinating book. Be warned that it ends sadly (it’s unclear if he took an accidental or intentional overdose leading to his death). Williams had pain from stomach ulcers and hated his Mum getting old. His many frustrations are laid bare, he disliked himself for his homosexuality and his inability to be close to people. He berates himself for being unpleasant to friends and colleagues. He goes around in circles, he is hard on himself for [...]

  10. Brian Hartgen

    I've read this book systematically through several times over the years. I have an audio narration of it which is beautifully delivered by Ronald Markham. Unlike many personalities who profess to be able to imitate Kenneth Williams, (and cannot), Ronald Markham delivers a straight narrative, with inflection, which says "If you can't accurately imitate someone, its best not to try". This is absolutely right. Apart from capturing the essence of the man himself, this portrays a good picture of life [...]

  11. Ian Ashley

    I suppose anybody editing a lifetime collection of diaries faces a choice of how do I present this person and which extracts do I use? However hard that choice must be Russell Davies has edited the Kenneth Williams Diaries as objectively as you can considering the enigmatic nature of the subject.You read this and get the impression that there is no agenda beyond presenting the subject to the world, it's fair, not always pleasant, often sad and sometimes downright hilarious. Infact I've just fini [...]

  12. Jim

    "Infamy, infamy! They've all got it infamy." Too true, that was often Kenneth's view of the world, and he wrote most of it down in unflinching detail. An inspiration for fellow scribblers like myself (although I'm glad I don't note my "barclays" in my diary, all the same!) This took over a month to read, but I enjoyed it and it pleased me to see that a diary can be interesting in itself even when there's seemingly "nothing to report". Overall, it's reporting a life, and given it's the only one w [...]

  13. Andrea Zuvich

    Kenneth Williams is my favourite actor in the Carry On films, as he was a delight in the roles he performed. He was known for his larger-than-life behaviour; his incredible voice and mannerisms are truly memorable. His diaries show us an entirely different side of his character, one which is not very nice sometimes. Indeed, he often comes across as petulant and not very nice in his assessments of others, whilst at the same time is a pitiable figure with his strange personal foibles and intense l [...]

  14. Richard

    Kenneth Williams was famous in the UK for his multiple TV and film appearances, including many of the Carry On films. He kept voluminous diaries throughout his life, and they reveal a deeply conflicted, spiritual, arrogant, waspish man who could be his own worst enemy. He was obviously gay but mostly avowed celibacy. He resisted all offers to appear in the US, but his diaries offer a compelling look into the the English theater, movie, and television business as well as a look at his largely lon [...]

  15. Lib DM

    I have certainly never read anything like it. It dawned on me that I have read someone's life (and not reading a properly written and edited autobiography). This collection of Kenneth's diary entries is fascinating. You never know what you will get with each daily entry because his personality is so volatile. One passage can seem like he is at the top of the world followed by suicidal pity the very next. The one lesson that I walk away from (whether Kenneth would have agreed or not) is that the [...]

  16. CQM

    While this is always interesting and there are some lovely snippets about the people he worked with, people in whom I have a great interest, I found it a little depressing. Williams leaves his "acid drops" scattered liberally throughout but it can become a little wearing at times, coming across as a bitterly frustrated and sad man rather than the witty raconteur he could be. That's not to say it doesn't sparkle on occasions though. Definitely one to dip into every now and then rather than read c [...]

  17. Stuart Bone

    A fascinating insight into the life and career of a very talented and very complex man. Kenneth Williams kept a diary for most of his life and this book gives so much information about the times he lived through. A contradictory person, Kenneth would moan about his pay on the CarryOn films and yet ask for less money on other projects when he felt he was being overpaid. He loved his isolation yet was also lonely.For any fan of Kenneth or of the CarryOn films, this really is a must read.

  18. Rob Manwaring

    Just started this - a birthday present. A narcissistic, self-hating, gay, hilarious, bilious, talented, contradictory, gorgeous, infuriating, Englishman. What more could you possibly want form a set of diaries? Russell Davies' introduction is penetrating (ooer) and insightful, and a real taster of hopefully what is to come. Impossible to write anything about Williams without double entrendres.

  19. Pete Hardy

    I couldn't finish this as you learn all you need to know about by the hundreth page. He was a very unhappy man and, to be fair, was as hard on himself (at times) than he could be on others. But his unmerited sense of superiority gets a bit wearing after a time so took it to a charity shop to share the misery.

  20. Mike Jennings

    A long, looong read.I have to admit I became frustrated along the way (ooooer Matron!) but it gave me the peek inside his life that I wanted. Ironic that such a talent should reside in such a sad, unfulfilled man.

  21. Jane Macmullen

    I found these fascinating although I felt uncomfortable reading them. Clearly they were not written for strangers to read and I felt rather like a voyeur, as if I was reading with the extreme disapproval of the author. Sorry Kenneth, I loved this book.

  22. John Grinstead

    A real insight into the mind of a really complex character; always felt that something better was around the corner yet remained unfulfilled both in terms of his acting and his relationships. Quite sad really.

  23. Alex

    I've read this twice and was enthralled each time. If you're at all interested in Kenneth Williams, or the Carry-On scene then you must read this. He must surely be one of the most complex characters that has ever lived.

  24. Nick Bishop

    A fascinating read. KW was more complex than he seemed to be, and quite a sad character who really found life, and fame, quite hard.

  25. Larry Schwartz

    In fact, I didn't finish -- the interlibrary loan period was too short and I had to give it back.

  26. Andy

    Hilarious, bawdy, outrageous and tragic, an unvarnished insight into the fascinating and tortured life of a truly original talent.

  27. Richard Thomas

    The real Kenneth Williams exposed in his diaries. In turn pathetic, angry, sensible and brighter than he gave himself credit for, these show him as he saw himself rather than the public persona.

  28. Anne

    I didn't enjoy this as much as I hoped I would. I am a fan of Kenneth Williams but got tired of his sneering contempt of others and his self-pity.