It was during the blackest time in her life that Angela Douglas, the actress best known for her appearances in four classic Carry On films, discovered she could write. The slender, vivacious blonde who first caught Sid James’ – and the nation’s - eye as she sang This Is the Night For Love in a Stodge City saloon in Carry On Cowboy was caring for her dying husband when she was thrown the lifeline of writing a book about her life, and their life together.

Her husband, Kenneth More. was a household name - the beloved star of such classic British films as Reach For the Sky and Genevieve, and more recently TV’s hit show The Foryste Saga, in which he played Jolyon. In 1979, he had been busy publicising his autobiography, More or Less, when he was diagnosed with a rare form of Parkinson’s Disease. Douglas, his wife of ten years, dropped her career - and left her new lover - and ended the marital separation to return to live with her 64-year-old husband.

Initially, it was More who was approached to write an article for the Daily Mail. The brief was to write about life with his illness and how he was coping. Douglas, who turns 78 later this month, remembers: “It was great – it gave Kenny a project. When it came out, it was a lovely love letter to me, bless his heart.

“Two years later, the actress Maria Aitken came to the house and said: ‘There’s so much love in this house – why don’t you write about what it’s really like. Well, somehow I sat down and wrote 6000 words – you find strength in the madness of the situation. It’s like lifting a car off a child – you just find yourself doing it. I showed my piece to Gordon McKenzie, the editor of the Daily Mail, and he said: ‘I want a book.’

“So he got me an agent and introduced me to a publisher. He didn’t want a ghostwriter – it had to be me. On my way home from meeting the publisher - who had given me a cheque for £10,000 – I bought pencils and a notepad, and I went in and said to Kenny: ‘I’ve got to write a book.’ It took the pressure off him – he could sleep easy knowing I had something to do other than waiting for him to wake to get the next tablet. I gave him my final pages two weeks before he died, and he made me promise to see it through.

“I put it away, then after the memorial service, I closed the curtains and finished the book.” Now, 35 years after the publication of that popular and extremely moving and frank memoir, Swings and Roundabouts, Douglas the author is back, with Josephine – An Open Book. And although it’s being sold as a work of fiction, albeit one which draws on Douglas’s own experiences, it reads as a kind of companion piece to the memoir as it covers similar ground, with certain incidents overlapping between the two books, and certain characters coming over as fictionalized versions of real-life figures from Douglas’s life. It also tells stories which were perhaps too sensitive to be dealt with in the memoir.

The book is written in the first person, and if you read it back to back with Swings and Roundabouts then you find you have to keep reminding yourself that it’s Josephine, not Angela, telling her stories of a young actress in 1960s London. It sounds like the same voice, and, often, it’s telling the same stories or describing the same family set-up and events.

So, how much of Josephine is actually Angela? Douglas laughs and admits: “A lot of her is Angela! The beginning of the book is based to some extent on the truth of my mother’s life, the middle bit is my life, and the end is my friend Jill’s life.”

Which is a pretty shocking revelation because it means that her mother was raped as a teenager, and her friend Jill was treated unbelievably cruelly by her aristocratic husband. Indeed, the part of the book – the sequence of events which happen to Josephine towards the end of the story - which seems the most OTT is actually based on real life.

“Mummy was assaulted as a very young girl in service and lost her job,” explains Douglas of the shocking story near the start of the book in which the 16-year-old Josephine is raped by the head of the household where she is working as a nanny. It’s one of a number of incidents in the book which could carry the “Me Too” hashtag, and which – Douglas points out – happened in real life.

“I was lucky in that I didn’t have a lot of those Weinstein type of experiences,” she says, “and when producers came into my dressing room to try it on, all I had to do was shudder in disgust and they left me alone.”

Was she protected by her relationship with More? “Oh definitely. Anybody thinking of trying it on might not have wanted to risk finding that he wouldn’t work with them.”

One of the scenes in Josephine which sounded as if it must be the figment of Douglas’s imagination is a party in Switzerland where our heroine mingles with just about every big star of the 1960s.

“Oh no, that happened!” says Douglas. “It was a party hosted by Valentino, and I met Elizabeth Taylor. She was stunning and her jewellery was amazing. And, just like Josephine in the book, I did meet Audrey Hepburn at that party. She was going round collecting everyone’s autograph! She was very sweet, very unspoiled. She asked for my autograph but she was just being nice because I was sitting next to Montgomery Clift, and she was asking for his!”

A young Michael Caine pops up in both books. Douglas met him when they were both working in an episode of the TV series Dixon of Dock Green in 1959. “We went home on the same bus and sat upstairs. He offered to pay my bus fare, and I said no.” But when the young Caine ascertained that he was earning three guineas more than Douglas for the job, he insisted. “I still owe him a shilling for the bus!”

Surprisingly, there’s no mention of the Carry On films in Douglas’s memoir or, directly, in the novel – despite the fact that she starred in four of them, including one reckoned to be among the very best, Carry On Up the Khyber. In it, Douglas played the part of Princess Jehli – “with blue eyes!” she laughs.

“Leaving the Carry On films out of Swings and Roundabouts wasn’t a deliberate omission,” she explains. “But you have to remember that I was writing that book at a time of grief. It was based on how I was feeling at that point – and I was very emotional. Also, work wasn’t what life was about for me. It was never number one. Kenny, my home life and my mother were my top priorities.”

She looks back on the films with great affection, however. “Carry on Cowboy is probably my favourite. I made great friends on that film: Peter Butterworth and Joan Sims were my friends. Joan was lovely. A lonely lady but screamingly funny all the time. And she really helped me on the film. I had to do a scene where I was wearing high heels, spangles, a low cut corset and I was a bag of nerves. She gave me a small brandy and pushed me on set!”

The Carry On capers are to the forefront of Douglas’s mind when we chat as she and her husband are just back from a Carry On cruise to the Mediterranean. “It was a cruise that was available to the general public but which specially catered for Carry On film fans – they showed all the films – we had a movie night every night – and the actors who were there did Q&A’s.”

It’s somewhat surreal to realise – after reading Swings and Roundabouts and Josephine – that the ground they cover is only the first half of Angela Douglas’s life. Six years after More died, she was juggling journalistic assignments with acting jobs when she met the Scottish director and playwright Bill Bryden who is the same age as her. They fell in love and set up home together, eventually marrying – secretly – at New York’s City Hall in 2009. (One of their witnesses was Sally Ann Howes, Truly Scrumptious from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.)

A second volume of autobiography, perhaps? …. Watch this space.

* Josephine - An Open Book is published by Candy Jar Books and is available now.