Friday, 22 June 2018

Meet Carry On Stars at the London Film Fair!

Now into its 45th Year, this event is the continuation of a legacy that started back in the early seventies, and over the years have seen different names and organizers but its roots orginate from the original Collector’s Film Convention’s that were organized by Ed Mason.  Now under new management, the future of the event is secured. 

The event’s are held at London’s Central Hall Westminster, with up to 6 events a year.
The conventions presents dealers from all over the UK, Europe, US, Canada, Australia and South America that specializes in vintage and modern film memorabilia.  Items cover the history of cinema from the silents to the present day blockbusters.

The London Film Fair will appeal to avid film buffs, collectors, archivists researchers and students. A must for anyone with an interest in cinema and cult television! 

The next Fair takes place on 30 June and this time fans can get the chance to meet three brilliant Carry On actresses! First up is the lovely Patricia Franklin! Patricia appeared in five Carry On films and the big screen version of Bless This House. Patricia's debut in the series was playing the pregnant daughter of Derek Francis in Carry On Camping in 1968. Two years later she played the cameo role of Mrs Dreery opposite Bill Maynard and Kenneth Williams in Carry On Loving. In 1973 Patricia played Augusta Prodworthy's assistant Rosemary in Carry On Girls and then in 1975 she appeared in Carry On Behind as Vera, wife to Ernie (Jack Douglas) and best friend to Sylvia (Liz Fraser). Patricia made her last Carry On appearance the following year in the small role of the canteen cook in Carry On England.

Patricia has enjoyed a fantastic acting career away from the Carry Ons with many wonderful stage roles over the years. You can read more about this in my recent interview with the lady herself here - Part 1 and Part 2Patricia is a lovely lady to talk to so if you get the chance, do go along and meet her on the day.

Also attending on 30 June is the superb actress Rosalind Knight. Rosalind continues to enjoy a fantastic career on stage and screen but is probably best known for her role as Beryl in the rather naughty hit BBC comedy series Gimme Gimme Gimme, which starred Kathy Burke and James Dreyfus. Early on in her acting career Rosalind appeared in two Carry Ons. Following a brief but memorable cameo as Nurse Nightingale in Carry On Nurse, Rosalind was promoted to a starring role as strict school inspector Felicity Wheeler in 1959's Carry On Teacher. 

And finally, Carry On Nurse actress Ann Firbank will be joining Patricia and Rosalind at the Film Fair. Ann played Staff Nurse Helen Lloyd in the film and most of her scenes saw her working with the likes of Susan Beaumont, Charles Hawtrey and Shirley Eaton. Sadly this was Ann's only Carry On appearance however she has gone on to enjoy a rich and varied career across all mediums which continues to this day.

The next London Film Fair will take place on Saturday 30 June at the Central Hall Westminster. Further details can be found on the Film Fair Website

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Bernie Carries On … As Little Heap

Over the past year I have written a series of blogs covering each of the roles of some of our favourite Carry On stars. I began my looking back at each film role played by the three leading ladies in the series - Joan Sims, Hattie Jacques and Barbara Windsor - and most recently I've written about all of Kenneth Connor's Carry On performances in the run up to the great man's centenary. 

Today I am beginning a new strand of this series by turning the spotlight on that gentle giant of British comedy, the late Bernard Bresslaw. Probably one of the most under-rated actors in the main team, Bernard was a part of the series for ten years and fourteen films, tackling a superb range of crumbling villains and delightfully dimwitted foils to the likes of Sid James and Kenneth Cope. Bernard enjoyed a long career away from the Carry Ons and spent much of his later life wowing audiences in legitimate theatre. However he will forever to remembered for his clutch of hilarious Carry On supporting turns. 

Bernard joined the Carry On team in the mid 1960s and along with Peter Butterworth was the last main team member to join the gang. Along with Butterworth, Bernard played a series of smaller, supporting roles to begin with before graduating to major roles towards the end of the decade. Bernard fitted in effortlessly with the rest of the team and he's the kind of actor who is working hard but making it look oh so easy. A quiet, erudite, thoughtful family man away from the film studios, I often think Bresslaw has never received the credit he's due as like Connor and Butterworth, he didn't ever seek the limelight or splash his life over the front pages.

So today, we'll start off this new series looking at Bernard's role as Little Heap in his first Carry On, the classic Carry On Cowboy in 1965.

Cowboy, released in 1965, saw the Carry On team hitting the cinema screens all guns blazing in a rip roaring mickey take of the famous Hollywood Westerns. Not only did Cowboy garner impressive reviews from even the poshest of posh papers, it was also a firm favourite amongst many of the Carry On cast. Sid James loved his role as the gun-toting Rumpo Kid and clearly relished the macho part. Jim Dale had also risen through the ranks to secure his biggest role to date and bagged some excellent screen time as the English sanitary engineer Marshall P Knutt. The film also saw Carry On debuts for several popular actors - Angela Douglas as Annie Oakley, Peter Butterworth as Doc and Bernard Bresslaw as Little Heap (!)

The main plot of Cowboy sees Jim Dale mistakenly sent to Stodge City as a new peace marshall to drive Sid's Rumpo and his gang out of town. Kenneth Williams' cowardly Judge Burke has lost all control as Rumpo is in charge of Stodge. All the usual Carry On characters are on display although for the regular audience it must have been strange to see them not only in period costume but also with American accents. Most of them manage to pull it off fairly convincingly with only Dale and Charles Hawtrey's hilarious Big Heap keeping their English accents intact. It's a fantastically colourful romp with plenty of action and set pieces, some laugh out loud moments, brilliant costumes and a wonderfully dressed Western set out on the back lot at Pinewood Studios. Writer Talbot Rothwell had really come into his own after the previous Carry On adventure, Carry On Cleo the year before and Cowboy is film brimming with confidence.

For Bernard, joining a high profile comedy team really hitting its' stride, he must have felt a combination of excitement and nerves. I'm sure he already knew many of his fellow actors and at the same time, he was joining at the same time as the wonderful Peter Butterworth so I'm sure he already had a friend. Bernard quickly formed firm friendships with leading men Sid James and Kenneth Williams and was well thought of my the rest of the team. A gentle, kind man, his down time on set was usually spent doing the Times crossword. In Cowboy, Bresslaw plays a role as far removed from reality as possible, as the slow-witted son of Charles Hawtrey's character Big Heap! As native Indians, they begin the film as pawns in the Rumpo Kid's game to take over Stodge City and drive out Jim Dale's bogus peace marshall. 

Of course this being a Carry On, the native Indians are soon firmly in charge, albeit in a bungling, whisky guzzling way! Bernard's portrayal may be concerned a bit suspect these days in what could be called more enlightened times, however there's no doubting how funny he is on screen and what a great partnership he forms with Hawtrey. While Bernard delivers his role with an accent and the rest of the cast (apart from Dale's English character) take on American accents, Hawtrey's Big Heap remains delightfully little England! Bresslaw provides a real hulking height and definitely adds a new dimension to the series. Popping in and out of the action, Bernard isn't given a huge amount to do but he is memorable so it's not hard to see why he was asked back for further roles in the series. 

Little Heap's climatic scene comes towards the end of Cowboy when Sid's Rumpo uses him to blow his chums out of jail. Unfortunately it doesn't go to plan and Bernard disappears in a puff of comedy smoke! Little Heap isn't Bernard's finest Carry On performance by a long chalk - it's no Bungdit-Din or Bernie in Carry On Camping - however it remains really important as it marked the beginning of his wondrous Carry On career. And as an aside, of course this wasn't Bresslaw's first time in a Carry On. Carry On purists will be aware that Bernard's feet were spotted briefly in Carry On Nurse seven years earlier, doubling for those of star Terence Longdon! 

So that's my take on Bernard's baptism of fire with the Carry On team. Coming up next, Bernard's role as Sockett the butler in Carry On Screaming! 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Carry On Originals: Jack Smethurst

This is part of a new series of blogs looking back at the stars of the original Carry On film, Carry On Sergeant. 2018 marks 60 years since Sergeant was made and released so what better time to turn the focus on all those brilliant actors who brought our favourite series of comedy films to life? 

I'm continuing today with an actor who became a household name in the 1970s for a legendary situation comedy, Jack Smethurst.

Role in Carry On Sergeant: First Recruit

Other Carry On roles: Sergeant was Jack's very first film role. Sadly he didn't appear in any further Carry Ons although he did play a Sailor in Watch Your Stern in 1960, produced by Peter Rogers and directed by Gerald Thomas.

Other notable film performances: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) as a Waiter; A Kind of Loving (1962) as Conroy; Please Sir! (1971) as Bus Driver; For the Love of Ada (1972) as Leslie Pollitt; Man About The House (1974) as himself and Chariots of Fire (1981) as a Sleeping Car Attendant.

Best remembered for: Jack Smethurst is best remembered for his long running role as "socialist bigot" Eddie Booth in the Thames Television comedy series Love Thy Neighbour. The show ran to 54 episodes a feature film between 1972 and 1976.

Did you know?: Jack appeared in four different roles in ITV soap Coronation Street between 1961 and 2001. He played a drayman in 1961; an out of work man who conned Elsie Tanner in 1967; a bin man friend of Eddie Yeats who appeared for three years in the early 1980s and finally as an allotment keeper during the summer of 2001.

What happened to him?: Jack is thankfully still with us at the age of 86. 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Monday, 18 June 2018

The Gerald Thomas Archive: Carry On Abroad Cast Correspondence

A few months back I made a rather delayed trip (thank you British weather) to the British Film Institute on London's Southbank. As I've mentioned over on Twitter, the BFI hold the entire Gerald Thomas archive which is chock full of delightful artifacts from Gerald's long, varied and illustrious career in British film. I was quite frankly dazzled by the array of material on offer and have only managed to flick through a fraction of it, but this blog today is the start of several pieces looking at different aspects of what I've had the very good fortune to see.

Following on from my first blog on Gerald's Scrapbook for Carry On Abroad and my second on the Carry On Abroad Draft Script the next item file I want to write about concerns final preparations for the release of Carry On Doctor in late 1967. I have also, more recently, written a blog about the correspondence between the artist Terence "Larry" Parkes and Peter Rogers about the work he'd been asked to do for the titles of Carry On Doctor and also on what I gleaned from the cast contracts and correspondence from Carry On Again Doctor in 1969.

Today I am going to write about Carry On Abroad once again, always one of my favourites in the series. I went straight to the cast correspondence file again and although I'm curious about what the actors really did get paid for these films, it's the little, personal details which always excite me the most. 

The first contract in the bundle was that of the late, great Peter Butterworth. Peter was based in Sussex at the time and despite being very much a series regular at that stage, he was still paid on a per week basis like so many of the supporting actors involved in the films. Peter received £250 per week over a three week period for his superb turn as Pepe (or is it Mario?) in Abroad. At the time of planning for Abroad, Butterworth had missed out on several of the previous films and when he did appear it was usually a small cameo role. I had always wondered why and a little of that is cleared up in the memo from Peter that accompanies his contract. Writing to Peter and Gerald from HTV West Television in Bristol on 9 March 1972, Peter comments that he had recently been working on a television comedy series with John Le Mesurier and asks if there might be a part in the new Carry On film for him. He also apologises again for not being able to appear in the previous Carry On (Matron) "because of that Italian job". I have no idea what the Italian production was however the comedy series is definitely A Class By Himself, co-starring Le Mesurier and Richard Stilgoe. Peter played Clutton.

June Whitfield joined the Carry On team for the first time since Nurse in 1958 with her role as Evelyn Blunt in Carry On Abroad. June was paid £1000 per week for four weeks' work on the film and thereafter £250 per week. June's contract was subject to time off to record appearances on various BBC radio productions during the April of 1972. June's screen husband, series regular Kenneth Connor, was paid £2250 for six weeks in the role of Stanley. Meanwhile, Jack Douglas, still at the cameo stage and here playing Harry, the pub regular, was paid £40 per day with a guaranteed fee of £80. 

Barbara Windsor, making her seventh appearance in the series as the object of Sid's longing, Sadie Tompkins, received £2500 for six weeks on the film. Interestingly it was written into her contract by her then agent Richard Stone, that Barbara was still appearing in a production of The Threepenny Opera at London's Piccadilly Theatre when Abroad began shooting. Another actress represented by Richard Stone was Gail Grainger, making her first and only appearance in the films as Moira. Gail was living in Ealing, West London at the time of making Abroad and was paid £500. Her contract notes that Gail was then also appearing on stage at the Duke of York's Theatre in London opposite Leslie Phillips in The Man Most Likely To… Also included in the file is the original telegram Peter and Gerald sent to Gail Grainger on her birthday, 4 May. Sent to the Duke of York's ahead of that night's performance it says: Many happy returns. Hope you have a lovely birthday, love Peter and Gerald.

Patsy Rowlands, playing the reduced role of Miss Dobbs in the early scenes of the film, only worked for three days on the picture, earning just £20 per day. This again highlights the strangely varying size of the roles Patsy played throughout the series. The late Bill Maynard filmed for one day as WundaTours boss Mr Fiddler, shooting scenes with Gail Grainger, Patsy Rowlands and Kenneth Williams. Despite his scene being cut from the final film Bill was still paid £75. Another actor who was paid for a role which never materialised in the final print was Lindsay Marsh. Lindsay had previously appeared in a small role as a 'shapely nurse' in Carry On Matron and would return to play Myra in the film of Bless This House. Her part as an air hostess in Abroad, for which she received £25, was cut, along with the entire sequence to be filmed aboard an aeroplane.

A young actress who did play a sizeable role in the success of Carry On Abroad was Please Sir and Fenn Street Gang star Carol Hawkins. Carol, who like Gail and Sally Geeson was paid £500 for the film, wrote to Peter Rogers on 6 March 1972:

Dear Sir,

As I have recently completed the film of 'Please Sir" and the comedy TV series "Fenn Street Gang" playing the part of Sharon, I thought perhaps you would like a photograph of myself to keep in your files for future references.

The letter and photo obviously caught their eye as Carol was soon cast in the role of Marge. She would go on to appear in the film of Bless This House, again for Peter and Gerald, before returning three years later to play Sandra in Carry On Behind. There is another letter involving Carol later on in the file and it concerns her wedding in the Summer of the same year:

Dear Carol,

Please take your horses out of this and use the rest for a wedding present from me,


Another example of the generous nature of the men behind the Carry On films although I'm not sure if the letter and kind gesture is from Peter or Gerald. 

Another actor making his Carry On debut in this film was Scottish performer Jimmy Logan. Paid £1000 for his role as cheerful Bert Conway, Jimmy was granted special permission to miss some filming to honour a prior engagement. Again showing the kindness of Peter Rogers, the original letter from E. H Cochrane, Chairman of the Barnardo's Ball Committee in Motherwell, thanks Peter for allowing Jimmy the time away to host the Rose Ball in the presence of Princess Margaret in Glasgow. 

Finally, to a very sweet, human story involving regular supporting actor Brian Osborne. Brian debuted in the series in the previous film, Carry On Matron, playing an ambulance driver and would appear in every film up until England in 1976. In Abroad Brian played the market stall holder who sells the holiday makers Santa Cecilia's Elixir. Brian, represented by Peter Eade (who also looked after Joan Sims, Kenneth Williams and for a time writer Norman Hudis) was paid £100 for Abroad. 

On 15th May, Brian had written to Gerald informing him that his wife Elsie had, the night before, given birth to their daughter Helen Shirley. After sharing the happy news, Brian went on to apologise for being unable to attend the press show for Carry On Matron due to filming commitments with the television series 'Follyfoot" in Leeds. Two days later, on 17 May 1972, a handwritten letter from Brian's wife Elsie is also found on file. Thanking Peter and Gerald for "the really beautiful flower display in a cradle you sent for Helen", Elsie goes on to say:

I have been promoting your films to all the other patients and staff, without giving any other secrets away, so I hope box office sales do well.

It's a lovely record of a long ago act of kindness and reciprocity and the whole correspondence has a genuine thoughtfulness and feeling of innocence about it. It was a privilege to see it and a joy to read.

Thanks once again to the staff at the BFI for all their help. It was a wonderful experience to spend time going through Gerald's archive.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Happy Father's Day from Carry On Blogging!

As today is Father's Day I thought I would have a dig about and see what photos I could find on a Father's Day theme with Carry On connections. Let's start off with a familiar photo - Kenneth Connor with his son Jeremy in Carry On Nurse.

Next up, one of Kenneth's co-stars from Nurse, Bill Owen with his son Tom:

Now a lovely photo of Carry On legend Sidney James, pictured at home with his son Stephen:

And next up, Carry On actor Julian Holloway with his dad, the late, great British actor, Stanley Holloway and his mother, Violet:

Next we have a lovely photo of actor Sean Pertwee with his dad, the late Jon Pertwee. Jon of course played cameo roles in three Carry Ons - Cleo, Cowboy and Screaming.

I'm not sure which of Bernard Bresslaw's sons this is, but it's definitely the wonderful Bernie and his wife, Betty:

Next up, a lovely picture of JIm Dale with his wife and son from his first marriage, Toby:

Here's a picture of Terry Scott with regular sixties television co-star Hugh Lloyd. I'm figuring these three little girls are Terry's daughters but not 100% sure. Anyway, it's a lovely photo:

Finally, a lovely photo of Leslie Phillips with his daughters at a film premiere: 

A Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there! Carry On!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Saturday, 16 June 2018

My Top 20 Favourite Carry On Actors: Number 8 - Jim Dale

This is part of a brand new series of blogs where I will take a purely personal look at my favourite Carry On actors. I will be doing a countdown of my top twenty actors and actresses in this, the sixtieth anniversary year of Carry On. So why top twenty? Well top ten didn't allow me to include all my favourites and any more than twenty and I'd be at it forever, as it were.

This top twenty will be a mix of regular top team actors and many of those instantly recognisable supporting actors who popped in and out of the series, adding superb cameos here and there. You will probably agree with some of my main choices and be vehemently opposed to others, but it's meant to encourage debate! 

So we are now half way through my countdown of my all-time favourite Carry On actors. The first half of the list featured mainly supporting actors who popped in and out several times throughout the films, from the likes of Joan Hickson and Cyril Chamberlain to Margaret Nolan and Peter Gilmore. Now obviously the Top Ten is going to focus on the main team members as there aren't any I can conceivably leave out.

So here we go with Number Eight: a multi-talented performer who left the Carry Ons while they were still in their prime and went on to ever greater success -  Jim Dale.

Writing this blog series started off reasonably well but it's not getting tougher and tougher to rate all my favourites. Jim Dale is a real favourite of mine and his extraordinary range of talents were on full display when I saw his one man show back in 2015. He can do comedy and play it straight; he can sing, he can dance, he can write and he even does all his own stunts! He's also probably the most handsome face ever to grace the Carry Ons, not that I'm biased.

Jim got his acting break thanks to Peter Rogers Productions with a small part as a musician in the film Raising The Wind. It wasn't long before he was joining the Carry On team proper with a brief but eye-catching cameo in Carry On Cabby with Sid James. Jim then became a permanent presence with the team for the majority of the 1960s, starring in some of the series' best-loved films. From Marshall P. Knutt in Carry On Cowboy and Albert Potter in Carry On Screaming to Bo West in Follow That Camel and the brilliant Dr Jim Kilmore in Carry On Doctor, Jim rose up the cast lists and gave superb performance after superb performance. 

Jim was perfect as the Carry On romantic lead, charming a host of leading ladies such as Angela Douglas, Anita Harris, Joan Sims and Barbara Windsor. I always think Jim and Angela had particularly good chemistry on screen and this is seen to particularly good effect in Carry On Cowboy. Not only was Jim great at comedy, he could tug at the heart strings and provided a much-needed injection of physicality to the films. He was legendary for performing his own stunts and that runaway hospital trolley has become the stuff of legend. You just can't imagine a star doing stuff like that now!

With a growing reputation in the business, Jim took a year off from the Carry Ons in 1968 to focus on stage work. He did return to the Carry Ons for one final role in the original run - Dr Jimmy Nookey in Again Doctor, 1969 - but then he was off and running in a host of acclaimed roles on stage in London and over on Broadway. Before long he had settled full time in New York but he has never forgotten his Carry On roots or the actors he worked with during those years. We can forgive Jim for Carry On Columbus as his loyalty to the brand and their past successes shines through on screen. 

I think it's testament to how great Jim was in all his Carry On performances that once he left the series in the late 1960s, despite repeated attempts Peter and Gerald never quite managed to find a replacement. Many great actors had a crack at the romantic lead in a number of the 1970s Carry Ons which followed but nobody quite brought the wonderful qualities to the films that Dale brought in spades. He's one of the, sadly all too few, Carry On actors still with us today and long may he continue to make us laugh.

So JIm Dale comes in at Number Eight in my list of Top 20 Favourite Carry On actors. Who'll be next?

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram 

Friday, 8 June 2018

Carry On Originals: Charles Hawtrey

This is part of a new series of blogs looking back at the stars of the original Carry On film, Carry On Sergeant. 2018 marks 60 years since Sergeant was made and released so what better time to turn the focus on all those brilliant actors who brought our favourite series of comedy films to life? 

I'm continuing today with an actor who is probably the most individual performer the Carry Ons ever featured, the one and only Charles Hawtrey.

Role in Carry On Sergeant: Peter Golightly 

Other Carry On roles: Yes - Charles became one of the most prolific of all the Carry On actors, appearing in a total of 23 films between 1958 and 1972. 

Other notable film performances: The Ghost of St Michaels (1941) and The Goose Steps Out (1942) - both with WIll Hay; A Canterbury Tale (1944); Passport to Pimlico (1949); I Only Arsked (1958); Inn for Trouble (1960); What a Whopper (1961); Dentist On The Job (1961) and Zeta One (1968).

Best remembered for: Aside from the Carry Ons, which came to dominate his screen career, Hawtrey is probably best remembered for his regular role as Private "Professor" Hatchett in the Granada Television national service comedy series, The Army Game. 

Did you know?: Hawtrey was actually born George Frederick Joffre Hartree, in Hounslow in 1914. He took his stage name from the theatrical knight Sir Charles Hawtrey and encouraged people to believe they were related.

Charles' career spanned six decades with his earliest stage appearance dating back to 1925. He even appeared in a couple of silent films in the early 1920s. 

What happened to him?: Sadly Charles left the series under a cloud after Carry On Abroad in 1972. He continued to act in pantomimes and the occasional television appearance into the 1980s before ill health took its toll. He died at the age of 73 in October 1988.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram