Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Two Classic Carry Ons Coming Up on Film4!

Once again Film4 are delivering the goods. Two wonderful black and white Carry On films from the Norman Hudis era are being shown on the channel over the next seven days and here are the details: 

Carry On Teacher - Thursday 18 October, 17.00

Another favourite of mine from the early Norman Hudis era of the series, Carry On Teacher blends the best elements of Ealing comedy and St Trinian's to make one of the most innocent of all the Carry Ons. A group of children rebel during an official visit from some school inspectors in the hope they can prevent their beloved headmaster from leaving to take up a new job. Gerald Thomas coaxes some lovely performances from the child actors in the cast, principally from leads Richard O'Sullivan and Carol White. Ted Ray makes his only Carry On appearance as the headmaster William Wakefield and forms a superb double act with his longtime radio co-star Kenneth Connor as bumbling science master Gregory Adams. Rosalind Knight grabs a larger role in Teacher, following her cameo in Nurse, this time playing severe school inspector Felicity Wheeler while the likes of Hattie Jacques, Joan Sims, Charles Hawtrey and Kenneth Williams are also along for the fun as the gaggle of accident prone, squabbling teachers. 

Further reading:  Carry On Blogging Interview: Josephine Bailey
Carry On Blogging: Whatever Happened to the Saboteurs?

 Carry On Regardless (1961) - Sunday 21 October, 16.50.

Although writer Norman Hudis is on record as saying this was his least favourite of all the Carry Ons he wrote, I love Regardless. It's the most episodic film of the entire series, basically made up of a series of sketches held together by the central comic force of Sid James as the owner of the Helping Hands Agency. Helping Hands employs a rag bag of diverse workers willing to undertake (almost) anything. This premise gives Hudis a huge amount of scope and the results, in the hands of a cosy bunch of lovable Carry On eccentrics, is just brilliant. It also features the biggest supporting cast of superb British comedy actors even seen. Everyone from Fenella Fielding and Stanley Unwin to Molly Weir, Jerry Desmonde and Joan Hickson appear, mostly fleetingly. Sid is assisted by the likes of Esma Cannon, Kenneth Connor, Joan Sims, Bill Owen and a debuting Liz Fraser.

Further reading: Carry On Blogging: Why I love Carry On Regardless
Carry On Blogging: My Favourite scene - Carry On Regardless

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Joe, Kenneth and Mrs Edna Welthorpe

This Friday I am attending a very special event at London's Postal Museum. As part of the Bloomsbury Festival, I managed to grab a couple of tickets for Yours Faithfully Edna Welthorpe (Mrs) - Joe Orton's Prank Letters

I've been a fan of the late playwright Joe Orton since I first discovered him through Kenneth Williams' diaries. Kenneth and Joe were friends in the mid 1960s and although they shared some common attributes they were in many ways complete opposites. Both gay and from working class backgrounds, while Kenneth's private life was monk-like and the modern swinging sixties world around him both excited and repulsed him, Joe went for it and enjoyed being the glamorous toast of London. Joe became hugely famous thanks to two notorious plays - Loot and Entertaining Mr Sloane. Both plays shocked and intrigued contemporary audiences and have endured, becoming classics of their kind still often performed today.

Kenneth and Joe first met when Williams was cast in the first version of Joe's play Loot. Although the production was a disaster, the friendship endured and the pair even enjoyed trips abroad to more liberal environments. Having read both diaries and taken in these two famous, iconic men and their opinions of each other, we really can view them from a unique perspective. Kenneth was deeply shocked and affected by Joe's untimely death at the hands of Kenneth Halliwell in August 1967. It's worth reading his diary from around this time although it's pretty sober stuff. 

Joe was well known for producing deliciously camp, funny prank letters under the name of Mrs Edna Welthorpe and Kenneth was a regular receiver of these missives. The event on Friday will celebrate this aspect of Joe's creative outpouring in the company of several experts and Joe's sister, Leonie Orton. There will also be some new Edna letters, written by some well known comedy writers of today and a screening of a brand new animation on Edna, voiced by Alison Steadman. I'm particularly keen to hear what Leonie has to say as I've recently read her deeply touching, affecting and sometimes (darkly) hilarious memoir, I Had it in Me. I believe Joe would have loved the double meaning of this title. The memoir is as much about Leonie's own journey through life as it is about Joe and her thoughts about his life, his career and his untimely passing. 

I thoroughly recommend it to you and you can find it here

And you can read more about Kenneth and Joe in my blog from last year here 

And if you want more, here's a video of Kenneth Williams discussing Joe from the BBC Arena documentary A Genius Like Us: A Portrait of Joe Orton from 1982:

And finally, here's Leonie talking about her brother back in 2012:

I can't wait for Friday night to hear more about the brilliant Joe Orton, his life and work.

More on the Bloomsbury Festival can be found here:

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Monday, 15 October 2018

Three Classic Comedies tomorrow on Talking Pictures TV

Talking Pictures TV are showing three classic British comedy films back to back tomorrow morning. First up is the 1956 film Sailor Beware, starring Peggy Mount, Ronald Lewis and Gordon Jackson. This is followed up by a rather bizarre little curio, Cuckoo Patrol from 1967 and then bringing up the rear the 1964 canal boat classic, The Bargee, featuring the likes of Ronnie Barker, Julia Foster, Miriam Karlin and Eric Sykes. 

More details below:

08.10 - Sailor Beware! (1956)

Carry On Faces: Esma Cannon, Shirley Eaton, Anthony Sagar, Fred Griffiths
Royal Navy sailor Albert Tufnell is to marry Shirley Hornett the next day. He and his best man, fellow sailor Carnoustie Bligh, travel to the Hornett household. However, Albert begins to have second thoughts when he spends the day with her family. He has no problem with her father Henry or with meek spinster aunt Edie, but her domineering mother Emma is another matter entirely. 
On the day of the wedding, Albert does not appear at the church, so the Hornetts go home. Then Albert shows up, as does the Reverend Purefoy, who was to preside over the ceremony. Albert states that he loves Shirley and wants to marry her. However, he has his doubts. Mr. Purefoy asks to speak to the couple privately. Everyone else leaves the room (but eavesdrops). Albert then explains that the unhappy example of her family life and the unilateral decision about where they were to live have made him hesitate. Henry comes in and surprisingly states that his wife has actually taken good care of him, and that he is fond of her. Upon hearing that, Emma breaks down and weeps; she tells Purefoy she wants to change her ways. Albert marries Shirley, but after they leave, Emma finds it hard to break old habits.
Read more on this film here: Carry On Blogging: Sailor Beware

09.50 - Cuckoo Patrol (1967)
Carry On Faces: Kenneth Connor, Victor Maddern, Peggy Ann Clifford 
The late Freddie Garrity (of Freddie and the Dreamers) stars in this 1967 film comedy. The film is directed by Duncan Wood who produced the likes of Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe and Son amongst many others. A good British cast including Kenneth Connor, Victor Maddern, John Le Mesurier and Arthur Mullard tell the story of a troop of scout misfits, The Cuckoo Troop, led by Garrity on their way to scout camp and all the scrapes they stumble into!

11.25 - The Bargee (1964)
Carry On Faces: Harry H Corbett, Eric Barker, Patricia Hayes, Ronnie Brody, Brian Wilde, Ed Devereaux 
Hemel Pike is a canal barge casanova, aided and abetted by his illiterate cousin, Ronnie. Hemel has a girl in every town along his route, and each one is intent on marriage. He is finally caught when one of the girls, Christine, falls pregnant. Her protective father, a 'larger than life' character, who holds the canal record for drinking 29 pints of 'Brown & Mild' in a single session, is understandably upset by his daughter's situation…

Something for everyone there!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Bernie Carries On … As Ernie Bragg

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 continuing 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 continue this new series looking at Bernard's role as Ernie Bragg, a part of Sid James' criminal gang in the 1971 medical comedy cum crime caper, Carry On Matron. 


The basic premise of Carry On Matron is an update of previous medical entries (Matron!) The saucy Seventies allowed even more near the knuckle humour and Talbot Rothwell takes full advantage with a script that is part hospital knock about farce and part crime caper. Sid James and his gang of Bernard Bresslaw, Bill Maynard and Kenneth Cope plan a Too Many Crooks like heist on Finisham Maternity Hospital to steal a load of morning after pills. To do this, Sid's screen son Cope goes under cover in drag as a student nurse, attracting the dodgy attentions of Terry Scott's amorous Dr Prodd in the process. Scott is at his most lascivious here in his final Carry On role and he plays the part extremely well. 

Away from the crime caper element, the rest of the film sees three Carry On stalwarts camp about the hospital with innuendo-encrusted delight. Joining Jacques is an on form and over the top Kenneth Williams as Sir Bernard Cutting and Charles Hawtrey in his penultimate role as Dr F.A Goode (!). Although Charles is criminally underused in the film, he does have some priceless moments with Williams during the "newts" sequence and again with Hattie with all the comic misunderstandings as they sit down to watch television together in her room. The appearance of Hawtrey, however brief, could lift any script and this would be proved again and again once he had left the series in 1972.

So what about Bernard's role in the film? Once again Bernie is very much a supporting player but his acting prowess and flair for comedy keep him front and centre. While the medical mayhem of Williams, Hawtrey and Jacques take centre stage and Kenneth Cope's brilliantly innocent criminal in drag proves wonderfully eye-catching and sympathetic, we mustn't overlook Bresslaw's superlative turn as the ultimate dim-witted crook. In many ways Bernie is playing an updated version of the character he played in the already mentioned Too Many Crooks, a classic of its kind. He blends elements of that performance with his stock in trade Army Game simpleton and Ernie Bragg is always one step behind the rest of the gang.

Once you get past the ridiculous sight of Bernard's long flowing wig (!) it's straight down to business as he plants himself in the back of Sid's car alongside Bill Maynard as they survey the object of their criminal affections - the Finisham Maternity Hospital. One wonders why Ernie is part of Sid's gang as he contributes very little and sticks out a country mile but as always, Bernard's height is used to great advantage, particularly in a prolonged appearance in drag towards the end of the film. I love Bernard's reaction to Kenneth Cope's first appearance in nurses' uniform and trendy 70s lady wig. He quite naturally falls under Cyrile Carter's spell, despite the fact Cyril has his trousers on under his skirt and boasts a couple of rather unconvincing fake boobs!

Without a doubt one of the finest sequences in Matron sees Sid, Bernie and Bill Maynard sit down to discuss their plans to break into the hospital. For no specific reason, the whole scene is dominated by a rambling tale about London bus routes that would not have been out of place in a West End revue. It's inspired, slightly surreal stuff and provides a wonderful breather from the madcap farce in the hospital wards. The dialogue between Sid, Bernie and Bill is so natural, so effortless it just raises the entire film up to a different level. My only problem is that we didn't get more of it! 

Bernard's own high point in the film must be his turn in drag as an extremely unconvincing expectant mother who Sid uses to get into Finisham Hospital late at night to steal the birth control pills. Somehow fooling Arthur the security guard, Sid and Bill guide Bernie's dragged up mother to be to the lift, but the only big bang that follows is a load of dynamite which wakes up half the hospital and brings on Mrs Tidey's much delayed labour! What follows is the much anticipated Carry On film finale which sees the entire hospital chase Sid, Bernie and the gang around the hospital corridors. The sight of Bernie, still in drag, a little straw hat atop his female wig and him caringly shielding his fake baby is a joy! 

In the end, Sid's gang are released without charge and with Cyril settling down with Barbara Windsor's Nurse Ball, Sid plans the next big raid for the remnants of his gang. The idea of going undercover in a nudist camp is step too far though and the last shot of the film sees a speeded up Bernie and Bill taking flight and running for the hills! 

So those are my thoughts on Bernard's role in Carry On Matron. Stay tuned for my next blog in this series, as I look back at Bernard's role in the classic Carry On Abroad!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Bernard Bresslaw Stars in The Ugly Duckling this afternoon on Talking Pictures TV!

Talking Pictures TV are once again showing a rather rare curio from the vaults this afternoon. Carry On regular Bernard Bresslaw rarely took a starring role on the big screen and was more often the ensemble player in films such as Too Many Crooks, the Carry Ons and the television series, The Army Game.

In the late1950s, at the height of his Army Game fame, Bernard was much in demand he starred in a spin off feature film named after his Army Game catchphrase, released a number of novelty records and took the lead in a comedy called The Ugly Duckling. The film, a parody of the classic horror tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, was directed by Lance Comfort and produced by Michael Carreras for Hammer Films. The script came from Jack Davies and Sid Colin, a long time friend and collaborator of Talbot Rothwell. Colin went on to contribute to Carry On Spying in 1964.

The film tells the story of Henry Jekyll (Bernard Bresslaw) who is a bungling, awkward and socially inept buffoon working in his uncle's pharmacy. One day he discovers an old formula created by his uncle which claims to turn 'a man of timid disposition into a bold, fearless dragon'. He eagerly mixes the formula, takes one drink, and is transformed into the suave, dashing and self-confident Teddy Hyde. Teddy immediately becomes a darling of society and a big hit with the ladies. However he also craves the thrill of becoming a master criminal, and recruits a gang of expert crooks to join him in carrying out a series of daring and ambitious jewel robberies.
The formula wears off, and Teddy changes back into Henry, who is appalled at the crimes committed by his alter ego. Feeling overcome with guilt, he helps the police to round up and capture the robbers who have evaded them for so long.
Starring alongside Bernard are several well known comedy character actors who went on to enliven the Carry Ons. Jon Pertwee co-stars as Victor Jekyll while familiar names such as Richard Wattis, David Lodge, Michael Ward and Cyril Chamberlain also pop up in supporting roles. 
Apparently, the film was not a success when first released, losing money at the box office, which is a bit of a shame. I can't really comment as I haven't seen it yet but I plan to put that right by tuning in to Talking Pictures TV this afternoon at 13.40!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Isn't it time it was Sir Bernard Cribbins?

I love Bernard Cribbins as the bumbling leading man in both Carry On Jack and Carry On Spying. Although Bernard only appeared in two of the original run of films (Jack and Spying) I think he was an excellent addition to the series. He takes over from where Kenneth Connor left off and does well with his material. He's also quite physical in the same way as Jim Dale would be in later films. Bernard is also incredibly entertaining in both his Carry On audio commentaries, forming a truly delicious double act with the late, great Dilys Laye on the commentary for Spying. 

This made me realise just how fab Bernard is and how many classic projects he's been involved with over the years. There's his association with Doctor Who - both in classic 1960s film and much more recently in the revamped BBC series. He's been in Coronation Street as Wally Bannister (paired with the wonderful Maggie Jones as Blanche). He's worked with Peter Sellers in the classic comedy film Too Way Stretch and Barbara Windsor in Crooks in Cloisters. Bernard has made comedy records with the legendary producer George Martin. He's starred opposite Ursula Andress in the Hammer film She and Dinah Sheridan and Jenny Agutter in The Railway Children. He also famously played the deeply irritating Mr Hutchinson in Fawlty Towers. He has even worked with Alfred Hitchcock in the film Frenzy in 1972.

And who can forget his long association with two classic children's television series: The Wombles between 1973-75 and over one hundred appearances on Jackanory between 1966 and 1991, making him the record holder for most appearances. 

Bernard is just one of those famous faces who has been a constant in so many of our lives and means so many things to different generations. Thankfully he's still going strong in his 90th year. Isn't it time it was Sir Bernard Cribbins though?

What do you think?

Find out more about Bernard's newly published autobiography here and you can listen again to Bernard's recent radio interview with Danny Baker right here

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Listen Again: Bernard Cribbins on The Danny Baker Show

There was an absolutely smashing interview with Bernard Cribbins on the BBC Radio 5 Live Danny Baker Show this morning. I only caught it half way through but it was a total delight and well worth listening to again on 'catch up'.

Bernard was on to promote his recently released autobiography Bernard Who? 75 Years of Doing Just About Everything. I'm already half way through it and I can't put it down. Get it now or order it for Christmas! Anyway, Danny's interview with Bernard was wonderfully warm, witty, funny and full of fantastic stories and clips from Cribbins' incredibly long and diverse career.

Bernard talked about making records in the 1960s, some of his stage work over the years and film appearances in the likes of She, Carry On Jack, Dr Who and of course, The Railway Children. I've said it before and I'll say it again, listening to him I just can't believe Bernard is nearly 90 years young. He puts the rest of us to shame.

The show should be available to listen again online shortly after broadcast and you can find it here

You can read more about Bernard's autobiography right here

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram