So many of the actors who appeared in the Carry On films are well known to us. Their lives have been well documented both on screen and off. While we always love hearing about them, sometimes it can feel a bit repetitive or that we are collectively raking over old coals.
I want to start an occasional series of blog posts looking at some of the lesser known actors who appeared in Carry On films. Sometimes we will know a fair amount about them but for whatever reason they have not garnered much publicity. Others will be a complete mystery.
My first post on this theme at the weekend was all about Carry On Abroad's Gail Grainger. Today I want to write about another supporting actress, but one who was a lot more prolific in the series: Marianne Stone.
Marianne Stone was a character actress everyone should recognise. From the 1940s through until the mid 1980s it didn't feel right for a British film or television production not to feature her. She was incredibly prolific, yet never a star in her own right. A quick check of her career record on the internet shows up 253 screen credits, quite phenomenal. Eleven of those credits were as part of the extended Carry On gang.
Marianne's first appearance in the series came with the second film, Carry On Nurse in 1959. In it she played Alice Able, wife of Cyril Chamberlain's character. She returned, in voice only for Carry On Constable, dubbing the brief role played on screen by Lucy Griffiths who alerts Leslie Phillips to burglars next door, who of course turn out to be Shirley Eaton. Marianne next played a waitress at Dirty Dick's in Carry On Jack (1963) and Mrs Parker opposite Joan Sims in Carry On Screaming in 1966. Later the same year she was back for a memorable cameo as a Landlady who has the last word opposite Peter Butterworth's Citizen Bidet in Don't Lose Your Head. This appearance was followed with another great cameo, as the mother of the child with a chamber pot stuck on his head in Carry On Doctor!
Now a semi-regular of the Carry Ons, it would still be another four years before Marianne Stone would join the team again, yet what a film that would be! In 1971, Stone had her biggest role in the series playing Maud, Joan Sims' best friend and co-worker at Boggs' toilet factory in Carry On At Your Convenience. As part of this film, Stone would have enjoyed the three day cast and crew jaunt to film in sunny Brighton. Later that same year Marianne was not so lucky. She apparently filmed scenes for Carry On Matron as a Mrs Putzova but sadly, the scenes hit the cutting room floor.
She would pop up briefly as the Mayor's secretary Miss Drew in the opening scene of Carry On Girls in 1973 and the following year was cast as Maggie, probably her most effective and funniest cameo, in Carry On Dick. Maggie is a toothless old crone who Kenneth Williams' Desmond Fancy questions in The Old Cock Inn for information on Big Dick. It's a priceless scene in what is one of my least favourite Carry Ons. Marianne Stone returned to Pinewood for her last appearance in the series the following year. In Carry On Behind she played Mrs Rowan, a customer in Fred Ramsden's butchers shop.
Quite remarkable really to think that even though her roles were small, Marianne Stone's Carry On career pretty much encompassed the entire run of the film series. So what other roles did she take on in her long career?
To be honest, there are just too many parts to cover in a blog! She appeared in some classic films during her career. Those included: Brighton Rock (1947), The Quatermass Experiment; Just My Luck (with Norman Wisdom); Lolita (1962); The Fast Lady (with Stanley Baxter); Doctor in Distress (1963); Rattle of a Simple Man (1964); A Hard Day's Night (1964); To Sir with Love (1967); Oh! What a Lovely War (1969); Bless This House (1972); Confessions Of A Window Cleaner (1974) and The Wicked Lady (1983). Quite a selection there!
On television she appeared in the likes of Crown Court, Secret Army, Father Dear Father, Bless This House, The Persuaders, The Return of the Saint and No Hiding Place. Marianne Stone's great ability to move from production to production and from comedy to drama and everything in between meant that she clocked up such a vast array of credits. I think it's a shame that despite her prolific, successful career, Stone never really became that well known. She was normally cast in small roles playing waitresses, maids or shop workers. Obviously realising that was her niche, she continued to specialise in those parts for over forty years.
Marianne Stone was born in London in 1922. She married film critic Peter Noble and together they had a daughter, Tara. As to what happened to her later in her career? It would appear that even though she had worked almost constantly for four decades, by the end of the 1980s offers of work had stopped coming in. So Marianne Stone simply decided to quietly retire from acting. Despite having had such a long and successful acting career, it's a shame to think that offers of work would dry up for an actress known throughout the profession for her reliability and professional work ethic.
Marianne Stone would seldom be seen in the public eye again after her retirement. She did make one notable appearance at a tribute lunch for her co-star in many Carry Ons, the wonderful Joan Sims, in 2004. Having seen snippets of that tribute online, it was lovely to see Marianne receive a standing ovation from those present.
Marianne Stone died in December 2009 at the age of 87. Marianne's contribution to the Carry On films cannot be underestimated. The films are still cherished today for many reasons, but chiefly amongst them is the ability to spot familiar faces time and time again. The extended repertory company of dependable, classy character actors gave these films a quality and a long lasting appeal that keeps them popular to this day. The films successfully tapped in to the wealth of wonderful character actors Britain had in abundance during the heyday of the Carry On films and Marianne's glorious cameos are right up there with the best.
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