Saturday, 30 April 2016

What a Carry On at the London Film Convention!


The London Film Convention is now in its 43rd year. My attention has been drawn to this by one of my lovely Twitter followers (thanks Michael!) The Convention gives fans of classic film and television a chance to meet stars, have photos taken with them and go home with an autograph as a lovely memento.

The next Convention is due to take place on Saturday 21st May and although it's early days, there have already been some guests announced with strong Carry On connections! Leading the field is that legend of classic British comedy, Liz Fraser. Liz has been acting on stage and screen for decades and is a real favourite of mine. She tells it as it is, doesn't mince her words and has a delightful sense of humour! We know her best from her gloriously glamorous turns in four Carry Ons - as Delia King in Regardless, Glad Trimble in Cruising, Sally in Cabby and finally Sylvia Ramsden in Behind. 


Joining LIz is another class act of British film comedy - Fenella Fielding. Fenella appeared in two Carry Ons, first of all as Penny Panting (!) opposite Kenneth Connor in Carry On Regardless and then several years later in her most iconic role as Valeria Watt in Carry On Screaming. I have been fortunate enough to meet Fenella before and she is an absolute delight.

Another delightful Carry On leading lady in attendance will be Jacki Piper. A real fans favourite, Jacki starred in four of the Carry Ons produced in the early 1970s. She first appeared in the series as June in Up The Jungle before returning for further adventures in Loving, as Sally Martin; At Your Convenience as Myrtle Plummer and finally as Sister in Matron.


The final Carry On name to be announced so far is Alan Curtis. A well-known supporting actor for decades, Alan appeared in stand out cameos in two 1970s Carry Ons. He first appeared in Carry On Henry in 1970 before returning two years later to be play the Els Bells Chief of Police in the classic Carry On Abroad. 

There are more names to be announced soon so keep your eyes peeled for further announcements!  

The London Film Convention will be taking place on Saturday 21st May, between 10am-4pm at Central Hall, Westminster, in Central London. You can find out more about the Convention by visiting their website

If you attend this event please do get in touch and let me know how it went and who you met!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also Facebook

New Carry On Pop Art from Art and Hue!

With thanks to the wonderful Twitter, my eye was drawn to some brilliant new art work inspired by the Carry On films. The new pop art collection by Art & Hue has been months in the preparation, with trips to the archives at Pinewood Studios, and is now online. 

The Carry On films have their own distinct style that is totally unique, beloved by many and an important part of Britain's comedy, film, and cultural heritage and 2016 marks 50 years since the final Anglo-Amalgamated Carry On film. 


British film company Anglo Amalgamated distributed the first 12 Carry On films starting with Carry On Sergeant in 1958 and ending 50 years ago with Carry On Screaming in 1966.

Delving into Studiocanal's archives at Pinewood Studios, where the Carry On series was filmed, Art & Hue has created six pop art portraits of the much-loved stars as well as reworked the classic posters of the first 12 films into stylish fine art prints. Unlike traditional movie posters which are printed on thin paper with inks which fade, Art & Hue has created fine art print versions of the posters printed on museum-quality archival card of 310gsm, made from 100% cotton, using pigment inks which last lifetimes. Based on the first 12 Carry On films, all of the prints come in three sizes and 16 colour options, are available with or without cast billing, with most using (or remixing) the original poster imagery, and some re-imagined.

Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, and Barbara Windsor (Dame Babs) have been given the Art & Hue treatment featuring Art & Hue's signature halftone style (halftone is an age-old technique that uses dots to make up the printed image, similar to newspapers or comic books). to create a collection of pop art portraits, also available in three sizes & 16 colours to choose from to fit into any design scheme. 

You can find out more about this stunning new art work and purchase some via the Art & Hue website:

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also on Facebook

Friday, 29 April 2016

Joan Carries On ... as Ellen Moore


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 as Ellen Moore, the wealthy widow in Carry On Again Doctor. Although I love this film for Jim Dale's central performance as Jimmy Nookey and for giving us our first glimpse of the glorious Patsy Rowlands in a Carry On, the majority of the film is fairly forgettable as far as I'm concerned. Again Doctor is a film of two parts. The first half is a pretty standard follow up to the classic Carry On Doctor. Dale, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey and Hattie Jacques camp around a remarkably similar hospital, being remarkably similar to their previous medical roles. 

This time around Williams and Jacques are playing more sympathetic characters while Charles Hawtrey actually gets to play the villain of the piece. I actually quite enjoy his turn as the vaguely fiendish Dr Stoppidge. The second half of the film sees our hero Jim packed off to a remote tropical island after he disgraces the hospital once to often. This story arc finally sees the introduction of Sid James as the wonderfully named medical missionary Gladstone Screwer. 

Jim and Sid share some brilliant scenes in this section and it's clear they had a great time working together. The final section of the film see Jim's Dr Nookey discover a miraculous weight loss treatment and set up his own fancy clinic with the help of money from the wealthy Mrs Moore. I have never been a fan of the fat farm section as it seems in quite poor taste really, but I digress. What of Joan's involvement in all this.

Well actually Joan has precious little to do in Again Doctor. After two barnstorming Carry On performances in 1968 (Khyber and Camping) Sims' role in Again Doctor is fairly limited and low key. Much of the action revolves around Williams, Dale, Hawtrey and latterly Sid James. Joan pops up throughout the film but is mainly a feed for the likes of Kenneth Williams. The pair do share a lovely scene during the party sequence at the hospital although I'm always distracted by Joan's perilously low cut gown! Much later there are also great scenes when Joan shares a room at the clinic with Charles Hawtrey in drag as the superb Lady Puddleton!


However, rather sadly this role sees Joan back in the familiar pattern of playing middle aged shrewish women. Given what we know about Joan as a woman, it must have been a bit trying to play those fat farm scenes. She does look good throughout but by this stage had pretty much been passed over in the glamour stakes by bubbly Barbara Windsor and her three strategically placed love hearts (!).

As you'll probably gather I'm not particularly fond of this film or Joan's rather bland role in it. Sims never gave a bad performance and is always a joy to watch, I just think in this case she deserved a lot better. As always she sparkles when paired with the likes of Kenneth Williams and Hattie Jacques, but I'm left rather disappointed with Ellen Moore and Carry On Again Doctor. The highlights remain a glorious camp villain in Charles Hawtrey, Jim Dale's amazing comedic physicality and lovely supporting turns from the likes of Patsy Rowlands, Peter Butterworth (too brief a performance!) and Kenneth Williams.

So what did you think of both Carry On Again Doctor and Joan's role as Ellen Moore? Get in touch and let me know!



You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also on Facebook

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Five of the Best: Carry On Character Actresses


Has the great British character actress become extinct? It might sound a rather dramatic question but I'm pretty serious about asking it. These days everyone becoming an actor wants to become a star, talent shows are everywhere and being famous is a dream for many young people. What happened to actors who just wanted to act and saw more to it than a name up in lights? 

I have written before about my love for British character actors and actresses. The sheer quality of their talent enhanced countless films and television shows for decades and none more so than the Carry On films. Without the calibre of these character comedy people, the films simply would not been the success they were and continue to be to this very day. One of the chief joys of character actors is that they amass a huge sum of credits and frequently prove equally adept at comedy and drama. They are nearly always willing to play small roles as well as bigger parts, seeing the quality of the writing and importance in the narrative over billing. A prime example is Liz Fraser's solitary scene as a grieving mother in the Miss Marple drama, Nemesis. Liz only appears for a few minutes on screen but you are left with a complete picture of the character and her back story. It is a masterful performance and shows what can be done with limited screen time yet bags of talent.

So here, without further ado, are some of my favourite Carry On character actresses, in no particular order.


Joan Hickson did become a star, but not until the latter stages of her long acting career when she was chosen to star as Agatha Christie's famous sleuth, Miss Marple. By the time of her debut as Jane Marple in 1984, Joan had been treading the boards for several decades. Hers was a face that popped up all over the place and she was always a high point of any Carry On. First appearing in the second film in the series as the rather put upon, officious Sister in Nurse, Joan would make five Carry On films in total and her roles transcended the series form the early innocence of Carry On Constable in 1959 right through to the saucy larking about in Carry On Girls over a decade later. A wonderful actress who always added quality no matter what the material she was working with! You can read more about Joan Hickson here.

Next up is that fantastic spirited Scottish actress Renee Houston. Originally a star of music hall, Renee found herself acting more and more in character parts in television and on film during the latter half of her career. She could play faded posh and working class energy with equal aplomb and enlivened many productions. Sadly ill health limited her appearances on screen by the 1970s which robbed us of a great talent. Her most famous Carry On role was that of harridan Agatha Spanner in At Your Convenience in 1971. Her flirtatious relationship with Charles Hawtrey's Mr Coote and her browbeating of militant son Vic (Kenneth Cope) provided fantastic material for Houston and it's a real comedy tour de force. Convenience was a return to the Carry Ons for Renee who had cameo roles in two earlier, black and white series entries. She was Molly, the cab drivers' cafe owner in Cabby and was also briefly seen as Madame in Spying the following year. She had been due to play Mrs Dukes in Girls in 1973 but the aforementioned ill health meant the role went to Joan Hickson.
You can read more about Renee Houston here. 


Another character actress with Carry On connections who I felt never got the credit she deserved was Judith Furse. As with Houston, she was frequently called upon to play overbearing battleaxes and as her career progressed it was also dominated by comedy parts. Early on in her career she had a big success as a nun in the classic film Black Narcissus however success eluded her later on and she died fairly young in 1974. She is mainly remembered these days for her infamous turn as the sinister Dr Crow in the classic Carry On Spying. She was portrayed as a hulking, a-sexual James Bond type baddie in this film, her voice dubbed by John Bluthal. I'm not sure what the actress made of this role but it wasn't particularly flattering. Judith also turned up in Carry On Regardless as a headmistress at Windsor and Eton railway station and two years later, as a rather severe passenger in the back of Sid James' cab in Carry On Cabby. You can ready more about Judith Furse here.

One of the most sublime of all the character actresses of this period has to be the late, great Marianne Stone. She was never a star and rarely had much screen time but she still managed to leave a lasting impression. Marianne had an incredibly long and diverse range of credits, some say because her husband was renowned film critic Peter Noble. I prefer to believe her success as a character actress was down to her talents as a fantastic and reliable performer. Marianne was pretty much always the slightly dowdy, working class worker, maid, cleaner or gobby shop assistant. Probably her most memorable Carry On turn was as Maud, Joan Sims' cackling friend in Carry On At Your Convenience. Marianne appeared in a total of eleven Carry On films in some shape or form, more than regular actress Barbara Windsor. As with the likes of Joan Hickson, her roles encompassed nearly the entire run of the series. Her first appearance was as Cyril Chamberlain's wife in Carry On Nurse, her last as Mrs Rowan in 1975's Carry On Behind. She made nine credited appearances, the other two performances being dubbing Lucy Griffiths in Constable in 1959 and a scene as Mrs Putzova in Matron which was eventually cut from the final print. You can ready more about Marianne Stone here.

I cannot end a blog post on female character comedy people without mentioning two of my absolute favourites. The first will come as no surprise - the glorious Patsy Rowlands. I have written about my love of Patsy's performances before and you can read that here. Patsy was a peer of the likes of Hattie Jacques and Joan Sims but was never considered a "star" of the Carry Ons. She worked consistently and constantly in every conceivable media for decades and is a beloved fans' favourite. Appearing in nine Carry Ons, her best remembered roles are probably Miss Withering in Convenience and Mildred Bumble in Girls. I'm always amazed at how underused Patsy could be in a Carry On and wish she'd been a main part of the team. 


I know I said my top five, but I can't go without mentioning my other absolute favourite, the legendary Irene Handl. Irene acted successfully for decades and appeared all over the place, working constantly until her death at the age of 85 in November 1987. A regular scene stealer she worked in all sorts of productions on stage and screen and will soon get an entire blog post all of her own. Many people forget that Irene also appeared in cameo roles in two early Carry Ons - as Bill Owen's anxious wife in Nurse and as a mother looking for her "Little Willy" in Constable the following year. 

Although I would class Irene as a character actress, I also wonder whether she actually was a fully fledged star. Perhaps they all were in their own way. 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also on Facebook