Friday, 31 July 2015

My Favourite Scene: Carry On Don't Lose Your Head



I have been writing an occasional series of blogs which aim to find out what my favourite scenes are in each of the thirty Carry On films made between 1958 and 1978. I have already blogged about several of my favourite scenes, including those in the likes of Nurse, Regardless, At Your Convenience and Behind. Last week I attempted to find something positive about both Emmannuelle and England but we're on safer ground today as I look back at Don't Lose Your Head.

I adore Don't Lose Your Head. It's a fantastic period romp, subverting the classic Scarlet Pimpernel story with Sid James playing the Black Finger Nail, rescuing the aristocracy from the guillotine in France! Sid and Jim Dale are both excellent in dual roles as mincing upper class gentleman and more earthy characters who take Citizen Camembert and Bidet (Kenneth Williams and Peter Butterworth - both on glorious form).



The film features some wonderful set pieces, beautiful costumes and some fantastic locations, including Waddesdon Manor and Cliveden. I've often thought Carry On films really suited period costume - some of my favourites (Cowboy, Screaming, Cleo) all worked so well and the pantomime style costumed antics really helped. Anyway, on to my favourite scene in Don't Lose Your Head.

The highlight of the film, for me, is a short scene between two of my favourite actors, Joan Sims and Charles Hawtrey. Charles, as the Duc du Pomfrit is flirting outrageously with Joan's Desiree in the rose arbor and they are both on deliciously camp form. It's such an unlikely situation and it works beautifully. Joan also inserts one of the most infamous and fantastic adlibs into this little scene. As she talks about her brother, the Count (Kenneth Williams), she changes the tone of her voice and looks momentarily away. The effect of this unexpected change in performance is incredibly naughty as I'm sure viewers of the film will already know!



It's a joyous moment that thankfully stayed in the finished film and avoided the wrath of the censor. It's shows the Carry On stars at play and once again displays Joan's wonderful comic gifts. Obviously those years in rep and revue paid dividends when it came to such performances. If you look very carefully you can see both actors just about crack up during the take. It's classic Carry On comedy at its very best and it never fails to make me hoot with laughter.




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Carry On Blogging on Facebook!



As well as interacting with Carry On Blogging on this blog and via Twitter, there is now a Facebook feed you can follow. 

If you use Facebook you can like the page and follow it for updates, links to all the blogs and photos.


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Thursday, 30 July 2015

Kenneth and Gordon


I've always loved that fine Scottish actor Gordon Jackson. He had a long acting career, beginning during the Second World War in 1942 and rising to prominence in the early 1970s through two stand out roles on television, as Mr Hudson in Upstairs Downstairs and later as George Cowley in The Professionals. While I admire Gordon's performances on screen, and his career is littered with classic films (The Great Escape, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Ipcress File to name only a few), I also found his long, close friendship with Kenneth Williams particularly fascinating.

Gordon Jackson was a quiet, unstarry member of the acting profession. In the days before social media and reality television, he just got on with doing his job and being a family man (he was married to the actress Rona Anderson for nearly 40 years and together they had two sons). However we do get glimpses of the man off stage through his regular appearances in Kenneth's wonderful diaries. Kenneth and Gordon were friends nearly all their adult lives. In a rare diversion for Kenneth, his friendship with Gordon matured and endured despite the various ups and downs of life. It was rare if not impossible to find any mention of Gordon Jackson that was not completely positive and in full admiration.



I must dispel the myth that Kenneth Williams had few friends and was a loner. He quite simply was not. Yes you can see from his diaries that he could be difficult, awkward or down right rude, but in essence he was a lovable, sentimental character who cherished long term friendships. Kenneth had well rounded, deep friendships with the likes of Maggie Smith, Richard Pearson, Stanley Baxter, Hattie Jacques, Barbara Windsor and Joan Sims for many years. 

While some friends came and went, Gordon and the rest of the Jackson family were constants. Kenneth, although undoubtedly a gay man, relished the so-called "straight domesticity" that regular trips to the Jackson household in Hampstead provided. Reading the diaries, as I often do, I can't help but smile when Kenneth records an enjoyable dinner party chez Jackson, an afternoon with their children or being included in a family Christmas. Although Kenneth suffered great pain and sadness at times in his life, it is heartening to see moments of relaxation and pleasure too. 



I remember clearly one of the very few times there were cross words between the pair. Jackson came across as someone who did his best to avoid conflict, however one family trip to Wales on which Kenneth was invited ended badly. Kenneth appeared to have rather old fashioned ideas, even back in 1966, and when Rona's culinary efforts did not meet with his satisfaction, a rather curt exchange resulted! This led Kenneth to leave early and unannounced and head back to London. Normal service was resumed, but it temporarily damaged their solid footing. 

Kenneth did clearly adore Gordon though as a trip to the theatre in 1982 definitely demonstrated. Kenneth was notorious for hating the theatre, particularly later on in life. He was known to walk out mid-performance if it was not to his liking. Patience often wore very thin indeed! However, in 1982 he sat through an entire Agatha Christie play at the Vaudeville Theatre (very close to me now as I write this) and as his diary records, he loathed it. He stayed until the end regardless, only because it starred Gordon Jackson, who's performance he still praised. That from Kenneth, is the ultimate sign of respect!



Gordon outlived Kenneth by only a couple of years. He, along with many other close friends spoke movingly at Williams' funeral in 1988. Sadly, by late 1989 Jackson has been diagnosed with advanced bone cancer. He passed away in early 1990 at the age of just 66. He worked right up until the end, his last performance screened posthumously. 

Kenneth clearly admired Gordon Jackson as an actor, but also more importantly as a man and a human being. I always think it's a touching friendship and a high point in the diaries. If you are unfamiliar with Gordon Jackson or his work, track some of it down and check it out. He was quite simply fantastic in everything he did.





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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

From the Happy Wanderer to Els Bells: The Social History of The Carry Ons



Earlier this week I wrote my very first guest post for another blog - the wonderful History Usherette. It was published on that very fine blog on Monday and here it is at Carry On Blogging. It's my attempt at discussing the Carry On films in a social history context. Do visit http://historyusherette.blogspot.co.uk for more terrific blogs. 

The Carry On films are a cultural phenomenon. They hold a unique place in British culture and British life. No other series of comedy films has lasted so long, either in terms of the number of films produced or their durability. Nearly sixty years after Carry On Sergeant was released, the films are still shown regularly on television and discussed endlessly in blogs just like this one.

As well as being madly passionate about British film, the Carry Ons and their stars in particular, I also trained as a social historian ten years ago. I studied social history at Glasgow University, eventually clawing my way to a Masters degree. Had the focus of my thesis been on the Carry Ons, that distinction may have become a reality. I grew up on these films: cheaply made yet bursting with quality actors and memorable lines. As I have gone through life they have stayed with me, as a comfort blanket, as a hobby and most of all just for fun. The Carry Ons were meant to be churned out and be instantly forgotten but these days, in the digital age, they have become a time capsule. Although they often represent a Britain that never truly existed, they still provide a valuable insight into how much our country changed during their twenty year reign at the box office.

They started in black and white with National Service. Twenty years later, in glorious technicolour they crawled towards the end of the 1970s with a send up of the soft porn genre. For the likes of Kenneth Williams and Kenneth Connor, who appeared in the credits of both Sergeant and Emmannuelle, the changes must have been distinctly obvious. While neither of these films are my own personal favourites, the difference is plain to see - coy romance between Connor and Dora Bryan in the NAAFI in 1958 to plenty of flesh and mentioning the unmentionables in 1978. Had Britain really changed that much in those years? Probably.

To flesh this out, as it were, let's take two films from the series with a similar theme - Carry On Cruising, released in 1962 and Carry On Abroad, brought out exactly a decade later. Both films dealt with foreign travel and the challenges of taking Brits abroad. Both are excellent examples of Carry On comedy but they are light years apart in terms of content.



Carry On Cruising was the first film in the series to be released in colour. It revolves around a fairly upmarket ocean liner taking passengers on a cruise around the Mediterranean. Quite a commonplace activity in 2015, but in early 1962 just how many working class people (the Carry On's core audience) would have been able to treat themselves to such a holiday? The film is very reminiscent of one of the lighter, frothier Doctor films. It's all coy romantics from the likes of Kenneth Connor and Dilys Laye. Laye and Liz Fraser are the lovely young ladies on board however it's all sweet, innocent japes and nothing is taken too far. Laye wants a husband - that's the main plot thread. Everything is very polite and bright and middle class and the ladies parade around in an endless stream of gorgeous gowns and swimming costumes. 

Cruising is a delightful example of early 60s froth. It clearly shows a Britain emerging from the austere 1950s and beginning to live again. It lacks the social comment of earlier entries like Nurse and Teacher but it is still an enjoyable watch. Let's fast forward ten years now and see what had changed by the time Carry On Abroad was released in 1972.

Abroad is one of my all time favourite Carry Ons. It was a timely pastiche of the then ever growing popularity of the package holiday. The 1960s had seen a growing affluent middle class with a taste for foreign travel. Package holidays to Spain and Italy were commonplace as Brits became increasingly adventurous. At the same time, horror stories of awful accommodation and dreadful food were the stuff of legend. What better than to take the nation's favourite band of eccentrics and send them off a fictitious Spanish island?

From the very beginning, Abroad is a very different film from Cruising. Sex is very much on the agenda. From marriages on the rocks to young girls out for a good time and Barbara Windsor's suitcase full of underthings, it's all in your face from the opening credits. Britain was arguably a much more liberal place by the early 1970s and this is reflected in the attitudes in Abroad. Infidelity was very much a possibility and for the first time a potentially gay couple are seen on screen. A very cliched example of course, but there nonetheless. The film is also much more risquĂ© with Barbara Windsor flashing much more than is strictly necessary throughout the 90 minutes. 



At the end of the film, all is well in the world of Carry On. There is no infidelity (on screen at least), warring couples are reunited and one of the (possibly) gay young men finds the lure of Sally Geeson just too much to refuse. Everyone returns to Sid and Joan's pub for what must have been the best lock-in in cinematic history. 

So Carry On Abroad provides the much needed happy ending, very much like that of Carry On Cruising ten years before. Were the two films that different all things considered? And can the Carry Ons really be taken seriously as a telling demonstration of how this country changed in the mid twentieth century? 



Thank you to @aitchteee for letting me use the wonderful drawings.

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Carry On Fan of the Week: Simon!



I have started a series of blogs which feature, well, some of you! I love interacting with you all on Twitter and Facebook, so I thought I would give you the chance to share your thoughts on the Carry Ons on the blog itself.

Last week Jon shared some of his answers with us and now it's time to hear from another follower on Twitter. Many thanks to Simon Copley for taking the time to get in touch!

What was the first Carry On film you ever saw?

Sergeant, then soon after Nurse and after that Teacher. Purely a coincidence I saw the first three in order!

Who is your favourite Carry On actor and why?

This is a difficult choice.  Originally I would have been torn between Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtrey, but over time I've come to appreciate Kenneth Connor more and more, and would say he is just ahead of them now.  His performances in the first seven films are all brilliantly funny, but with depth and subtlety too. The scenes in Teacher and Cruising, with Rosalind Knight and Dilys Laye respectively, where his character is trying to overcome his nerves with romance are some of the best in the series. I think he was underused in the later films, although he was always good to watch.

Looking at occasional Carry On leads, Ted Ray in Teacher and Harry H Corbett in Screaming excel. A shame they didn't do more!



Who is your favourite Carry On actress and why?

Hattie Jacques is my favourite regular Carry On actress, although often cast in the fearsome matron type roles she did so well, some of the films show her true versatility as an actress, none more so than the beautifully played part in Cabby.

Of the more occasional female leads, Dilys Laye, Fenella Fielding and Angela Douglas are all favourites across the films they are in.

Who is your favourite Carry On supporting actor?

Difficult to know how to define supporting actor and who would fall into this category, but I would say Esma Cannon, whose every appearance adds a mixture of charm and eccentricity.



Have you ever visited any Carry On film locations?

Waddesdon Manor, where Don't Lose Your Head was filmed.

Have you ever met any Carry On actors?

Many years ago I met Bill Owen, who starred in four of the early films, most memorably Sergeant.

Sadly nearly all of the events with cast members take place in the south of the country and are not easy to attend. Given so much British comedy has links to the north, we could do with a northern branch of the Museum of Comedy, which could host such events.

Do you have any Carry On memorabilia?

No, would like to though, but it is hard to come by.

Finally, what's your all time favourite Carry On film?

My favourite scene from a Carry On film would be the famous dinner scene from Up the Khyber, for it's portrayal of the British in a crisis.

However for my favourite film as a whole it would be one of three depending when you asked me!

Teacher is my favourite of the early films, with it's blend of humour and pathos, all the team on top form, plus Ted Ray, Rosalind Knight and Leslie Phillips all excellent.

Screaming again full of first class performances from the whole team, with excellent guest stars Harry H Corbett and Fenella Fielding. The only pity is that Angela Douglas isn't given more to do.

Don't Lose Your Head, another where all the regulars were given plenty to do and were on top form, which seems to be the common thread to these three, plus my favourite of Sid James' performances, with the dual role of Sir Rodney ffing and the Black Fingernail, the former proving his real versatility as an actor.



Thanks again to Simon for emailing in his answers! You can follow Simon on Twitter @SimonCopley1


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Are you a Carry On Fan?




Do you love Carry On films? Probably a daft question to ask if you are reading this blog! I have decided to start a new regular feature for Carry On Blogging and I need your help.

If you are a Carry On fan, love the films, the stars and the spin offs, I want to hear from you. All you have to do is get in touch with some info and you will feature in your very own blog. All I need from you is your name, where you're from and the answers to the following questions:

What was the first Carry On film you ever saw?

Who is your favourite Carry On actor and why?

Who is your favourite Carry On actress and why?

Who is your favourite Carry On supporting actor?

Have you ever visited any Carry On film locations?

Have you ever met any Carry On actors?

Do you have any Carry On memorabilia?

Finally, what's your all time favourite Carry On film?

If you want to get in touch and feature in a Carry On Fan blog, please email your answers to the following address: carryonfan15@gmail.com 

I look forward to hearing from you!




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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Wonderful Windsor


I have been wanting to write a blog about Windsor Davies for some time now, but something else always seemed to get in the way. So here it goes! Windsor was a great addition to two of the later Carry On films, providing many of the high spots in both Carry On Behind and Carry On England.

It must have been a hard task for Davies to join the team when they had already been in full swing for many films by that point. Windsor was also coming in to play a role in Behind that had been written for Sid James. The series regular was unavailable due to theatrical tours both in Australia and all over the UK. Sadly, as we know now, Sid had already filmed his final Carry On as he would die in 1976, before the filming of Carry On England.



It's very clear that the role of Fred Ramsden, the lusty butcher and husband to Liz Fraser's Sylvia, was meant for Sid. Windsor is excellent in the part, giving it his all and working well with Jack Douglas. I almost now cannot envisage Sid in the part. Windsor Davies was of course an experienced actor by 1975, having made his first film appearances a decade earlier. He was also famous for his ongoing role in the BBC sitcom It Ain't Half Hot Mum, which began in 1974 and ran until 1981. 

Windsor Davies was obviously popular with both the cast and the audience as he was invited back to play a leading role in the next film, Carry On England. While England is perfectly dreadful, Windsor's double act with Kenneth Connor is one of the very few joys to be found in that film. I don't particularly enjoy the subplot of Joan SIms longing after Windsor's character but the main plot gives him plenty of opportunities to bring his sitcom character to the big screen. 



As a curious postscript, Windsor Davies played a small role in the drama Cor Blimey which was shown on ITV in 2000. This drama looked at the relationship between leading Carry On actors Sid James, Barbara Windsor and Kenneth Williams. Windsor plays an older actor in rehearsal with Barbara Windsor at the time of Sid's funeral. It's a strange turn of events given that in real life, Windsor sort of replaced Sid in those mid-70s Carry On films.

I often think it is such a shame Windsor Davies wasn't invited to join the Carry On team much earlier. He does well in these two later films, but what a shame he was not part of the gang when they were in their prime?


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Monday, 27 July 2015

Whatever Happened To ... Richard Wattis?


Amazingly, Richard Wattis only appeared in one Carry On. He was one of those actors who seemed to pop up just about everywhere. He filmed a supporting role in Carry On Spying alongside Eric Barker in less than a week. Strangely, despite this successful appearance he wasn't asked back to do another film in the series.

Today Richard Wattis is probably best remembered for two roles. First of all, as the snobbish, insufferable neighbour Mr Brown in the BBC situation comedy series Sykes alongside Eric Sykes, Hattie Jacques and Deryck Guyler. Wattis appeared in both the original 1960s black and white series and the return, in colour, in 1972. Wattis also starred in several of the St Trinian's comedy films in the 1950s and 1960s. He always played the suited, cowardly man from the Ministry of Education, usually alongside the likes of Eric Barker again.

Richard Wattis played supporting roles in a wide variety of British films during the 1950s and 1960s, although his acting career dates back to 1938. Among his many screen credits are Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Monte Carlo Or Bust; Hobson's Choice; Dentist On The Job; Very Important Person; Confessions Of A Window Cleaner; The Longest Day; The Colditz Story and perhaps most famously, in The Prince and The Showgirl opposite Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe.

On television, apart from his long running role in Sykes, Richard Wattis appeared with Kenneth Williams in Dick and The Duchess and cropped up in the likes of Father, Dear Father; The Goodies; Danger Man and The Prisoner. Interestingly, Wattis did return to the Carry On fold in 1975. He filmed a short cameo role in the episode Orgy and Bess, part of the ATV television series Carry On Laughing. Unfortunately his role, along with that of the actor Simon Callow, was cut from the final screened episode.



Richard Wattis was born in Staffordshire in 1912. He began his working life in the family's electrical engineering film before turning to acting in the 1930s. His first screen appearance came in the film A Yank At Oxford, released in 1938. Wattis was widely known within the acting profession as being gay, at a time when being open about such things was difficult. He frequently appears in the pages of Kenneth Williams diaries during the 1960s and 1970s, often meeting Kenneth at parties. Richard, always known as Dickie to his friends, is given rather a hard time by Williams in the diaries, often described as being lonely and fond of a tipple or two. As always, one can take aspects of Kenneth's diaries with a large pinch of salt.

When researching this post, it came as rather a shock to realise that Richard Wattis passed away more than forty years ago. So many of his appearances on film and television are still very recognisable that it seems weird that he has been gone for so long. He died of a heart attack in a London restaurant on 1st February 1975 at the age of just 62. Kenneth Williams recorded the news in his diary:

When I went in to see Louie at 11.45 she said "It's been on the radio that Richard Wattis is dead!"  and we had a v subdued lunch in consequence. The BBC rang and asked me to talk about him. I went round to B.H and recalled his kindness to me, beginning with Dick and Duchess.

The Kenneth Williams Diaries,  p, 487

Richard Wattis was yet another one of that band of regular faces; reliable character actors who would turn up in film after film for years without ever truly becoming a star. They were the backbone of our film and television industry for decades.



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Sunday, 26 July 2015

What a Carry On at Fenner's Fashions!


The Rag Trade was another one of those popular, early 1960s sitcoms just bursting with recognisable Carry On faces. It is also, rather sadly, one of those legendary shows that we hardly ever see broadcast nowadays. The series originally ran on the BBC between 1961 and 1963 (three series) and then came back, this time on ITV for two further series between 1977 and 1978. So let's have a look back at this comedy classic.

The main premise of The Rag Trade was the ongoing battle between the management and the workers at Fenner's Fashions, a textile factory in London. The boss at the factory was Harold Fenner, played by Peter Jones, most well remembered these days for his long running appearances in Radio 4's Just A Minute alongside Kenneth Williams. Peter Jones was a reliable character actor who appeared in two Carry Ons, Doctor and England. Starring alongside Jones was a pre On The Buses Reg Varney as Reg, the works foreman and the legendary Miriam Karlin as the militant shop steward Paddy. Karlin gained herself a catch phrase still familiar today (and borrowed by Kenneth Cope and Bernard Bresslaw in Carry On At Your Convenience) - "Everybody Out!"

Miriam Karlin was a formidable presence off screen as well as on. Interestingly, she became a good friend of Kenneth Williams, despite the fact that while she was incredibly left wing politically, Williams was quite far to the right. They often met at Equity Union meetings and their exchanges were recorded in Kenneth's wonderful diaries.


While Jones, Varney and Karlin were the leads in The Rag Trade, some of the real stars of the show came in the form of the assorted workforce that graced the original 1960s series. The wonderful Sheila Hancock (Carry On Cleo) led the pack as Carole. Joining her were Esma Cannon (Constable, Regardless, Cruising & Cabby) in a rare television role and none other than Carry On leading lady Barbara Windsor as Gloria. Esma stayed for the first two series and was on reliably twittery form while Barbara featured in just series one. Other actresses to join the ranks included Wanda Ventham (Cleo, Up The Khyber, The Big Job), Gwendolyn Watts (Doctor, Again Doctor, Matron) and Carmel Cryan who was married to Roy Kinnear and is the mother of the very successful actor Rory Kinnear.

While The Rag Trade boasted a strong cast of reliable character actors, it also featured a glut of familiar Carry On faces in one off guest roles. Over the course of the first three series the likes of June Whitfield, Irene Handl, Terry Scott, Dilys Laye, Judith Furse, Brian Oulton, Frank Thornton and Peter Gilmore all appeared. With top acting talent like that on board how could the series be anything other than a roaring success?


While many modern day viewers might look back at this black and white curiosity from fifty years ago with disinterest, the show was actually breaking new ground. At the time comedy on television was mostly dominated by middle class, middle aged men. For the first time, The Rag Trade put working class women at the centre of the action. It also dealt with themes that had not previously been seen on television, let alone a situation comedy. While strikes were perhaps more of an issue back then than they are today (although maybe not!) there is a definite social and political context to this comedy that makes it interesting viewing even today.

There was an attempt to bring The Rag Trade back to our screens by London Weekend Television in 1977. LWT secured the original writers, Ronald Chesney and Ronald Woolfe, and two of the original stars, Peter Jones and Miriam Karlin, and produced two further series. Sadly, times had moved on and the rebooted Rag Trade was less of a success. As with the BBC sitcom Sykes, the new, colour version of The Rag Trade used many original 1960s scripts on its return. 

Joining Jones and Karlin in the 1970s series were Anna Karen, reprising her role as Olive from On The Buses. Writers Chesney and Woolfe also created On The Buses so simply transported Olive to Fenner's Fashions. Also starring was Diane Langton, who had most recently appeared in several episodes of the ATV series Carry On Laughing and played the Barbara Windsor type role in Carry On England. The series also featured the likes of Christopher Beeny and Gillian Taylforth. By all accounts the series lacked the impact and charm of the original.


Although I believe the LWT series has been released on DVD, sadly many of the original BBC episodes have long since been wiped. It would be lovely to see those that do remain receive an airing, either on BBC2 or perhaps on one of the many stations that now exist to show classic programmes from times gone by. Surely given the fact The Rag Trade starred the likes of Sheila Hancock, Barbara Windsor and Miriam Karlin, there would still be an audience for repeats?


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In praise of the elegant leading lady


While the Carry Ons are well known for showcasing the talents of Joan Sims, Barbara Windsor and Hattie Jacques, there were a number of other actresses who starred, perhaps less prominently in the films. While Barbara, and to some extent, Joan played bubbly blondes and later Joan and Hattie played nagging wives or matrons, other ladies joined the Carry On team and added a little more sophistication.

I do think there was a place for more refined comic actresses during the prime Carry On period of the mid to late 1960s. Yes to a certain extent the films were low farce and knockabout antics, but there was always a cleverness to the scripts that raised the barrier just that little bit higher.



The first of these actresses was probably Shirley Eaton. Shirley appeared in three of the very early Carry Ons, most notably the first in the series, Carry On Sergeant in 1958. Shirley was the romantic love interest for the likes of Bob Monkhouse and Terence Longdon and was always classy and dignified. Following Shirley's departure from the series after Constable in 1959, Liz Fraser joined the team for a run of three pictures in the early 1960s. Long before Liz dabbled in the saucy seventies sex comedy scene, she played rather more elegant characters in the likes of Carry On Regardless and Cruising.



Liz was asked to play the role of Sally in Carry On Jack, although it subsequently went to the lovely Juliet Mills. Juliet was another actress in the tradition of the Shirley Eaton leading lady, shining amongst all the innuendo and slapstick going on around her. The next main proponent was the delightful Angela Douglas who clocked up four leading Carry On appearances during the mid 1960s. Angela was probably the finest example of the innocent, more refined leading lady and she excelled in the costume, period Carry On films, such as Cowboy, Follow That Camel and Up The Khyber. 

Probably the last true example of this kind of Carry On actress was Jacki Piper, who pretty much replaced Angela Douglas in the series from 1969 until 1971. Jacki played similar young leading lady roles in Up The Jungle, Loving and At Your Convenience although even by that time, the tone of the films was beginning to change. There were fewer taboos and the jokes were beginning to be nearer the knuckle than earlier outings for the gang. Nevertheless, Jacki continued the tradition of the demure leading lady. 



Although later films featured the likes of Sally Geeson, Carol Hawkins and Judy Geeson, the films quickly became bawdier and less innocent. I can't imagine Shirley Eaton, Juliet Mills or Angela Douglas returning to the series in the mid-1970s. Although later films like Abroad and Behind and real favourites of mine, I can't see some of the earlier actresses fitting in with the broader material, can you?

I really do believe these wonderful actresses should be celebrated for their contribution to our favourite British comedy film series. 


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Saturday, 25 July 2015

Carry On Blogging on Facebook!



As well as interacting with Carry On Blogging on this blog and via Twitter, there is now a Facebook feed you can follow. 

If you use Facebook you can like the page and follow it for updates, links to all the blogs and photos.


The Facebook page can be found here


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Confessions of a Carry On Fan


I do have a confession to make actually. Here goes...I have a grudging respect for the Confessions series of films. Those broad, rude, extra-bawdy, low-budget British sex comedies from the mid to late 1970s which made a star of Robin Askwith. Quite.

Saying I have a grudging respect for them doesn't mean I actually like or enjoy the four films they produced. Far from it, I find them crude, cheap and derisory for the most part. However somehow they captured the hearts of the British cinema going public at the time and those at the helm gave their audiences what they wanted. Within a very short time they had made the Carry On films almost completely redundant. A crying shame I'm sure you'll agree but you must admire how they came along and swooped in for the lion's share of the market.



The Confessions films look incredibly dated now but at the time they must have been a revelation. There was an explosion of sex in the cinema in the 1970s with long held taboos finally biting the dust. Robin Askwith and co brought a certain style of cinematic soft porn into the mainstream, added a few Carry On innuendos and made heaps of money at the box office. While the Confessions series ran for a fraction of the time the Carry Ons ruled, they were still a major success at a time cinema attendance was well on the slide and the British film industry in tatters. 

One film critic likened Askwith to a charmless young Sid James and there is a cheeky Sid like quality to his performances. The fact Robin had played Sid's son in the big screen version of Bless This House and then followed that up with a supporting role in Carry On Girls must have had something to do with it. Robin Askwith was definitely no Sid but he was certainly the star of these comedies and did very well from them. His shameless brand of humour and naughty antics won him legions of fans at the time and well done to him for making the most of it all.



I really don't like the Confessions films though. They feel cheap and nasty for a start. Yes I know the Carry Ons were hardly epics but the crews at Pinewood somehow managed to lift the tight budgets and limited locations and make the very most of them. The Confessions films also took a more "liberated" approach to sex and nudity however most of the time the jokes came from not seeing what was going on as opposed to have it all out and shaking it about! It just really doesn't work for me.

Somehow though, the Confessions films attracted a wonderful array of classic British character actors. Over the course of the four films made up at Borehamwood, the following renowned actors popped up in one of more of these pictures: Joan Hickson, Richard Wattis, Irene Handl, Carol Hawkins, Peter Jones, Windsor Davies, Lynda Bellingham, Jill Gascoine, Bill Maynard, Doris Hare, Dandy Nichols, Ian Lavender, Liz Fraser, Lance Percival and John Le Mesurier. Quite a roster of well known faces, although how much of what else was going on they knew about we'll never know!



I'm not sure if the Confessions films are solely responsible for the demise of the Carry On films. Tastes were changing anyway and fewer people were going to the cinema as more and more was available on their television sets at home. Also, the backbone of the main Carry On team were sadly starting to fade away. I'm pretty sure that even without the Askwith comedies, the Carry Ons would have been a thing of the past by the end of the 1970s anyway. 

I always think it's such a shame Rogers and Thomas decided to compete with these raunchier comedies. It really didn't pay off for them did it?






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Are you Carry On Alumni? Get in touch!



This might be a long shot but I am going to give it a try. I would dearly love to feature an interview or the answers to a few questions from someone who has worked on the Carry On films at some point in their life or has a connection to someone who has.

This needn't necessarily be an actor of course, although any who would like to be involved are more than welcome! One of the main reasons I set up this blog was to highlight the roles that some of the less well-known people played in making the Carry On series of films such an enduring success. I hope my passion for them all comes over in my blogs.

Anyway, if any of the actors, supporting players, or the legion of people who worked so hard and professionally behind the scenes fancy getting in touch and answering a few questions, I'd just love to hear from you. I would also really love to hear from anyone connected to one of the stars or crew: friends, family members, whatever. 

In return for the insights of any of the above, I'm more than happy to make a contribution to a chosen charity. 

If you would like to contact me, the blog email address is carryonfan15@gmail.com 

Thank you!



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Friday, 24 July 2015

What a Carry On at the London Film Convention!



The London Film Convention is new to me but this event is now in it's 40th year. My attention has been drawn to this by one of my lovely Twitter followers (thanks Michael!) The Convention gives fans of classic film and television a chance to meet stars, have photos taken with them and go home with an autograph as a lovely memento.

The next Convention is due to take place on Saturday 25th July and although it's early days, there have already been some guests announced with strong Carry On connections! Leading the field is Carry On and British film legend, the lovely Liz Fraser! Liz of course starred in four Carry Ons - Regardless, Cruising, Cabby and Behind.

Also making a (very rare) appearance will be Carol Hawkins, star of Abroad, Behind and several Carry On Laughing shows. Joining Liz and Carol so far are three other Carry On actors - Ann Firbank, who appeared in the classic Carry On Nurse and Patricia Franklin who had supporting roles in Camping, Loving, Girls, Behind and England. Finally, the lovely Sally Geeson will also be making an appearance. Sally appeared in Abroad, Girls and of course, played Sid's daughter in Bless This House from 1971 until 1976.


The London Film Convention will be taking place on Saturday 25th July, between 10am-4pm at Central Hall, Westminster, in Central London. 

And fear not if you cannot make it along tomorrow. The Convention will be back on Saturday 19 September and yet again there will be a Carry On presence. Shirley Eaton, star of Sergeant, Nurse and Constable will be there, as will fellow Carry On legends Anita Harris and Margaret Nolan. Also, Oscar winning production designer Peter Lamont will be there - he worked on Carry On Matron.

If you attend either of these events, please do get in touch and let me know how it went and who you met!

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My Favourite Scene: Carry On Emmannuelle


I have been running an occasional series of blogs which focus on my favourite scene in each of the original thirty Carry On films produced between 1958 and 1978. Today I'm facing up to the grim reality and writing about my favourite scene in Carry On Emmannuelle.

Carry On Emmannuelle is quite simply a dreadful film. It should never have been made. It wastes the talents of Kenneth Williams, Joan SIms, Kenneth Connor and Peter Butterworth. Quite strangely, it provides us with Jack Douglas' best performance in the series and also brings us a fairly self-assured starring role from the then inexperienced and very young Suzanne Danielle. We also get a gem of a cameo from the late great Beryl Reid, who is completely out of place with all that is happening around her.



Emmannuelle is an attempt to cash in on the continuing trend at the time for soft porn in mainstream cinema. It is also the continuation and last gasp attempt to keep pace with the more explicit Confessions series of comedy films, although they actually came to an end the year before Emmannuelle was released. I have only been able to sit through Emmannuelle once or twice which shows how woeful I think it is. Picking my favourite scene is therefore quite a challenge.

In the end I have gone for my favourite Carry On actress, Joan Sims. I really wish Joan had turned this one down. She had been loyal to the Carry On films for twenty years by this stage and was still busy in other areas of the acting profession, so surely she didn't really need to make this one? She can't have been comfortable with the material. However, we do have Joan to thank for one of the best, if brief sequences in the entire film. The main cast (Williams, Sims, Butterworth, Connor and Douglas) sit round a table and reminisce about their favourite amorous experiences. While most of them can be swiftly moved on from, Sims' flashback section is actually quite touching.



It features her character, Mrs Dangle, in a wordless romantic exchange in a launderette with a stranger, played by experienced Carry On supporting actor Victor Maddern. It has a touch of Brief Encounter to it, although that should probably be Briefs Encounter given the amount of laundry the pair tease each other with while the stripper theme plays in the background. Although it is hardly classic Carry On material, it somehow manages to rise above the dreadful script and prove to be a touching, gentle scene amidst a sea of low grade filth.

So there you go, the best two minutes from an otherwise dreadful last ditch attempt to keep the Carry Ons alive. God bless you Joanie!






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Thursday, 23 July 2015

The wonderful world of Sebastopol Terrace


I would like to begin a series of blogs looking at the long running sitcom roles taken on by some of our favourite Carry On actors. Many of the Carry On team were incredibly prolific television comedy actors and managed to fit in series on television with their annual trips to Pinewood to rejoin the Carry On team.

One of my all time favourite British situation comedy is the BBC series Sykes, which starred the wonderful and much-missed comedy genius Eric Sykes. Playing his twin sister in the series was Carry On regular Hattie Jacques. Eric and Hattie enjoyed a wonderful working relationship and had superb shared chemistry and comic timing. Sykes ran first of all from 1960 until 1965 and then returned, in colour, from 1972 until 1979. No doubt the series would have continued had it not been for Hattie's sad death in October 1980.




The premise of Sykes was quite simple. It was all about the lives of Eric and Hat, who lived at Sebastopol Terrace in Acton, London. On the surface it was just another domestic sitcom, however the writing frequently surreal and fairly wacky and the unexpected often happened! Eric was always the outlandish, stubborn, accident prone character the action and plot tended to focus on while Hattie was the sensible, patient, clever sister who smoothed things over.

Eric and Hattie were joined for many of the episodes by some regular co-stars. Richard Wattis, a wonderful light comedy actor, played their snobbish neighbour, Mr Brown, while Please Sir favourite Deryck Guyler played local policeman Corky. Joan Sims also made several appearances as Eric's love interest Madge, who ran the local bakery and kept Eric in constant supply of doughnuts!



Interestingly, and probably unlike many other comedy series, over forty of the episodes produced when the show returned in the 1970s were remakes of scripts broadcast during the original run of the series in the early 1960s! It didn't really matter though as so many of Eric's legendary scripts were instant classics and audiences loved them.

Sykes featured many wonderful supporting actors during the years. Peter Sellers appeared as an escaped convict in the classic 1972 episode Stranger. Other guest stars included Hattie's ex-husband John Le Mesurier, Roy Kinnear, Bernard Bresslaw, Sheila Steafel, Jimmy Edwards, Les Dawson, Dinah Sheridan, Joan Hickson, Chic Murray and Graham Stark.


What I loved most of all about Sykes was that the scripts hardly ever focused on Hattie's weight. In Sykes, Hattie was graceful, funny, warm and supportive. The shows frequently showcased Hattie's abilities as a wonderfully talented comic actress. Eric and Hattie enjoyed a wonderful partnership on stage and screen lasting many years and you could tell they got on well together. Eric often told the story of when he first saw Hattie, performing at The Players Theatre in London. She was delivering a typically robust music hall number and at the end of the routine she went into the splits and earned a huge round of applause. Apparently Eric was dumbstruck and new he had to meet and work with her. And who can blame him?

I loved so many of the classic Sykes episodes. The scenarios have often been repeated since, but they were the masters. Whether it be Eric, with his big toe stuck in the bath tap, Hattie and her ongoing conversations with Peter, who lived in the cuckoo clock or Eric's ongoing arguments with pompous Mr Brown, the series presented many surreal situations which allowed the combined genius of Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques to flourish. 





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