Thursday, 3 September 2015

My Favourite Scene: Carry On Constable

I have been writing an occasional series of blogs looking at my favourite scenes in each of the thirty Carry On films produced between 1958 and 1978. So far I've covered quite a range of the films, from the very first, Sergeant in 1958 through some of my real favourites (Cabby, Abroad) and even managed to scrape something together for Carry On England! 

Today I am going to look at another early classic, Carry Constable. I have come to appreciate Constable more and more over the years. It is mainly remembered now for the first appearance of Sid James in a Carry On, but it also features a prime cast of regular actors from the Hudis era, together with a supporting cast of reliable character actors. The leading roles go to the quartet of Kenneth Williams, Kenneth Connor, Leslie Phillips and Charles Hawtrey, joining forces as a group of inept police officers drafted in to help out Sid James during a flu epidemic. 

As always with a Norman Hudis Carry On, the plot contains an authority figure, a British institution and lots of comic vignettes, slapstick and a few tender moments of romance along the way. Joan Sims and Hattie Jacques are the female staff involved, often proving themselves more adept and able than the men, while Eric Barker returns to the series for another turn as an insufferable man at the top. Shirley Eaton pops up and pops out in a brief cameo as a damsel in distress with Leslie Phillips. The film also boasts sterling support from the likes of Terence Longdon, Cyril Chamberlain and the wonderful, incomparable Joan Hickson.

Both Joans are involved in my favourite scene from Constable. While Joan Sims plays the slightly uptight, business like WPC Gloria Passworthy, Hickson plays against type as a rather louche, drunken society lady. Passworthy, having arrested Hickson's Mrs May, parks her in the cells for the night. Unfortunately, this is also the temporary lodgings for our bumbling new recruits. This sets up a glorious scene which sees Connor, Hawtrey, Phillips and Williams take an early morning shower.

Of course the water is freezing cold, causing our rather camp, damp foursome to make a run for it. Cue much scampering around in the nip and Joan HIckson's shocked reaction! Priceless! Joan Sims then appears with the tag line - "Well you did ask for a cell with a southern exposure!" Brilliant stuff and for 1960, quite unheard of to see four leading male actors' bottoms bouncing about up on the big screen! Ahem.

As an aside, apparently (according to Leslie Phillips in the audio commentary) Charles Hawtrey was particularly blessed...I'll say no more...

It's a scene that lives long in the memory!

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