Friday, 19 February 2016
Joan carries on ... as Emily Bung
This blog is part 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 I am going to write about Joan's role in Carry On Screaming! Released in 1966, it was the twelfth film in the series and Joan's seventh Carry On. The film is rightly seen as a classic in British cinema, beautifully scripted by Talbot Rothwell, beautifully shot by Alan Hume and beautifully acted by a handpicked cast of comedy favourites. It is a delicious send up of fellow low budget film producer, the Hammer Horror franchise.
In a cast full of stronger than usual characterisations, Joan is relegated to a smaller supporting turn than usual. She plays Emily Bung, the nagging wife of leading character Sidney Bung, played by Harry H Corbett. Emily Bung provides the domestic backdrop for the policeman and seems to spend most of the time in bed. It is pretty much a follow on from Joan's nagging wife role in Cleo two years earlier and would set the tone for many of her later Carry On roles.
While she delivers as sublime a performance as ever, I can't help but be frustrated by the lack of development in the character Joan is given to play. I know the Carry Ons were never high art but in Joan they had a gifted actress with a tremendous range. I also know that Joan was happiest when made a little bit glamorous on camera (a reason she loved her previous role as Belle in Cowboy so much) so the nagging, shrewish frumpy Mrs Bung must have been a real come down. Still, she carries it off with suitable aplomb and makes the most of her scenes.
As always, Joan is full of energy and acts right out of the screen whenever she appears. She also works extremely well with Harry H Corbett. Originally I think Sid James had been earmarked for this part and while I miss the chemistry Sid and Joan had in spades, Harry and Joan are terrific together and make for a believable husband and wife. Rather frustratingly Joan doesn't really get to interact with any other members of the team, restricted to scenes with Harry most of the time, apart from brief moments in a taxi with Marianne Stone and Norman Mitchell.
What I really don't like are the jibes cracked during the scenes when Joan's character is about to be turned into a shop mannequin. There are several low jokes at her expense and this must have been tough for an actress as sensitive as Joan could be. I would say they couldn't get away with that now but I'm not so sure...
In the end, Joan almost has the last laugh and her image, as a frozen stiff shop mannequin is the last thing we see over the end credits as she cheekily winks to the camera! It's a lovely moment in what remains a terrific Carry On. I just wish Joan had been given a better role to play.