Sunday, 17 May 2015

Please Don't Carry On, Girls

I have a confession to make. I absolutely loathe Carry On Girls. This is not something that has crept up over time. I didn't watch it as a child and laugh at all the colourful 1970s larking about with impish glee. I've always hated it. 

For a start I struggle to include it as a proper Carry On film at all. While not down there with England, Emmannuelle and Columbus, it is still particularly dire. The absence of Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey is keenly felt throughout. The part of Cecil Gaybody was obviously concocted for Hawtrey before he was unceremoniously dumped from the series at the end of 1972. Williams meanwhile was tied up with theatre commitments as My Fat Friend was playing in London. Jimmy Logan, a great success in Carry On Abroad, is wasted here in a shockingly awful cameo as Gaybody. It's just dreadful.

The premise, a cheap, tacky beauty contest in a low-rent seaside resort, is typical 1970s British fare. They weren't always the glory days. The film goes a lot nearer the knuckle that previous entries although it's still all pretty innocent. The scene featuring Barbara Windsor and Margaret Nolan having a fight at the publicity event went too far for me and just wasn't funny.  

Sid James is back in lecherous form in Carry On Girls and as he was approaching 60, it really wasn't working. I love Sid but he really was not at his best in this film, we had seen it all before and it was looking tired. Poor Joan Sims is also lumbered with a dreadful supporting performance as Connie, the hotel owner. Joan is on auto pilot as the typical middle aged nagging woman who has a face that could curdle milk throughout. It doesn't even remotely tap into Joan's considerable talents and is a complete waste. Barbara Windsor meanwhile is yet again the Cockney dolly bird, going through the motions as Miss Easy Rider. Indeed. 

The whole thing is pretty tatty looking and although it offers the likes of Margaret Nolan and Valerie Leon more substantial roles, it's not enough to make it a classic Carry On. Unfortunately we also have Jack Douglas, now getting more and more screen time and as he's in Alf mode throughout, it's not to my taste at all. So what, if anything do I like about Carry On Girls?

Well June Whitfield is fantastic as feminist councillor Augusta Prodworthy. Even the name is superb. She is a great adversary for Sid's character and really gives it her all. Patsy Rowlands is also magnificent as the downtrodden Mildred Bumble, who eventually gets her own back on her irritating little husband, brought beautifully to life by series veteran Kenneth Connor. Joan Hickson pops up in far too brief a cameo as Mrs Dukes, an aged guest at the hotel and her scenes with Joan Sims and Peter Butterworth are some compensation at least. Bernard Bresslaw does his best as Sid's right hand man but there's not really that much for him to work with, the infamous drag sequence aside.

Despite these performances, Carry On Girls really does leave a queasy, unpleasant taste in my mouth. I don't know what would have made it better, other than a different script and storyline, a better part for Joan Sims, less letching for Sid and generally less of Barbara and Jack Douglas. Perhaps I am being too hard on this film though. What do you think?

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1 comment:

  1. Of course it is cheap and tacky, that's half the appeal! I love that grotty, down-at-heel seaside milieu. The bit where Bernard introduces Sid to Cleopatra, and Sid starts to say "How do you do" before realising he's talking to a donkey, is as good as any two seconds of screen comedy ever. I don't miss Williams because, as with Cabby, there's no role for him here. Kenneth Connor and Patsy Rowlands could have got a sitcom out of the Bumbles. Jimmy Logan is rubbish but he's not on long enough to be that annoying.

    Jack Douglas is wonderful throughout, especially his nonchalant misunderstanding of Joan's aggressive, sarcastic "I'll give him coffee". All that nervous spasming is completely unique and bizarre business, and it makes me wish there was more footage of his stage act. Plus there's all the birds with their bits out, although we're not allowed to like that any more.