Sunday, 17 April 2016
Five of the Best: Patsy's Performances
I have always made it clear that one of my favourite Carry On actresses is Patsy Rowlands. She is just wonderful. Patsy was firmly in the reliable, hard working classic character actress category along with the likes of Joan Sims, Liz Fraser, Joan Hickson, Betty Marsden and Irene Handl. Patsy had a long and hugely successful career, equally prolific on stage, film and television, but as luck would have it she is mainly remembered these days for popping up in nine Carry Ons.
I have written before about my dismay that Patsy's considerable talents were limited to such brief cameos in so many of the films. When she was given bigger roles, it always paid dividends as she never disappointed. So here, in celebration of all things Patsy (because I feel like it) are give of my favourite of her Carry On roles:
Miss Fosdick in Carry On Again Doctor (1969):
Patsy's first ever Carry On contribution! As Miss Fosdick, she finds herself partnered with Kenneth Williams and it would be the start of an ongoing and fruitful acting relationship in the films. Patsy once said they got on well but she spent a lot of the time rather frightened of both Kenneth and his vast intellect! Regardless, their chemistry is there right from the off. Patsy doesn't have a great deal to do in Again Doctor but her role as Fosdick is eye catching and you can see why Rogers and Thomas asked her back for more adventures with the team.
Fosdick is Kenneth's rather prim secretary who, on her first appearance, gets rather more than she bargained for when Jim Dale's Dr Nookey steps out of the shower! Most of Patsy's scenes are with Kenneth and Charles Hawtrey and they are a joy together. Sadly Miss Fosdick rather disappears later on in the film although we do get one last, glorious scene when she turns up at the tropical medical mission as Gladstone Screwer's wife "Saturday", having got rid of the other six days! In Carry On Again Doctor, Patsy proved herself to be a natural at Carry On comedy. She gelled amazingly well with the existing team and thank goodness it was the start of a long association.
Miss Dempsey in Carry On Loving (1970):
Patsy only appears in the last section of this saucy seventies' update of the classic Carry On Regardless. Focusing on the clients of Sid and Hattie's Wedded Bliss Agency, Patsy's scenes involve, as they often did, working with Kenneth Williams. Kenneth plays confirmed bachelor Percival Snooper who is forced into the dreaded matrimony by his boss who is put out by the fact that Percival is an unwed marriage guidance counsellor! Patsy's Miss Dempsey makes her first appearance when Hattie's Sophie arrives for dinner with Percival whom she hopes to marry. When Miss Dempsey, Snooper's faithful and rather dowdy housekeeper finds out about their plans, she takes the news very badly. Clearly in love with Percival (and whyever not!?) Miss Dempsey miraculously transforms herself from frump to vamp and leaves everyone speechless!
Nobody could slink round the room with a hostess trolley in something purple and sparkly quite like Patsy Rowlands! It's a glorious scene. She later manages to get Bernard Bresslaw's lumbering Gripper Burke in crushing headlock but for me, the stand out moment is Patsy's glamorous slink!
Miss Hortense Withering in Carry On At Your Convenience (1971):
Without a doubt Patsy's most satisfying Carry On contribution, this role as W.C Boggs' faithful and put upon secretary was the only time Patsy was officially credited as part of the main Carry On team. Rowlands was normally down as part of the supporting cast. I love Patsy's role in Convenience. Yet again she plays the downtrodden assistant to Kenneth Williams but we know it's only a matter of time before she pounces and reveals her true feelings!
Patsy and Kenneth share many tremendous lines of dialogue together, most of it terribly in the face of political correctness, but I doubt you sit down in front of a Carry On film for that! Patsy's main involvement comes with the trip to Brighton which is one of my ultimate Carry On highlights. She camps around Brighton Pier with Kenneth, Charles, Joan and Sid and really does feel part of the gang. She is also front and centre in the wonderful gypsy fortune teller scene with Sid and Kenneth! Priceless stuff. My favourite scene comes near the end of the film when Kenneth's W.C wakes up in Miss Withering's bedroom! Yet again Patsy floats and wafts around in something frilly and her performance is just delightful.
Mildred Bumble in Carry On Girls (1973):
Mildred Bumble is without a doubt Patsy's most memorable Carry On role. It's also a sizeable improvement for her when it comes to screen time. Although Girls is one of my least favourite films in the series, Patsy, together with standout turns from Kenneth Connor, Joan Hickson and June Whitfield, makes the film bearable. As Mildred, the put upon and once again dowdy wife of bumptious little man mayor Frederick Bumble (Connor), Patsy is forever in her unflattering blue dressing gown, fag in hand or looking for the nearest ladies! Kenneth and Patsy work really well together and as husband and wife they would have made a wonderful sitcom partnership. As with most of Patsy's roles in the Carry Ons, there's yet another transformation scene of sorts in Girls. Mildred sees the light and fed up with Bumble's bombastic ways and piddling civic demands, she signs up to join Augusta Prodworthy's feminists, burning her bra in the process!
The climax to Girls involves Councillor Fiddler's (Sid James) beauty contest which goes completely wrong thanks to sabotage by Prodworthy's gang. Although many of these scenes leave a lot to be desired, the highlight involves Patsy's character getting her final comeuppance on her irritating husband. Watch out for that trapdoor Frederick!
Linda Upmore in Carry On Behind (1975):
Sadly this was Patsy's last role in the series, although looking at what followed, who can blame her for bailing out when she did? This time Patsy grabs a sizeable supporting turn as Linda Upmore, wife to Arthur (Bernard Bresslaw) and daughter to Daphne (Joan Sims). Although Patsy has a good amount of screen time, yet again she's not billed as part of the gang which irks me more than it probably should! Patsy, Bernard and Joan provide the warm heart of this film. I do have a soft spot for Carry On Behind as while it was a film that saw many changes, both in the actors present (or absent) and the writer, it soldiers on and is really rather good. It's no surprise that the three of the main surviving members of the team (Rowlands, Bresslaw and Sims) provide the highlights. Patsy and Bernard are great as husband and wife and make it look effortless. Joan is super too although it's stretching credibility to believe she could actually be Patsy's mother!
Joan is playing the usual nagging mother in law role and the three of them bicker in delicious disharmony in their rather claustrophobic little caravan! It's undeniably British! Bernard and Patsy have remarkably little to do despite their time on screen but it's a credit to these wonderful stalwarts that the end product was so enjoyable.
So those are some of my favourites, what are yours?
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