Friday, 24 November 2017

Connor Carries On ... As Sam Twist


Next June will mark 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 fifth role in the series, as bumbling new Helping Hands recruit, Sam Twist, in the hit film of 1961, Carry On Regardless.

 

The basic premise of Regardless is the Helping Hands Agency with Sid James and Esma Cannon at the helm. They employed the regular gang of goons to undertake all kinds off odd jobs and the film that results is really just a collection of loose sketches. It works really well but at some points, because the cast is so big, you forget they are all in it!  Kenneth Connor gets the majority of the film and is superb throughout although this means actors like Bill Owen, Charles Hawtrey and Terence Longdon are criminally underused.

In many ways I think Regardless is probably Kenneth Connor's finest hour. Yes Sid James had got his feet under the Carry On table but at this stage of the game Sid was still the Norman Hudis authority figure that all the maniacs caused chaos around. Norman obviously enjoyed writing for Connor and most of the very best sequences star Kenneth. Whether it be misunderstandings with the voluptuous, bored housewife Penny Panting (seductively played by Fenella Fielding), getting confused amongst a bunch of animated Chinese people expecting a translator, attempting to stay silent in a reading room full of elderly gents or demonstrating the "Bed of the Century" at the Ideal Home Exhibition, Kenneth is on sparkling form and gets to display is full set of joyous comic gifts. 

 

My favourite scene featuring Kenneth is the fairly long sketch that sees Esma Cannon get the wrong end of the stick following a rather confusing phone call with the imposing Eric Pohlmann (who would return as The Fat Man in Carry On Spying of course). Eric is after a forth at bridge however in a very clever Hudis bit of business, this is misunderstood by Cannon and Connor as a meeting at the Forth Bridge in what becomes Gerald Thomas' tribute to The 39 Steps. Don't forget there had been a version of this famous story produced at Pinewood and starring Kenneth More only the year before Regardless went into production, so it was fairly fresh in the minds of the audience. As an aside, that film was directed by Gerald's brother Ralph, produced by Peter's wife Betty Box and featured such familiar Pinewood faces as Joan Hickson, Sid James and Brian Oulton. 

The Carry On version sees Kenneth Connor don a trenchcoat and hat and pretend to be a subtle super spy, complete with Connor's American-accented voice over and lots of Thomas attention to detail. Once aboard the train bound for Scotland, Kenneth encounters a pair of dodgy looking types played by Victor Maddern and Denis Shaw. It's a brief little vignette but in true Hudis style this underworld meet up turns out to be a simple game of cards in a train compartment. Moving to the buffet car, Connor meets the seductive Russian Betty Marsden, a mistress of accents and voices if ever there was one, thanks to her starring role in both Beyond Our Ken and Round The Horne on radio. More misunderstandings take place leading Kenneth to receive a good sound slap around the chops from Betty before crashing into a bowl full of Brown Windsor soup. This leads Connor to break deliciously from his spy persona to once again become the bumbling little man we know and love.

 

Of course there is no rendez-vous and when Kenneth jumps from the train on the bridge he ends up completely drenched in a muddy puddle full of goodness knows what. It's typical Carry On fare from the Hudis era but Connor plays it all beautifully and it's honestly one of his best ever sequences on film. The fact that Kenneth is billed above the likes of Sims, Williams and Hawtrey shows just what power and sway he held in the Carry Ons during the early 1960s. He's clearly a pivotal member of the team and an absolute joy to watch.

There is no doubting that Regardless is very much an ensemble piece featuring a stunning cast packed full of the very best of British comedy talent at the time, however it is Connor who rises above the rest and is, for me, the true star of Carry On Regardless.  



Stay tuned for my next blog in this series as we take a look at Kenneth Connor's performance as Dr Arthur Binn in Carry On Cruising. Coming up soon!

And if you want to read more about Carry On Regardless check out Why I love Carry On Regardless and My Favourite Scene: Carry On Regardless  


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


Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Carrying On with Talking Pictures TV: Inn For Trouble and Take Two!

Talking Pictures TV are showing the wonderful comedy film Inn for Trouble this Wednesday. Peggy Mount and David Kossoff star as Ada and Alf Larkin in this big screen version of the hugely popular 1950s TV comedy. Alf Larkin has finally made good his dream to own a pub. The trouble is, it's got no customers. But leave it to the Larkins to find unorthodox ways to bring in the punters. 

Made in 1960, the film co-stars a range of wonderful British character comedy people - Esma Cannon, Leslie Phillips, Stanley Unwin, Irene Handl and a certain Charles Hawtrey. You can catch Inn for Trouble on Talking Pictures TV on Wednesday 22nd November at 12.00

And you can read another little blog I wrote on this film here: Carry On Blogging: They just don't make them like they used to

Also coming up this week on Talking Pictures TV are several episodes of the great series Take Two.
The series sees Elstree's Chairman and well-known film and television historian and broadcaster Morris Bright bring some famous faces from Elstree's past back to the studios to chat about their lives and careers. It's a joy to hear more from these actors, many of whom have Carry On connections. 

On Wednesday 22nd November at 10.55,  Goldfinger and Carry On Nurse actress Shirley Eaton goes back over her long career in film and television which takes in so many classic British titles. It's really interesting to hear why Shirley decided to retire from films at such a young age in 1969 but I'm glad she is still a presence in the business today.
 

And on Friday 24th November at 20.00 the gorgeous Madeline Smith chats with great relish about how she became an actress back in the 1960s and with great fondness about working with Frankie Howerd on the film version of Up Pompeii. It was great to hear Madeline say how thrilled she was to be in Carry On Matron and how she wished she had done more of the films. I would have liked that too! You can read my blog interview with Madeline here

FInally, an episode of Take Two I've not seen before, featuring the legendary actress Sylvia Syms. Sylvia has enjoyed a long career on film and television and worked with several members of the Carry On team in the 1965 crime caper classic, The Big Job. She is also soon to star opposite Carry On legend Amanda Barrie in a new feature film called Together. Sylvia's episode of Take Two is on Thursday 23rd November at 20.00

So if you haven't yet checked out this great series of interviews, please do. Let's hope another series is in the offing. 

 

You can read Part 1 of my recent interview with Morris Bright here and Part 2 here

You can follow Talking Picture TV on Twitter: here
Morris Bright is on Twitter here
Elstree Studios is on Twitter here


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



You can watch Talking Pictures TV on: Virgin 445 / Freeview 81 / Sky Channel 343 / Freesat 306 / Youview 81

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

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Favourites in Five: Odysseas from Art & Hue


I started a brand new series of blogs a few weeks ago, asking some of my favourite people to write in about the five most important influences on their lives from the world of theatre, film and television. You can read Sarah Miller Walters' wonderful blog here , actress Judy Matheson's super piece is here and blogger, author and Sid James fan Stuart Ball's blog is here

My most recent blog on this subject came from film director, Jason Figgis. You can read what he had to say here

Today it's the turn of my good friend Oydsseas, the brilliant talent behind Art & Hue.
 

Diana Rigg

Whilst Honor Blackman portrayed the first strong independent female character on British television, it was Diana Rigg who took it to another level globally when The Avengers was aired on American & European television. Smart, witty, and stylish (and with a mean karate chop), she embodied 1960s modernity and Swinging London around the world. Still fabulous at nearly 80 years old, and still working in quality film & television projects, she grants cult status to every project she's appeared in. 








Joan Collins
Unapologetically strong-minded and glamourous, Joan Collins is a real example of hard graft paying off, all whilst being beautiful and funny. From B-movies in the 1950s and cult TV shows in the 1960s, it was her racy 1970s films and Cinzano adverts that paid the bills until she owned the 80s as Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter. 




Joanna Lumley
From On Her Majesty's Secret Service, The New Avengers and Sapphire & Steel onwards, I could never understand why Joanna Lumley wasn't on our screens more. Captivating, funny, and beautiful, it was a delight to see her make fun of herself on Ruby Wax's show which led to her iconic creation of Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous. 


Audrey Hepburn
Charming, beautiful, kind, and funny, Audrey Hepburn's life may have started in difficult times but she brought pure joy through her films as well making a difference with her humanitarian work with UNICEF. 



Peter Hinwood  
An art student in Swinging London, Peter Hinwood initially modelled for fashion magazines and brands including John Stephen's Carnaby Street shops. A life-size image of him, wearing only swimwear, appeared in the dressing room of the first women's shop on Carnaby Street called Trecamp. After his memorable appearance in The Rocky Horror Picture Show wearing gold shorts, it's inspirational that he turned his back on entertainment and returned to his first love of art and antiques. Currently living in Morocco, his London and Tangiers homes have appeared in The World of Interiors (and you can follow him sharing images of his glam past, antique finds, and Moroccan life on Instagram at hinwood06).



Thanks very much to Odysseas for taking the time to write this wonderful guest blog. Please do check out the Art & Hue website here

You can follow Art & Hue on Twitter here


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