As Carry On Blogging reaches its first anniversary, I wanted to look back and share the top three most popular blog posts I've written so far. In third place is this blog post, all about my favourite Carry On film ever, Carry On Cabby. Earlier last year I did a count down of my top ten Carry Ons and this one most definitely came out on top!
Well here it is, the final post and time to reveal my favourite Carry On film of all time. There has been some stiff competition Matron! For me though, there has only ever been one main contender. Coming out on top is Carry On Cabby!
Cabby was one of the first Carry Ons I ever saw and certainly the first black and white entry I watched. As a child I loved the old cars, the slapstick and the big gangster car chase finale. In many ways it isn't really a typical Carry On film at all. It wasn't even planned as an official part of the series. Originally titled Call Me A Cab (which you can pick up on if you hum the theme music), it was meant just as another of the plethora of comedy films released from the Rogers and Thomas stable in the late 1950s and early 1960s. However the powers that be obviously realised they had something special and quickly released it as a fully fledged Carry On.
It is in many ways a "Kitchen Sink" Carry On, reflecting the trend for more honest depictions of the working classes and what life was really like in Britain. It was shot in black and white to give it grit and lead actors Sid James and Hattie Jacques portrayed a marriage on the rocks. It was believable, heartbreaking at times but always with lovely comedic moments running through the script.
And what a script. Cabby was the first film written for the series by the legendary writer Talbot Rothwell. It shows a definite shift away from the cosy 1950s Norman Hudis scripts. Although miles away from the innuendo-laden films that would follow later in the decade, it has a different pace, the performances are more subtle (sometimes) and everything feels more realistic.
At the heart of Carry On Cabby is the marriage of Charlie and Peggy Hawkins, beautifully brought to life by Sid James and Hattie Jacques. James and Jacques were meant to work together as husband and wife on screen. It was just so right, believable and fabulously entertaining. Peggy is basically frustrated with her lot in life, realising she has much more to offer. Although there is a lot of love in their marriage, she feels neglected by Charlie who is a complete workaholic, not believing Peggy can amount to much other than having the dinner on the table for whenever he can find the time to eat it. So Peggy calls his bluff and sets out to prove otherwise. What follows is a glorious shift in the power game as Peggy sets up a rival cab company, Glam Cabs. Enlisting the help of Flo (Esma Cannon), she employs beautiful young lady drivers and sexy modern cabs to fight the blokes for every fare going. It is joyous, rip roaring stuff.
Charles Hawtrey has a wonderful role as Pint Pot, the hapless, accident prone new recruit who is forever breaking things, creating embarrassing situations with passengers and careering about on his scooter. Hawtrey excels in this part and together with James features in a lovely running gag with an expectant father (the first Carry On for Jim Dale) who's wife doesn't know whether she is coming or going!
The film, without a doubt, belongs to Hattie Jacques. It is widely known as her favourite role in the series and you can see why. For once she is not the harridan. She is not the stern Matron. She is portraying a smart, sexy, sensitive, intelligent, multi-layered character. Most of all it gives Hattie something proper to act. For most of her long, successful career Jacques was pigeon-holed as the Matron or the funny fat lady. It must have been endlessly frustrating for someone so talented and with so much more to give. While Cabby might just be another Carry On film in the series for some, it at least allowed viewers to see a different side to Hattie and different aspects of her terrific acting talent.
In the end all is well. Jacques and Fraser are kidnapped by nasty Peter Gilmore and his band of crooks and it is up to Sid, Kenneth and Charles to track them down and rescue the damsels in distress. By the end of the film warring couples are reunited and Charlie and Peggy have some unexpected but lovely news too. Yes I know there are some obvious absentees - no Kenneth Williams or Joan Sims. While it might seem odd to have my favourite Carry On be a film without two of my favourite actors, Cabby just works so well that I don't really miss those that don't appear.
The film leaves you with a warm, satisfied glow. Yes, I know life doesn't work out that way most of the time but the film has shown different layers to these characters. There are moments for belly laughs, moments of anger and tender moments too. While I love the slapstick, Kenneth Connor in drag and Charles Hawtrey camping about on his scooter, it is the honest portrayals by Sid and Hattie that make this film a bit special and different from any of the others in the wonderful Carry On series. It will always be my favourite.
You can listen to Eric Rogers' wonderful music from Carry On Cabby here. It includes the glorious "Glam Cabs" theme!
And here is the original trailer for the film:
I hope you have enjoyed the countdown of my all time favourite Carry On films. I have loved writing about them all.
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