“I have never, ever wanted to write an autobiography. The number of times I have been approached and every time I said no, no, it’s a wank”
Miriam Karlin is that rare creature: a pillar of the British acting establishment who is at the same time a thoroughgoing maverick. During sixty distinguished, workaholic years of acting, she has been a West End regular and RSC company actor, a pioneering performer on live television, half of a radio double-act with Peter Sellers, a stand-up comic, a scene-stealing character actor in such films as The Entertainer and A Clockwork Orange, and, of course, the truculent, whistle-blowing shop steward Paddy in the long-running TV sitcom The Rag Trade, with her catchphrase “Everybody Out!” Parallel to her career as an actor are her lifelong socialist beliefs, her unerring sense of justice and her political activism.
Miriam’s life also has been a long battle against addiction; to alcohol, prescription drugs, gambling, cigarettes, and dieting (she recently revealed herself in the Observer as “the world’s oldest bulimic”) challenges she describes in Some Sort of a Life with great humour and irreverence.
Dictated to Jan Sargent as Miriam was recovering from mouth cancer (an experience she describes in a chapter typically entitled ‘Sans teeth, sans f*ckin’ everything’) she is compellingly candid about the people in her life: her family (part of which perished in the holocaust), her friends and the eminent figures she has worked with, such as Laurence Olivier, Peter Sellars, Stanley Kubrick, Tony Hancock and Barry Humphries. Above all though, she is utterly honest about herself: her love affairs and abortions, her battles with eating disorders and illness, her gradual disillusionment with the Labour Party and the state of Israel, and her own compulsive nature, which accounts for many of the highs and lows of her fascinating life.
Some Sort of a Life is an autobiography refreshingly free of self-justification and recrimination, and full of the passion and earthy humour of one of our finest character actors.