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Biography of actor John le Mesurier by his wife
Dear John - Joan Le Mesurier
Member Name: julwhite
Dear John - Joan Le Mesurier
Advantages: Interesting title with lots of ancedotes about the actors
Disadvantages: Slightly strangely structured book
This review is for the hardback book "Dear John", a biography of the film and television actor John le Mesurier, by his wife Joan le Mesurier. The book was originally printed by Sidgwick and Jackson of London in 2001.
The basis of the book is from the letters which John le Mesurier wrote to his wife, Joan le Mesurier. She had lovingly kept all of these letters and wrote back to him in the form of a long letter based on the history of their lives, the text of which is this book. The two had become married in 1965, and were to remain married for eighteen years until his death.
John le Mesurier is probably best known for his role as Sergeant Wilson in the hit BBC comedy based on the Home Guard during World War Two, "Dad's Army". He did however though appear in tens of films, ones that I can remember include "The Italian Job", "The Pink Panther" and "Jabberwocky", as well as many other television appearances.
The book details the two other famous figures in the lives of these two individuals, John's second marriage to the Carry On actor Hattie Jacques (his first marriage with June Melville had lasted for eight years), and also the relationship between Joan le Mesurier and Tony Hancock. There is only a limited amount of text about her affair with Tony Hancock in the 1960s, although she did cover this in another book entitled "Lady, Don't Fall Backwards".
There are mentions in the book of John's various television and film roles, but primarily this is a look at the romantic attachment that the two had, and an account of their lives together. So there is a limited appeal for fans of specific films, as there isn't much to be found here, but there are a lot of anecdotes which are interesting for those interested in British comedy generally from this period.
Joan's writing in the book is very affectionate, and it appears to be a genuine love which she had for her husband, and I got the feeling that she still desperately missed him after his death in 1983. The book also touches on the real problems which John le Mesurier had with alcohol, when he gave up, but became miserable, but then restarted and became much happier, even if it meant he died earlier than he might have otherwise have done.
I would say that the book isn't a heavyweight tome on the life of John le Mesurier, as unfortunately biographies written by close friends or family members can rarely ever achieve that. It is though a useful and interesting book to read, and it is very readable and easy to pick up and start reading.
The book is currently out of print, but is available still from some book-sellers at the retail price of 18.99 pounds. If you're happy with a second hand copy, at the time of writing these are available for around ten pounds including postage. It's not the cheapest book to get hold of second hand, but there are copies available if you look on book listing sites.
In summary, this is an interesting book, although I must admit that I found the structure of the book a little bit unnecessary, the whole letter to John about their lives. But that apart, the book appeared to have been written with some genuine warmth, although fell short of what I would call a really interesting and complete biography. But for an insight into one of comedy's greatest stars in the 1970s and in other decades, it's worth a look.
Summary: Lots of genuine love, despite her affair, produced a genuine tribute to her husband
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