Tuesday, 5 April 2016
Life after the Carry Ons: Hattie Jacques
This is a new occasional series of blogs in which I will look at the careers of each of the main Carry On team players once they left the series. Some would go on to appear in many other productions over the years while others would sadly not be so fortunate. Today I am looking at the later career of Hattie Jacques.
Hattie's career had come to be dominated by the Carry On films. She made fourteen over the course of sixteen years, many of her performances relying on the popular Matron persona. While Hattie was always superb and flawless in these comedy parts, we can't help but assume she began to feel rather limited and constrained by the series and the lack of more dramatic parts that was the ultimate result. After a run of six early films in the series, Hattie took a break before returning for Carry On Doctor in 1967. She then appeared regularly until Carry On Dick in 1974.
I'm not sure if was intended as her last role in the series, but sadly Hattie would not make further Carry On appearances. I understand that due to Hattie's ongoing health problems Peter Rogers even struggled to provide the neccessary insurance to have Hattie on set for Carry On Dick. So what happened with the rest of Hattie's career?
Hattie did make one final Carry On-related appearance. She took part in one episode of the ATV Carry On Laughing television series, broadcast during 1975. Hattie was glorious as Elizabeth I in the episode "Orgy and Bess" bringing her back to work with familiar and muc-loved old colleagues Sid James, Kenneth Connor and Barbara Windsor. Much of the rest of Hattie's career focused on her continued involvement with long-term colleague Eric Sykes.
Eric and Hattie had played siblings in the original sitcom Sykes And A ... for the BBC between 1960 and 1965. The series returned in colour in 1972 and a series was made each year up to and including 1979. This would form the backbone of Hattie's working life towards the end of her career. The professional relationship with Sykes was equally fruitful on stage. Their show entitled A Hatful of Sykes toured provincial theatres in the UK for much of the latter half of the 1970s as well as venturing overseas. The show also featured Deryck Guyler, Corky in the series Sykes. Hattie continued to tour as late as 1979, despite burgeoning health problems.
Hattie also made brief screen appearances in two commericals for television in the late 1970s. The first was in 1976 for British Rail and featured her in competition to reach her destination by train faster than racing driver Jackie Stewart. Hattie won of course. In 1979 she also starred in an advert for the supermarket chain Asda. Sadly, other than her work with Sykes, very little other acting work came her way at this time.
Hattie did keep busy though, despite her professional fortunes and health concerns. A devoted charity worker throughout her adult life, this activity only intensified as she grew older. Hattie was immensely generous both with her time and her money and cared deeply about a number of charities. She spent a great deal of her time fundraising, making public appearances and opening fetes, all for good causes.
Hattie's last professional engagement took her back to work with Eric Sykes once more. In April 1980 she filmed a brief cameo in Sykes' silent film Rhubarb, Rhubarb. Hattie played a nanny in a cast which featured the likes of Roy Kinnear, Beryl Reid and Jimmy Edwards. Sadly by the autumn of 1980, Hattie's health had deteriorated further, not helped by incessant smoking. The death of her mother, to whom she was devoted, rocked her personally and this only added to her poor health.
Hattie died at the age of just 58 on 6 October 1980. We lost one of our most talented and most loved comedy actresses. Hattie was a supreme actress with so much to give. It will also be sad that we lost her at such a young age and that she was often stuck behind the role of Matron, however we still have so many wonderful performances to enjoy.