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

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Carry On Faces in Different Places: Davy

Here we go with a brand new series of blogs looking at some of the cream of British comedy film making from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Although this blog is all about the Carry Ons, believe it or not, there were some other joyous comedy films made away from Peter Rogers Productions. However, given the quality of the actors Peter employed to make his series, it's no wonder that most of them popped up elsewhere.

So far I've looked at the wonderful 1959 crime caper Too Many Crooks , the 1954 domestic comedy starring Dirk Bogarde, For Better For Worse , the big screen spin off Please Sir! and the wonderful Up Pompeii and the brilliant John Gregson and Diana Dors vehicle, Value for Money.
More recently I blogged about the Sid James and Kenneth Connor comedy horror What A Carve Up! and just last week I blogged about the Gordon Jackson drama, Floodtide

Today I'm going to blog about the 1958 comedy film, Davy.


Who's in it?

Davy stars Goon Show legend Harry Secombe as the title character, Davy Morgan, with able support from Alexander Knox as Sir Giles Manning, Ron Randell as George and Isabel Dean as Helen Carstairs.

Carry On Faces?

Several! Carry On original Bill Owen has a starring role as Eric while future fellow Carry On Nurse actress Susan Shaw also stars as Gwen. Carry On favourites and lifelong best friends Joan Sims and Liz Fraser (here billed as Elizabeth Fraser) play a couple of tea ladies alongside reliable character actress Gladys Henson.

Also look out for Carry On great Kenneth Connor in the role of Herbie and George Moon (who played small roles in Carry On Camping and Carry On Dick and is the father of actress Georgia Moon - Camping and Behind) plays Jerry. And keep your eyes peeled for an uncredited appearance from future national treasure Bernard Cribbins as a stage hand at the Collins Music Hall!

What's it about?

A young entertainer is conflicted over the chance of a big break. He has to decide whether to remain with his family's music hall act or to go solo. An audition scene at Covent Garden includes an especially fine rendition of Puccini's Nessun Dorma by Secombe, who, while known mainly as a comedian, had a fine tenor voice, and Mozart's Voi Che Sapete performed by opera singer Adele Leigh.

Did you know?

Davy was the very last comedy film to be made by the legendary Ealing Film Studios.

It was also the first British film to be made using Technirama, an alternative to Cinemascope.

The film was an attempt to turn Harry Secombe into a movie star, however it was only a modest success despite its sterling supporting cast and failed to perform well overseas.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Remembering Kenneth Connor

The Carry On legend Kenneth Connor was born on this day in 1918. It's hard to believe, given how often we all still see him on our screens, both that Kenneth is no longer with us and that if he was he would be 100 years old this very day.

I've often felt that Kenneth Connor is somewhat overlooked by mainstream comedy and Carry On fans. Only the diehards really know of his impressive body of work and understand why he is such a vital part of Britain's favourite film comedy team. Kenneth was one of the most loyal members of the Carry On gang, appearing in seventeen films, two stage productions and countless television episodes which included both Christmas specials and the ATV series Carry On Laughing.

Connor was on the stage pretty much all his life, first appearing at the age of just 2 and making his final appearance, in an episode of Noel Edmonds' Telly Addicts for the BBC, just a few days before his death aged 75 in 1993. Starting off as a revue performer, Kenneth honed his craft at the Central School of Speech and Drama where he won a Gold medal for his performances. The Second World War interrupted his acting career however he returned to the profession after serving with the Middlesex Regiment as an Infantry Gunner. The immediate post war period saw him working at the legendary Bristol Old Vic theatre. The late 1940s also saw Kenneth work at the Old Vic in London with the likes of Alec Guinness. 

However it was radio which led to Kenneth Connor's big break. Known for his incredible vocal dexterity, these skills were called upon by the likes of Ted Ray and Peter Sellers. Kenneth worked with Ray on several shows, most notably Ray's A Laugh. Connor also appeared on the classic Goon Show, often replacing one of the regulars. This led to him appearing as a regular with most of the Goon team on television in shows such as A Show Called Fred in the 1950s.

Kenneth peaked in films during the late 1950s and early 1960s. His growing popularity led to him starring in films like the Dentist comedies with Bob Monkhouse, What A Carve Up! with Sid James and Nearly a Nasty Accident. However the Carry Ons dominated his film career. Along with Kenneth Williams and Eric Barker, Connor was one of the very few actors who appeared in both the very first Carry On (Sergeant) and the very last of the original run (Emmannuelle). Connor was arguably the main star of the early Norman Hudis black and white Carry Ons, turning in beautifully crafted bumbling romantic lead roles in the likes of Nurse and Teacher and stayed with the films until Carry On Cleo in 1964. Following a five year gap to concentrate on other work, Connor returned for Up The Jungle and remained a vital part of the team until the series ran out of steam in 1978. The 1970s saw Kenneth turn in a range of really interesting middle-aged lotharios, blue collar little men and crumbling depictions of old age. 

Connor continued to work successfully after the Carry Ons came to an end. With the film industry in the doldrums, Kenneth appeared more often on television with regular roles in a range of classic situation comedies such as Hi-de-Hi, 'Allo 'Allo and Rentaghost. He also popped up in the likes of You Rang M'lord?, Blackadder The Third and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (with his Carry On Regardless co-star Betty Marsden). 

Kenneth was a very private, beloved family man, who spent his down time at his lovely home  in North London. I think, as with the likes of Peter Butterworth and Bernard Bresslaw, Kenneth failed to garner the attention or publicity compared to some of his more outwardly colourful cast mates. Despite this, Kenneth's performances speak for themselves. He was a brilliant actor with an impressive range and as with many of his contemporaries made the work he did look easy when it really was far from it. 

I've been profiling each of Kenneth Connor's seventeen Carry On roles on this blog and while I've loved doing it, there is so much more Kenneth should be remembered for. I hope people will look into Kenneth career and find out about his diverse, prolific career. As an actor and a man, he deserves to be remembered as one of the very best.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Connor Carries On … As Leyland

This month marks Kenneth Connor's centenary. This feels like the right time to celebrate the man's legacy and what better a legacy that his seventeen glorious performances in the Carry On films. As I've already done with the three main leading ladies of the series, I plan to embark on a series of blogs profiling each of Kenneth's roles in the Carry Ons, giving my own take on his contributions.

Kenneth is another one of those actors who worked steadily, prolifically and across all mediums throughout his career. From his very early days in film before the outbreak of World War Two, through the 1950s which saw him become an integral part of British radio comedy to the Carry Ons and his unforgettable roles in several 1980s sitcoms, Connor was an incredibly gifted actor. He worked right up until his death at the age of 75 in November 1993. However unlike Sid, Kenneth Williams or Barbara Windsor, I feel that Connor never really got the credit he deserved. He didn't have an outrageous private life, no scandals to be told. He shunned the limelight and his many performances as the ordinary man in the street mirrored his own life away from the cameras. 

Kenneth was also one of the precious few actors who's career spanned pretty much the entire run of the Carry Ons. He was there at the very beginning in Carry On Sergeant and, a five year gap in the mind 1960s aside, remained loyal to the films until the very end of the original run in 1978. Connor, along with Williams and Eric Barker were the only actors to appear in the very first and the very last of the series. Kenneth was still around when Columbus was made in 1992 but declined to take part, probably very wisely. This new series of blogs will be a celebration of all those wonderful comedy performances in the Carry Ons - from bumbling romantic lead through to crumbling character parts, Kenneth could play them all.

So let's continue with Kenneth's seventeenth and final role in the series, as Leyland the chauffeur in the 1978 film, Carry On Emmannuelle!

Carry On Emmannuelle marked the last gasp of the original run of films and for what remained of the core cast of actors, it was certainly the end of an era. Kenneth joined fellow veterans Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims, Peter Butterworth and Jack Douglas for one final romp, although I get the feeling most of them probably wished they'd left well alone. Williams in particular had been extremely reticent when it came to signing up for the film. He hated the script, the near the knuckle situations and the usual degrading stunts he found himself in all for the sake of a few laughs. I don't know a great deal on what the others thought of the experience but Joan Sims' autobiography skims over Emmannuelle pretty quickly!

Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas were gradually bowing to the pressure of changing times. The 1970s saw a relaxation of censorship rules and by the end of the decade pretty much anything was possible and everything was on display! The Confessions of and Adventures Of series of sexploitation comedy films took the classic innuendo of the Carry On films and pushed it much further. This direction instantly made the Carry Ons look tired and old hat. Rogers was first and foremost a businessman who wanted to make a profit, so gradually the Carry Ons became ruder both in style and content. The writing had been on the wall since Carry On Behind with saucier humour and much more flesh on show. However Emmannuelle went even further. Although relatively mild and coy by the standards of 2016, it was still a major departure from what had made the Carry Ons such a success. Crucially, the cruder content meant the core audience of families could no longer watch the film together in the cinema. Sadly Emmannuelle was not a commercial hit and marked the end of the franchise.

I have only ever watched Emmannuelle once all the way through which tells you all you need to know on my verdict of this rather tawdry little film. It's not nearly as mucky as its reputation suggests, indeed my dislike of the picture stems mainly from my belief that it's just not very good. Of all the precious few regulars featuring in the film, Kenneth Connor is reassuringly familiar. While Joan languishes in the background with Peter Butterworth in throwaway roles and Kenneth Williams minces about for all it's worth, Connor is pretty good in the film. His role as Leyland doesn't really amount to much but it is welcome Carry On fare. 

Although in his sixtieth year by the time they made Emmannuelle, Kenneth Connor is still full of youthful energy and vigour. He's back to the cheeky Cockney chappie of earlier films and the frustrated military type he'd come to play in the likes of Abroad and Behind is long gone as Connor, as with several other characters in the film, openly indulges in the charms of Emmannuelle. While Kenneth gives it his all, it's still a little sad to see this great comedic actor playing this kind of low rent bawdy stuff. His best scenes are with the other long-time regulars below stairs - Sims, Douglas and Butterworth - but sadly they are few and far between.

Instead, Connor's big moments are chauffeuring Suzanne Danielle's character around various London landmarks, accompanied by a rather lurid, unfunny monologue from Connor. Not a good way to say farewell to the series. Kenneth also endures a dreadfully grubby sequence shown in flashback as part of a favourite amorous encounter section. Kenneth's involves a drunken exchange with a married woman played by Claire Davenport which sees him hide in a wardrobe in his pants when Davenport's loutish husband (Norman Mitchell) arrives home unexpectedly. I don't think anybody comes out of that little lot with a great deal of dignity.

So there you have it, a rather lacklustre end to Kenneth's Carry On career. Thankfully we have many other fantastic films and wonderful performances to enjoy. I hope you have enjoyed my trawl through the Carry On career of Kenneth Connor and don't forget in this, Kenneth's centenary year, I'll be celebrating the great man with a special post on the anniversary of his birth, 6 June. 

I'm also delighted to add that I'll be continuing this series with a brand new set of blogs looking back at all fourteen of Bernard Bresslaw's towering contributions to the Carry On films.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram