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The Warp

Carol White childhood

Carol White, former child star, mini-skirted child of the sixties, later would go to Hollywood, become friends with many celebrities and lover of even more of them, would live through times of great success and also of despair and broken marriages and no known direction, and in the end would seem about to pull success out of defeat when she drowned in a final tempest.

At that time she was beautiful, funny, poignant. Carol’s father, Joe White, had been a market spieler, a rag and bone man, and a prize fighter. Himself used to showbiz and those wilder shores of performance involved in prize fighting, he sent his children to stage school at an acting academy in Fulham.

A carefree man, as a boy he had run away with a circus. As a teenager he made ‘secret’ potions that cost a penny each in materials and sold for a pound each to the farmers of Devon and Cornwall.

He then became a bare-fist fighter, fighting outside pubs, only taking money home if he’d won.

As a result of one good win he was able to buy a market barrow and its pitch where he called out what was for sale, assuring his public that everything had just fallen off the back of a lorry – which, according to Carol, was not far from the truth.

He moved on to Vaudeville on the variety hall circuit and at one time did a double act with Tommy Trinder, a lifelong friend, who went on to be compere of a very well-known weekly television programme called ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’.

Joe felt for his daughter Carol ‘a love that bordered on passion’. ‘Since a child,’ she wrote in her autobiography, ‘I have seen the look of love many times, but if there was ever a man who would have laid his life on the line for me, my father was that man.’

But, as she also wrote in ‘Carol Comes Home’, ‘there was also that dark side to his character, a violent uncontrollable temper.’ This, she felt, ‘may have been useful in prize fighting but frightened the life out of me when he brought it home from the pub.’

He would chase Carol’s Mum through the house with a carving knife. She responded in kind. On one occasion they ‘broke every piece of crockery we possessed, throwing cups and saucers across the kitchen and yelling the most awful curses.

‘Some mornings they would both appear festooned in bandages and sticking plaster.’

As a pupil at the Corona Stage School, Carol had already had two idols; Brigitte Bardot and Marilyn Monroe.

Rona Knight, the proprietor, insisted she would ‘never get anywhere.’ She was to become its most famous student, and would, for example, win the Evening Standard ‘Best Actress’ award.

By the age of thirteen Carol had ‘flowing blonde tresses and a healthy young body that turned the head of every man who passed by.’ As a child star, she was already making films.

There had been a break, and then Ken cast her in ‘Up the Junction’ and, later, ‘Cathy Come Home’.


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