Saturday, 5 March 2016

From the Archive: Whatever Happened To ... Cyril Chamberlain?

I have been writing an occasional series of blogs turning the spotlight onto some of the lesser known yet still prolific actors who contributed so many memorable cameos to the Carry On films. 

So far I have written about the likes of Carol Hawkins, Marianne Stone, Peter Gilmore and Esma Cannon to name but a few. Today I am going to look at the career of an actor who appeared in the very first Carry On film, Carry On Sergeant in 1958. Cyril Chamberlain would go on to play supporting roles in a further six films in the early days of the series.

Cyril Chamberlain made his first Carry On appearance in a cameo role of the Gun Sergeant in Carry On Sergeant. He shares a scene with the likes of Kenneth Williams and Bob Monkhouse. Cyril returned to Pinewood later that year for a more substantial supporting turn as Bert Able, one of the patients in Carry On Nurse. Cyril has a memorable scene in Nurse which sees his character have an adverse reaction to some medication which sees his run amok in the middle of the night! He also shares scenes with the prolific character actress Marianne Stone who plays his wife Alice.

Next up came another substantial role, as the school caretaker Alf in Carry On Teacher. Alf is scene removing some risqué (for 1959) pin ups from the school notice board, pocketing one for himself! In Carry On Constable released the following year, Cyril plays Sid's second in command, Thurston. Most of Cyril's scenes as with Sid as together they try to keep their new recruits (Williams, Connor, Phillips and Hawtrey) on the right track! Cyril Chamberlain then went on to have a blink and you'll miss it cameo as a policeman who arrests Kenneth Williams at Windsor Station in Carry On Regardless!

Cyril's next Carry On role turned out to be his only appearance in a Carry On filmed in colour, the glorious Carry On Cruising released in 1962. In Cruising, Cyril plays the role of ship steward, Tom Tree, joining regular co-stars Kenneth Connor, Kenneth Williams and Sid James. The following year would see Cyril's last appearance in the Carry Ons, and bring an end to a run of consecutive film roles for Rogers and Thomas. In Carry On Cabby, he plays Sarge, the radio controller at Sid's Speedee Cab Company. Sarge has a role to play at the end of the film when he helps orchestrate a manoeuvre of cabs to ambush the crooks who kidnap Hattie Jacques and Liz Fraser. 

When looking back at Cyril Chamberlain's involvement in the series I was struck by how many fairly large supporting roles he had. I had always seen him as having cameo parts in the films, but he was actually pretty prolific. So what else did Cyril get up to in his acting career?

Cyril Chamberlain has a whopping 162 screen credits to his name. On film he worked again for Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas in small roles in the following films: The Duke Wore Jeans (starring Tommy Steele and co-written by Lionel Bart), Please Turn Over, Nearly A Nasty Accident, The Iron Maiden and Raising The Wind. He also worked for Peter's wife Betty Box and Gerald's brother Ralph Thomas in several of their films, including Upstairs and Downstairs, Doctor In The House, Doctor At Sea, Doctor At Large and Doctor in Love.

Cyril also made appearances in many other classic films from the late 50s and early 60s such as A Night To Remember (with Kenneth More), Two Way Stretch (with Peter Sellers), Too Many Crooks (with Terry-Thomas) and Dentist On The Job (with Bob Monkhouse). He was also a regular in the St Trinian's series of films, notching up roles in Blue Murder, Pure Hell and finally The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery, as a member of Frankie Howerd's gang. 

Working with Norman Wisdom, Cyril appeared in many of his classic films of the era. Those included Trouble in Store, Just My Luck, On The Beat and A Stitch In Time. On television, Cyril Chamberlain popped up in a variety of roles in the likes of The Saint, Ivanhoe, No Hiding Place and William Tell.

Cyril Chamberlain's first screen appearance came in 1938 with an uncredited bit part in The Man with 100 Faces. His career spanned nearly thirty years until his last appearance in The Yellow Hat in 1966.

So what else do we know about Cyril Chamberlain? Cyril was born in London in March 1909. He was married to the actress Lisa Lee and together they had one child. I cannot find any evidence as to why he decided to retire from the acting profession in 1966, other than the suggestion that he did so to concentrate on his passion for restoring antiques. Cyril Chamberlain died in Wales in December 1974 at the age of 65. 

Although his contributions were limited to the very early days of Carry On, Cyril Chamberlain provided solid, reliable support to the main regulars in the black and white Carry On films. The contribution of familiar British character actors like Cyril Chamberlain should never be underestimated. 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan

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