Not just another tall, beautiful brunette, Valerie Leon had extensive experience in British theatre, television and films – and not just as a sexpot – before she became a fixture in the “Carry On” series, appearing in seven of them. In addition to comedy, she excelled in horror films, playing a dual role in one of Hammer’s best, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971), and had the distinction of appearing with two different James Bonds, Roger Moore and Sean Connery.
Leon’s career began as a trainee fashion buyer at Harrods. In April 1965, Leon went to an audition which led to her becoming a chorus girl in a touring production of The Belle of New York. When the tour in Britain was cancelled after some weeks, Valerie contacted Central Casting and started to work as an extra in movies – her first film was That Riviera Touch (1966) starring Morecambe and Wise, for which she was hired as a girl in a bikini. Around the same time, she appeared with Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London’s West End.
Leon appeared in six films of the Carry On series: Carry On Up The Khyber (1968), Carry On Camping (1969), Carry On Again Doctor (1969), Carry On Up the Jungle (1970), Carry On Matron (1972) and Carry On Girls (1973), and appeared in two James Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) as a Hotel Receptionist and as Lady in Bahamas in Never Say Never Again (1983). Other film appearances include Revenge of the Pink Panther, The Wild Geese (both 1978), The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer (1970, as the secretary Tanya), a hotel receptionist in The Italian Job (1969), and a callgirl in No Sex Please, We’re British (1973). The Hammer horror film Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971) gave Leon a dual starring role as a reincarnated Egyptian queen.
Leon’s TV credits include The Saint, Randall and Hopkirk, Up Pompeii!, The Avengers, Space: 1999, The Persuaders, Last of the Summer Wine and the 1968 version of Johnny Speight’s provocative comedy-drama If There Weren’t Any Blacks You’d Have To Invent Them as a Nurse.
From 1969-1976, Leon played the woman driven wild by a man wearing Hai Karate aftershave in a highly successful series of British commercials for the product. Leon parodied her role in The Goodies episode “It Might as Well Be String” by attacking Tim Brooke-Taylor.
She appeared in several UK national tours of plays in the 1970s and 80s, and more recently, she appeared on stage throughout the UK in her one-woman show, Up Front with Valerie Leon.