It feels to me like Barbara Windsor splits opinion in the Carry On camp. On the one hand we cherish her because she is one of the precious few "regular" team members still with us today and as she enjoys a high profile, she guarantees the Carry On films continued publicity.
On the other hand however, some loyal fans do not rate her performances in the films or dislike certain other aspects of her persona or life away from the studios. What can't be denied though is that despite only appearing in nine of the original films (ten including That's Carry On), her personality is so strong that the image of bubbly Babs will never fade.
My own personal view is that Barbara should be admired for many things. She's a tough cookie who has endured while enduring many knocks in life, both personal and professional. She is undoubtedly a grafter and dedicated to a life in showbiz. She is also one of all too few performers these days who are good old fashioned variety turns, she can do a bit of everything can our Babs. Although I'm no fan of EastEnders, she should be commended for reinvigorating her career and the way the British public viewed her through her longrunning role as Peggy Mitchell.
What bothers me a bit is that her image has always dominated over other, wonderful Carry On women. She appeared in relatively few of the films compared to the likes of Hattie Jacques or Joan Sims, yet always seemed to get the headlines or the kudos from the press and the public. I always preferred Hattie and Joan in the films anyway, but that's not to knock Barbara's efforts.
I think it was unfair for a certain film producer to suggest that Barbara was nothing more than a bosom and a joke. She was and is a lot more than that, even if some of her (particularly later) Carry On roles are pretty dreadful. My own favourite of Barbara's roles in the series is her very first, Carry On Spying. It is a very assured performance, managing to be both the sex symbol, play a leading role and portray a certain innocence that was lacking from later roles.
Barbara was probably part of the most famous and instantly recognisable Carry On scenes in history - the infamous bra-popping moment in Carry On Camping. I think it was that scene, more than any other that set the tone for all that followed. It also secured Barbara's place as a British icon and national treasure.