Wednesday, 8 April 2015

My Top Ten Carry On Films: Number 9!

I'm going to attempt to figure out what my absolute favourite Carry On films of all time are and I will be publishing the results on this blog. This is going to be a hard task for me as I love so many of these films that my favourites change on a regular basis. There will be a few I can immediately discount, none of which will be much of a surprise I'm sure. Others will be more difficult to choose between.

What I intend to do is come up with my top ten Carry Ons and reveal them blog by blog until I get to my all time number one. I'll make it clear that this is just down to my own personal choice and mainly due to personal feelings or memories attached to particular films. It should be an interesting project and I hope that as I go through them you will all feel free to comment and agree/disagree as you see fit! 

In ninth place is Carry On Nurse. Ding Dong!

I love Carry On Nurse. It's coy, quaint, naive and relatively innocent. I love the cosy feel of the ward, the relationship between all the patients and the strong female characters. I always think the black and white Carry Ons are a bit neglected these days as the team was yet to form and the innuendos were a lot less fruity but I have a lot of time for the Hudis era. 

Carry On Nurse is an incredibly important film in the series as its huge popularity basically allowed the rest of the franchise to happen.

It also established many key features which would dominate the Carry Ons over the next twenty years. Kenneth Williams as the snooty, nostril flaring intellectual type. Charles Hawtrey, the camp mummy's boy slightly adrift from the main group. Hattie Jacques as the stern, all powerful Matron with just a glimmer of humanity. Kenneth Connor as the shy, bumbling romantic lead. Joan Sims, in her first appearance, here as the fresh faced new recruit. These actors would form the core Carry On team on countless occasions to come and here they effortlessly begin to flourish. Throw in a mildly fruity turn from Leslie Phillips and the first airing of his immortal catchphrase (Ding Dong!) and you have a comedy classic.

The premise of Carry On Nurse is, like many of the films, pretty simple. The story follows the ups and downs and comedic mishaps of the male patients in a hospital ward and the nursing staff who look after them. Much of the film is set on the ward, we see very little of the outside world but it never feels claustrophobic. There are plenty of wonderful performances to keep us entertained. And while the twee 1950s atmosphere can be a bit much on occasion, I love the nostalgia.

The film also boasts an astonishing list of truly wonderful British character actors of the period. It's a big cast for a Carry On film and many of these names would return again and again over the years, chalking up several appearances with the team. There are some terrific performances from the likes of Irene Handl, Bill Owen, June Whitfield, Marianne Stone, Brian Oulton, Michael Medwin, Norman Rossington, Rosalind Knight, Ann Firbank, Harry Locke and Cyril Chamberlain. We also get a cameo from Jeremy Connor, playing the son of Kenneth Connor's character Bertie Bishop. 

A special mention must also go to that superb actress Joan Hickson, seen here in the first of her five Carry Ons, playing the hospital Sister. She is pretty stern and officious throughout, kowtowing to Hattie's Matron but at the same time acting as the fully blown figure of authority to the nurses on her ward. Only at the end do we see chinks of light. First of all when encouraging the blossoming romance between Shirley Eaton and Terence Longdon and then immediately afterwards there is the faint glimmer of understanding at the latest in a long line of Joan Sims comedic catastrophes. It's a beautifully judged performance. 

There is a super guest starring role for Wilfrid Hyde White as an irritating Colonel in a private room. He drives the nurses potty and plays a big part (as it were) in the final gag at the end of the film involving Joan Sims, Hattie Jacques and an infamous daffodil. 

There are some lovely moments in Carry On Nurse, from Charles Hawtrey's radio obsession, Kenneth Williams taking on Matron, lots of Joan Sims falling over and the climatic laughing gas scene in the operating theatre. There are also some gentle, touching moments which were quite common in the Hudis films but became increasingly rare as the years went on. Hudis put a lot of heart and genuine warmth into his scripts and the romantic scenes between Kenneth Williams and a young Jill Ireland are played for real and all the better for it. 

So what if anything do I not like about Carry On Nurse? Well, while I really enjoy the touching scenes between Kenneth Williams and Jill Ireland, unfortunately I find the romantic interludes between Shirley Eaton and Terence Longdon to be a bit of a snooze. The editor must have agreed as the original ending for the film was meant to be Eaton and Longdon walking off arm in arm. Instead we were treated to Hattie Jacques and the daffodil. A wise move I think. Apart from that I think it is a true classic and a Carry On film that deserves more attention these days. 

So that's my verdict and my case for it being in the top ten. Do you agree?

Keep your eyes peeled for the next of my top ten all time favourite Carry On films. In the meantime, please do comment here on the blog, on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also on Facebook

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