Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Carry On Blogging Interview: Patricia Franklin (Part 1)


It was an absolute joy to ring up the actress Patricia Franklin for a good old natter this afternoon. Patricia will be familiar to Carry On fans for her appearances in five films in the series between 1968 and 1976 as well as the big screen version of Bless This House. I wanted to find out more about Patricia's time making the films but also a whole lot more about her acting career. 

First of all I'd love to know what made you want to become an actress?

It was quite strange. I was appearing in a matinee at the National Theatre some years ago when I was told there was someone at the stage door to see me. It was one of my old teachers who had come to see the play with her family. She told me that when I was at school I said one day that I wanted to become an actor. I said I didn't believe I'd said such a thing but she was certain! 

When I was at school we had put on a play with me in the part of Red Riding Hood and my younger sister as Bo Peep. I could remember all the lines really easily and my sister couldn't. The boy playing the lead ended up ill and the teacher wanted someone to take over who could learn lines quickly. My sister told the teacher I could so I ended up in the lead playing a boy! I had long pigtails and had to tuck them up under a hat! Perhaps my teacher was right after all.


And how did you get started?

My mother was always very encouraging. We used to go to the cinema together and I remember us seeing the film Cat On A Hot Tin Roof with Elizabeth Taylor. We found out that the local amateur theatre was putting on a production so we went to see it and started going along quite regularly. We noticed that they ran classes for students and my mum said I should join, so I did. This place became the Mountview in North London which is now a very respected theatre school. A couple of actors who were in the amateur productions with me went on to RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) so I thought that's where I wanted to go too. My dad was quite strict but agreed I could apply as he liked the sound of the "Royal" part! Anyway I got in and that was me.

Can you tell me more about your first professional role?

Well I left RADA in the July of 1967 and I got my first agent at the end of term show we put on, Tis Pity She's A Whore. Greg Smith saw the show and told me he liked my work and wanted to represent me. Greg was part of an agency called Busby Management at that time and of course went on to produce films, most notably the Confessions series. He very quickly got me three auditions and I think my very first role was in a television series called At Last The 1948 Show for ITV. It was a sort of sketch show and I played lots of little parts in various scenes. It was created by Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Marty Feldman and it came along just before Monty Python. Just after that I got a commercial for Oxo and then I had my first introduction to some of the Carry On team in a theatrical farce at the Whitehall Theatre called Uproar in the House.

I spent nine months in the West End doing Uproar in the House and I had a really good, big part in that. It was great stuff to do and the cast was Joan Sims (who became a great friend at the time), Peter Butterworth and Nicholas Parsons. They were all lovely to me - Joan's dressing room was on one side of mine and Peter's on the other. Joan and I used to laugh a lot. And Peter's wife Janet Brown would often come in afterwards with their children. Years later I attended a special Carry On screening in London and Tyler Butterworth was there. I told him I'd last met him when he was a little boy in his dad's dressing room at the Whitehall. 


Can you tell me more about how you came to be a part of the Carry On films?

Well it was through that farce at the Whitehall really. Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas came to see the show and they liked what I was doing in it and it went from there. Peter Rogers then had a conversation with my agent and I remember being down on location when they were filming Carry On Camping. It was a scene where Terry Scott was going up the road into his house. I watched it being filmed and after that Peter and Gerald asked if I would like to be in the Carry On film and I said "Yes please!"

How did you find Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas to work with?

Oh they were great to work for. I know there have been lots of stories of them not paying their actors well and all the rest of it and there was that side to it but my experience was great. I played little character parts, just popping in for what I'd call "a lovely day out". Gerald was a lovely person, he was very paternalistic towards me. i think he had three daughters and every time I was cast in one of the films I seemed to have just had another child and he always asked after them all. I thoroughly enjoyed working for him and I loved the opportunities they gave me to play so many very different parts. 

I remember Peter Rogers asking for me for a part in one of the films and he went through my agent as I was working in Sheffield at the time. I was about eight months pregnant at the time, about to give birth. They were trying to persuade me to get on a train and come back to play the part and I had to explain my situation. Turned out the part involved wearing a bikini so there's no way I could have played it! But it was lovely to be remembered and asked back and it was always such jolly fun to be a part of.

Your first role in the series was in Carry On Camping in 1968. What are your memories of working on that one with Charles Hawtrey and Derek Francis?

Oh they were both lovely and very professional. It was all done very quickly and mine was quite a small part really. I just remember us getting on with it and having a lot of laughs about how silly the scene was, well it was quite ridiculous really, but they were both very straight forward and professional when it came to shooting the scene. Charles was such a unique character and I know there have been stories in the newspapers about him over the years but I honestly didn't have a problem with him or with any of the main actors. He was absolutely charming to me, they all were. The film was made at such a pace there was no time for egos! 

I was recently having a look at some papers in Gerald's archive at the BFI and I came across one of your Carry On contracts!

Oh how much was I paid, I bet it wasn't much!!


Well there you go!

I wanted to ask you about it as the contract was actually for one of the Carry Ons you didn't end up doing. The part was a Night Nurse in Carry On Again Doctor in 1969. Can you remember why you didn't do it?

Oh that's right! I think that was after Camping. I was doing something in the theatre at the time and I don't think the schedules worked out so they must have re-cast the role.

That must be it - it says on the contract that you were appearing in a play at the Royal Court theatre at the time. 

Yes, I was in a very demanding play at the Royal Court in 1969 called Saved, by Edward Bond. Quite a different job from one of the Carry Ons!

Watch out for Part Two of my interview with the wonderful Patricia Franklin, coming up soon. Find out what she had to say about returning to the Carry Ons to work with the likes of Kenneth Williams, Liz Fraser and Patsy Rowlands. And find out more about Patricia's brilliant career on stage and how she got back stage to meet a certain Mr Albert Finney while he was performing in Billy Liar!

I'd like to thank Patricia for agreeing to the interview. And also many thanks to Sarah at Beresford Management and to the lovely Andrew Lynford for helping to set it all up!

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

Monday, 19 March 2018

Carry On Getting in Touch!

I love interacting with fellow Carry On fans. It's a massive part of this blog and long may it continue. if you want to get involved or get in touch you can do so in the following ways:

I have a dedicated Facebook page which I use to post all my blogs and share other interesting pieces of news and also some lovely photos of your favourite Carry On actors.  

You can also, of course, follow me and interact with all my ramblings over on Twitter
 @CarryOnJoan - I love when you get in touch to comment on the films, one of my blogs or to share photos you love. So keep it going!

There is also the "Get In Touch" form on the blog itself - if you want to contact me about the blog, the films or anything else, please use this form as it comes straight to my email. 

And if you want to get even more involved in all things Carry On Blogging, why not submit a blog yourself? I welcome submissions on anything Carry On related so why not put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard) and jot down your thoughts - it can be as long or as short as you like, it's really up to you. 

Carry On Following!

Scott On?

Terry Scott was an interesting addition to the Carry On team. I can understand why Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas wanted him involved in the mayhem at Pinewood. By the late 1960s, Scott was a celebrated star on the small screen with his own series and a fruitful partnership with Bill Maynard still in recent history. 

Terry had made a small appearance in the original, very first Carry On film, Carry On Sergeant in 1958. Back then he was a supporting player in many British films of the period but was yet to become a star. A decade later he was invited to play a supporting role in the classic Carry On Up The Khyber and the rest is history. I'm never quite sure whether to include Scott as a full on member of the gang as while he did have starring roles in several memorable films, he only appeared regularly over a three year period and starred in just seven films. 

His arrival back into the Carry On fold came at an opportune moment. Jim Dale, the dashing romantic lead in the franchise throughout the 1960s, had taken a year out to concentrate on his blossoming stage career. While Roy Castle would take on Jim's part in Khyber and Julian Holloway would play "Jim" Tanner in Camping, by Up The Jungle in 1969, Terry was picking up those roles. The main problem I continue to have with this is fairly simple, I just don't really like him as a comedy performer.

I do think Terry is superb in Up The Jungle as the clumsy, Tarzan like character opposite Jacki Piper. He does an awful lot with a part that is largely dialogue free. Terry is also on good form in Carry On Camping as Betty Marsden's put upon husband Peter Potter and his final role in the series, as the gloriously named Dr Prodd in 1971's Carry On Matron, is deliciously filthy! There's just something missing though as far as I'm concerned. I feel the same way about Jack Douglas, they are talented at what they do but I'm just not really won over by them. 

I think my main problem with regards to Terry Scott is my loathing of Terry and June. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of middle class, middle of the road sitcoms from that era and I absolutely adore June Whitfield. I just find Terry's character overwhelming, over-bearing and well, over played. I don't think I'm alone in this. Perhaps being aware of what followed with decades of suburban sitcom antics, I just turned off to Terry in the Carry Ons. 

I'm sure there are plenty of Terry fans out there so why don't you get in touch and tell me why you love him, either in the Carry Ons or in Terry and June. I'd love to hear from you. 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Celebrating 60 Years of Carry On with Art & Hue

This year is a special anniversary for fans of classic film & British comedy as it’s 60 years since the first classic Carry On production, “Carry On Sergeant”, was released in 1958.
The Carry On films have their own distinct style that is totally unique, beloved by many, and an important part of Britain’s comedy, film, and cultural heritage, and 2018 marks 60 years since the first Carry On film.
"Carry On Sergeant" laid the groundwork for the most prolific British film series (yes, more than James Bond). Without this successful first film, there simply wouldn’t have been all the films that followed in its path.

British film company Anglo Amalgamated distributed the first 12 Carry On films starting with "Carry On Sergeant" in 1958 and ending with the much-loved Hammer Horror parody "Carry On Screaming" in 1966.
Carry On Sergeant was screened to the trade and cinema-bookers on the 1st of August 1958 after which some some regional screenings were held from the 1st of September including Aberdeen & Birmingham. It wasn't until the 19th of September 1958 that it received its London cinema release at the Plaza, and then the film rolled out nationwide on general release from the 20th of September onwards.
To celebrate the British comedies, Art & Hue has created a stylish pop art collection featuring the classic films and their stars. 
Along with the classic film posters, Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, and Barbara Windsor (Dame Babs) have all been transformed into pop art icons by Art & Hue, in a choice of three sizes and 16 colours.

Prices range from £15 to £39 and are exclusively available online at artandhue.com/carryon

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

Friday, 16 March 2018

Carrying On with The Gerald Thomas Archive

Last Wednesday 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.

As I arrived at the BFI Reuben Library I had no idea what to expect. I had selected a range of documentation from the archives and they had been shipped in from Hertfordshire the week before. First of all, I'm hugely indebted to Victoria, the extremely efficient, kind and helpful archivist from the British Film Institute. Without her I'd have been lost in a sea of paperwork! After I signed a few forms explaining my reasons for being there and for wanting to see Gerald's archive, I was given my first file and I was off. 

As I've been a fan of Gerald's films since I was a young boy, it was quite a moment to find myself alone with a large selection of his original papers. I studied history at University and it brought back all those days of researching in the library and soon I felt very much at home. Pretty much as when I spent the day at the British Library with Kenneth Williams' diaries back in January, it was a "pinch yourself" moment. For me it was much more about the social history aspect of the archive than the films themselves. So many years have passed and so much has changed in the way we live our lives. 

These days everything is done by email, nobody writes letters anymore or sends telegrams and phone calls are becoming increasingly rare! So much of what Gerald managed to preserve just simply wouldn't be possible in the 21st Century as methods have just changed so much. Progress I think they call it. The archive gives a real insight into the process of making films in Britain in the mid to late 20th Century. The organisation which was so essential in order to churn out a feature film in six weeks or less is clear from the paperwork, correspondence and scheduling. It really was a herculean task at times! The archive provides a little bit of everything. There's the insight into the daily grind of working at the studios, with production meeting minutes, memos and agreements - lots of legal documentation. More fascinating for me are the little personal details - handwritten notes from actors I've adored all my life recalling far off lunch parties and small favours granted; little details previously unknown, now discovered on an artist's contract and unexpectedly deep, sometimes moving human stories.

I requested two boxes of material from the making of Carry On Abroad, Carry On Doctor, Carry On Again Doctor and Carry On Behind. There was so much to take in that I plan to publish a series of blogs each looking at a different aspect and I hope you enjoy them. There will be information on one of Gerald's publicity scrapbooks, new details gleaned from drafts of some of the film scripts and a veritable treasure trove of lovely stuff from cast contracts and letters between Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas and their actors, crew and contacts. 

What struck me most about what I've seen so far is how much better I feel I've gotten to know both Peter and Gerald. Unlike their on screen talent, they can be shadowy figures and often criticised for the way they allegedly treated their actors - paying them poorly and of course, no repeat fees. However this archive shows the real human beings behind these well worn personas. The moments of kindness, the obvious love of the industry they spent so long working in and most of all, their wonderful sense of humour. 

So look out for the first in my series of special blogs on Gerald's archive coming up soon!

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

My Top 20 Favourite Carry On Actors: Number 17 - Joan Hickson

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 here we go with Number Seventeen: that instantly recognisable character actress who rose to fame relatively late in life - Joan Hickson.


Many years before Joan Hickson rose to lasting prominence as the definitive Miss Marple in those wonderful BBC adaptations of Agatha Christie's novels, she was a reliable character actress appearing in countless films and television. Joan regularly appeared in British films in an endless array of supporting roles from the 1930s onwards and as in demand as she always was, she still made time to appear in five Carry On films over a fifteen year period.

Joan remains one of my favourite Carry On actors because she was just such a joy to watch. No matter what the size of her role in the film, she always added a touch of class. Her first appearance in the Carry Ons was her largest supporting role, playing the brisk, authoritative Sister with a heart of gold in the classic Carry On Nurse in 1958. She returned for smaller roles in two more black and white Carry On epics - as the very merry Mrs May in Constable and then the role of Matron in the hospital sequence in Carry On Regardless.

Nearly a decade later Joan returned to Pinewood to play the cameo role of Mrs Grubb in the hilarious afternoon tea scene in Carry On Loving. The beautifully played, farcical comedy of errors scene features the first meeting of Terry Scott and Imogen Hassall and Joan is just superb as the Grubb matriarch. To be honest, her role in that sequence pretty much guarantees her a spot in my top 20 alone! Joan's final Carry On supporting role was as the hilarious, eccentric hotel resident Mrs Dukes in Carry On Girls in 1973. Despite this role being written for Renee Houston (who was too ill to play it) Joan makes the part her own, as only she could!


The Carry On films became well known for the quality of the actors they employed and surely Joan Hickson is near the top of the tree in this regard. One of our most accomplished actresses, her performances are timeless.

So Joan Hickson comes in at Number 17 in my top twenty list of favourite actors. Who'll be next?

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

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Connor Carries On ... As Mr Tidey!


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 eleventh role in the series, as Mr Tidey in the 1971 film, 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.


Kenneth Connor gets bottom billing for Carry On Matron although the film is an important one for Kenneth as it seems him properly move over to the kind of middle-aged, slightly crumbling character parts that would dominate the rest of his Carry On contributions. As Mr Tidey, Connor is generally outside the main action of the film. Tidey is an increasingly desperate expectant father, forever being called to the hospital for false alarms and seen in the waiting room with the other fathers to be. Connor is blessed with Joan Sims as his screen wife and it's a lovely little running gag which sees Sims enjoying the hospital experience, the constant food and the chance to put her feet up. She's in no hurry to give birth despite her husband's fretting. Unfortunately Connor and Sims don't actually share any scenes in the film which I think is a great shame. As they are playing husband and wife, it seems rather strange!

Connor is mainly seen with Hattie Jacques' softer Matron in the film. She is constantly hectored by Mr Tidey for news on the arrival of his little bundle of joy. His job as a train conductor for British Rail also provides much comedy with Hattie making a very funny crack about the problems with the trains at the time! I also love Kenneth's interaction with Sid's character, who is only in the waiting room to check the hospital out before carrying out his heist. Sid is brilliantly droll and plays up to Kenneth's twitching, nervous, innocent character to perfection. The gag about chickens is a fine example of the more near the knuckle brand of Carry On comedy Talbot Rothwell was producing in the early 1970s. 


As with some of Kenneth Connor's later Carry On performances, his screen time is quite limited but the skill of the actor means he always makes the most of the scenes and the material he is given. In many ways Mr Tidey is simply an older version of Kenneth's early Hudis era creations - the befuddled, tentative little man that we all know and love. The characterisation would become more grotesque as the films progressed, notably in the likes of Carry On Girls and Dick. The crumbling, frustrated every man became Connor's calling card and we loved him for it.

Stay tuned for my blog on Kenneth Connor's next role in the series, in the 1972 film Carry On Abroad.

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