Friday, 8 January 2016

Joan carries on ... as Nurse Stella Dawson

This blog marks the beginning of a new regular series on Carry On Blogging. I'm going to attempt to blog about each of Joan Sims' wonderful roles in the Carry On films. Joan was the most prolific of all the actresses involved in the series, clocking up 24 films. Indeed, only Kenneth Williams made more Carry Ons.

Today we will start at the very beginning, right back in November 1958 to be exact. Joan was signed up to join the cast of the second Carry On, Carry On Nurse. Following the success of Sergeant earlier the same year, Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas enlisted writer Norman Hudis to produce a script based on the life and times of a men's ward in a National Health Hospital. The result was one of the most successful in the franchise and a rare hit in the United States.

Joan played a young trainee nurse called Stella Dawson and pretty much hit the ground running. She was immediately part of the main team, as it were, and while Shirley Eaton and Terence Longdon acted out the tender romance, Joan was on hand for some deliciously comedic calamities and pretty of slapstick. The accident prone Nurse Dawson is a favourite amongst the patients, less so amongst the nursing staff. She constantly disappoints the Sister, Joan Hickson and even falls foul of the formidable Matron (the first time Hattie Jacques played that monumental role).

Joan Sims is a delight throughout Carry On Nurse. She pops in and out of the action, adding valuable support and providing a fresh-faced breath of fresh air. The two Joans work well together, with the officious Sister frequently disappointed by Stella Dawson's inadequacies. There is a lovely moment at the end though, when Hickson's Sister softens towards the young nurse. Sims also works well with that legendary character actor Harry Locke, in the first of his three medical Carry Ons. They bicker and josh with each other throughout and provide great comedic elements.

Joan is also involved in the climatic daffodil sequence with Hattie Jacques and guest star Wilfrid Hyde White. Joan and fellow nurse Susan Stephen set up the memorable gag as they get back at the Colonel for his demanding behaviour throughout the picture. This scene beautifully demonstrates Joan Sims' childish, playful glee and love of an innuendo or two. 

The role of Nurse Stella Dawson was a perfect fit for Joan's immeasurable talents and on this performance alone, it's no surprise that Peter Rogers was quick to sign Joan up for plenty more adventures with the gang.

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  1. I haven't seen this one yet. In Doctor there is a scene with Frankie Howerd and the nurse where he talks about her taking his temperature with a daffodil. Is this a reference to Nurse?

    1. That's right! It's a direct reference to the original medical Carry On, very clever!