Tuesday, 19 April 2016
Five of the Best: Carry On Entrances
So many of the main Carry On actors had tremendous screen presence. They were, on the whole, masters of their craft with years of experience in the film world even before the Carry On films came calling. As I've often said, the films would not have been what they were without the standard and quality of actors involved in the pictures from the outset.
There were some iconic first appearances in the Carry Ons. Gerald Thomas new how to build up to a high impact entrance on screen for some of the most memorable Carry On characters. Here are my favourite five.
Sidney James as the Rumpo Kid, Carry On Cowboy (1965)
One of his most iconic roles in the series and Sid's favourite part, the Rumpo Kid is a barnstorming, butch, gun-toting performance from the King of Carry On. Sid, like many of the other actors involved, clearly relished being part of a British take on the classic Western film. Sid's first entrance comes right at the start of the film. We see a mysterious stranger riding through the wilds of Buckinghamshire (!) during the title credits and then as he arrives in Stodge City, he takes on several armed bandits and finishes them off! Only then do we find out the dangerous stranger is none other than Sid himself! The whole thing is beautifully done and keeps us guessing right to the last. The fact it's Sid's familiar, crinkly face that comes into shot just adds to the reaction from the audience.
Joan Sims as Belle, Carry On Cowboy (1965)
Another of my favourite entrances and again it comes from Cowboy. Joan Sims spent a lifetime playing nagging wives and girlfriends and rarely got a chance to glam up. She always liked being a little bit glamorous on screen and therefore her role as Belle remained one of her favourites. She is quite simply stunning throughout Cowboy and really suits the period gowns she gets to wear. Her first appearance as she tackles Sid for drinking and carrying a gun in her saloon bar is truly majestic.
After a single shot is fired, knocking the glass from Sid's lips, Joan appears at the top of the staircase in a skintight black, sparkly gown. She slowly descends as Eric Rogers plays some suitably slinky music in the background. She then approaches Sid and engages in some deliciously fruity dialogue. This scene is the first time Sid and Joan worked so closely together in a Carry On and the chemistry is tangible. The legacy of this exchange can be found in some classic Sid and Joan partnerships in many of the films that followed.
Fenella Fielding as Valeria Watt, Carry On Screaming (1966)
Fenella's role as Valeria is iconic not just in terms of Carry On but also in British cinema. Nobody else could have played Valeria or brought so much out of the character. In a cast bulging with familiar, cherished comedy actors at the peak of their powers, Fenella steals the show with a strong, seductive performance, tongue firmly planted in cheek. Her first appearance is typically fantastic - at first we only see her eyes darting about in holes in a painting. Valeria is then revealed, in that stunning and shapely red velvet dress. The image of Fenella in that dress has become one of the stand outs of the entire film franchise. Classic stuff.
Barbara Windsor as Goldie Locks, Carry On Again Doctor (1969)
Barbara was at the height of her fluffy, bubbly blonde persona in Carry On Again Doctor. Playing a model who has a mishap on the set of a commercial for Bristol's Bouncing Baby Food, Barbara makes her first appearance on a hospital trolley in a memorable scene with Jim Dale's Dr Nookey and Hattie Jacques' Matron. The scene is setting up the romance plot betwen Dale and Windsor and the pair have terrific chemistry together.
However the main reason for including this in a list of iconic entrances is the lasting image of Barbara wearing nothing but three strategically placed hearts. This image has gone down in British film history and is one of the most recognisable in the series. So memorable was this moment than when Barbara and Jim were reunited at the first night of his one man show in London last year, they re-enacted the scene for the press!
Charles Hawtrey as Tonka, Carry On Up The Jungle (1969)
Charles Hawtrey became synonymous for his catchphrase "Oh Hello!" whenever he made his first appearance in a Carry On. Hawtrey was a masterful screen actor who was technically brilliant, having been acting in films for decades before he joined the team for Carry On Sergeant in 1958. Gerald Thomas quickly caught on to Hawtrey's presence and made the most of the "Oh Hello!" moment in each and every film. It is used to splendid effect in Up The Jungle. Hawtrey only appears for the last twenty minutes of the film but it's a priceless moment when he does finally join the fun. Valerie Leon has just given the majestic King Tonka the biggest and most impressive of build ups and then up pops Charles with his classic catchphrase! It's so unexpected and utterly fantastic.
So those are my favourite Carry On entrances, what are yours?
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