This statuesque London-born brunette has stolen many a heart over the years and as long as her many films and TV appearances continue she will be remembered with a quartet of English beauties who were part of a golden era in British film. To me the height of Hammer horrors c1970, when we had Joan Collins, Ingrid Pitt, Caroline Munro and Valerie Leon gracing our screens, was a pivotal moment in the evolution of English film and TV. While there were other beautiful actresses at this time, I think these four women epitomise the transformation of Britain from those stark grey films of the fifties to the more fanciful movies of the 70s and beyond. This was a period when Britain was producing quality sci fi and dramas ranging from series like UFO and Space 1999 to films like Sunday Bloody Sunday and A Clockwork Orange.
If you study Valerie’s long career you will note that the diversity I mention above is equally true of Valerie’s personal CV. Despite being remembered for adorning several Carry On films and two James Bond flicks. Valerie is probably more at home on the stage where she has spent much of her career. This includes a West End debut with Barbra Streisand and plays as varied as Sweet Charity, Black Coffee and Dracula. This should not be any surprise as Miss Leon’s mother trained at RADA. Acting is as genetic an attribute for Valerie as her heart-stopping 5’12” hourglass figure. A short stint as a fashion buyer for Harrods was never going to be a career as long as the cameras beckoned…not when she could play Aphrodisiac!!! Just ask Roger Moore about that impromptu kiss!!! While Miss Leon swears Roger Moore made an actor feel comfortable, I somehow doubt Roger ever used the word “comfortable” when describing Valerie!!! No wonder they called that series, The Persuaders… And when you read about Valerie’s screen test for Never Say Never Again below you will know why she soon ended up in bed with Sean Connery…
Not that life has always been plain sailing for the hardworking Miss Leon. Like fellow actor (and also double James Bond conquest) Maddy Smith, Valerie lost her husband way too early and only a year apart (1988) from Maddy’s own loss (1989). Despite this tragedy, Valerie still makes occasional appearances and remains a very strong supporter of charities helping fund cancer research and always gives freely and generously of her time. These days she has spread her wings creating her own very successful business, which includes both the art of food and the painter’s art.
Miss Leon’s, Uberbabe photos are a marvellous must for any collection and with her site at http://www.valerieleon.com/gallery.html you can obtain her wonderfully signed glossies and she will happily personalise them for you. I managed to purloin a few words with Miss Leon a little while ago and this is what the lovely lady had to say…
David: Could you tell us about the circumstances of you being asked for your first autograph request and how it came about?
Valerie: If I remember correctly my first autograph request came about when I appeared in my first pantomime, a traditional Christmas Show (Aladdin)
David: What was the funniest thing that ever happened to you on a film set?
Valerie: I took whipping lessons for my role as Tanya, The Lotus Eater in The Revenge of The Pink Panther. I think word got around, because when I arrived at my dressing room there was a queue of men waiting!!! I can’t imagine why??!!
David: What has been the most unusual or interesting autograph request by a fan?
Valerie: When I was asked to sign my name on a man's hairy arm and he said he was going off to have it tattooed! Others include signing someone's T-shirt across their chest and the usual lipstick imprints.
David: Do you collect autographs yourself, and if so what are some of your favourite treasures?
Valerie: I used to collect autographs. My favourites among many are Noel Coward, Rudolph Nureyev and Barbra Streisand.
David: What do you regard as being your best film role?
Valerie: I like to consider Margaret/Queen Tera in Seth Holt’s 1971 film, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb as my best role.
David: How did the two James Bond roles come about and how did you find it working with two such different actors playing the lead role?
Valerie: My role in The Spy Who Loved Me with Roger Moore came about after I went to Pinewood Studios to meet Cubby Broccoli, the producer responsible for the Bond movies. I told him I wanted to be in the movie but not killed off so I ended up with the cameo role of the Hotel Receptionist …
As for Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery, I went for a meeting in Soho London at 10am dressed in a maroon catsuit with a sleeveless gold brocade coat over it and boots. The producers said "What kind of outfit do you call that?" I think I made an impression as I got the part of The Lady, in The Bahamas. This was not a Cubby Broccoli movie.
David: If anyone in history could sign an autograph for you, who would you ask and what would you have them write in their dedication?
Valerie: Isadora Duncan. I would have her write "to a fellow free spirit" etc. (Unfortunately I am not a free spirit, but I would like to have been!)
David: Do you attend many memorabilia conventions and if so do you have any interesting stories from one of them?
Valerie: I attend memorabilia conventions occasionally and I remember a fan from one of them telling me I had helped him through puberty when I had appeared in a certain successful British aftershave commercial every Christmas for about 6 years. I told him I was glad to have been of service!!
David: Can you name your favourite three films of all time and favourite actors?
Valerie: My favourites are Gone with the Wind, The English Patient and Cabaret. My favourite actors include Anthony Quinn, Spencer Tracy, Jude Law, Katharine Hepburn, Judi Dench and Vanessa Redgrave.
David: Are there any final thoughts or stories you would like to share with your many fans from around the world?
Valerie: I would like the fans to know I appreciate still being remembered.
I think all cancer charities should be supported as 1 person in 3 suffers and I think most of us know someone who has died from it. I also have a high regard for The Mayer -Lismann Opera Centre which supports young singers.
(C) David Priol 2006