Wednesday, 6 April 2016
Whatever Happened To ... Elizabeth Knight?
Every so often I like to write a blog looking back at the life and career of one of the lesser known Carry On contributors. So much has already been written about the main team members that I think it is time to cast the net wider and focus on some of the many other really talented performers who made the films the success they were and still are.
Today I am going to write about the actress Elizabeth Knight, who had small but nevertheless eye-catching roles in two late 1960s Carry On classics. I will admit straight away that I know very little about Ms Knight's life other than the acting credits recorded for her so I am hoping this blog post will alert one of my readers to get in touch if they know more about her. Elizabeth made her first appearance in the Carry Ons with the classic Carry On Camping in 1968. She played Jane, the blonde girl who forms part of the Chayste Place troupe who arrive at Paradise Camp for the summer holidays together with Kenneth Williams' Dr Soaper and Hattie Jacques' Matron.
Jane shares a tent with the naughty Babs and Fanny (Barbara Windsor and Sandra Caron) and while they get the vast majority of the screen time, Jane still manages an adventure of her own, encountering middle-aged married Terry Scott. Terry plays Peter Potter, on holiday with her dreadful, shrieking wife Harriet (Betty Marsden) and Charlie Muggins (Charles Hawtrey), an accident prone loner who hooks onto the couple much to Peter's chagrin. A tipsy Peter ends up going off for an afternoon with the young Jane (for what we do not quite know!) and whatever happened, it certainly revitalised the Potters' marriage!
After this eye-catching turn in what turned out to be the most successful British film of the year, Elizabeth Knight was asked back to Pinewood for a featured role in the very next film in the series, Carry On Again Doctor. Again Doctor was a partial re-tread of the earlier and very successful Carry On Doctor although this time it also features a sub-plot about a medical mission. Jim Dale is the main star of the show and rightly so as it was to be his swansong until Columbus sailed into view many years later. Knight plays Nurse Willing and although she is given very good billing in the supporting cast we sadly do not see very much of her in the film. She shares a brief scene with the films' guest star, Steptoe and Son actor Wilfrid Brambell and only gets a few lines of dialogue. I understand she did film more scenes in the party sequence however for some reason this was all cut from the final print.
I think it's a shame that her role was cut and that after this appearance Elizabeth did not return to the Carry Ons. She is mentioned in Joan Sims' autobiography, High Spirits, and therefore I believe she must have been popular with the gang. I think she could have taken over where Angela Douglas left off, although these roles would subsequently go to the very talented and lovely Jacki Piper. So what else did Elizabeth Knight get up to in her acting career?
Elizabeth Knight's first known acting credit came in 1965 when she played the role of Ela in a Summer Comedy Hour production of Charley's Aunt. The show starred Richard Briers and also featured Carry On Teacher actress Diana Beevers in the supporting cast. Other television guest spots followed the same year in the likes of Cluff, The Flying Swan and Hereward The Wake. In 1967 Elizabeth landed the regular role of Karen in the comedy series Sorry I'm Single. The stars of the show were Derek Nimmo and Gwendolyn Watts (who appeared in three medical Carry Ons - Doctor, Again Doctor and Matron and was married to regular supporting actor Gertan Klauber).
In 1968 Elizabeth joined the starry cast of Harry Secombe, Oliver Reed, Ron Moody, Peggy Mount and Leonard Rossiter in the big screen version of Oliver! Elizabeth played Charlotte in the film, written by Lionel Bart and directed by Carol Reed. A further notable film role for Knight came in 1971 after her involvement with the Carry On team. This film was far removed from the world of saucy antics and innuendos at Pinewood. Elizabeth played Patti in the crime thriller Villain. The film starred Richard Burton, Ian McShane and Donald Sinden and was written by legendary comedy writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais.
A complete contrast for Elizabeth came later that same year when she took on a recurring role as Clover Mason in the comedy series It's awfully Bad for Your Eyes Darling. This sitcom provided an early leading role for future Avengers and Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley. The series was also created by the author Jilly Cooper. There is then a five year gap in Elizabeth's resume before her next credited appearance, a guest role in an episode of the women's prison drama Within These Walls, broadcast in 1976. Another guest turn followed in 1977 when she played a traffic warden in an episode of the comedy series Mr Big. This series starred Fawlty Towers actress Prunella Scales as well as familiar Carry On actors Peter Jones (Doctor, England), Ian Lavender (Behind) and Carol Hawkins (Abroad, Behind).
One of Elizabeth's last acting appearances, and her last film, was the role of Sheila in another Clement and La Frenais production - the big screen version of Porridge, released in 1979. The follow year, 1980, would see Knight appear on screen for the last time, in a brief role as a party guest in an adaptation the Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice. This version starred Elizabeth Garvie as Elizabeth Bennett and David Rintoul as Darcy.
And that, as they say, was that. No further credits are listed for Elizabeth Knight after 1980. I have no idea how old she was at this point but I can't think she was any older than her mid-thirties. No theatre credits are listed so perhaps she concentrated on her theatre career after this point? Or maybe she gave up the acting profession to start a family or simply change careers?
Whatever happened to her, I hope she is still out there and happy in her life. If anyone has any more information on Elizabeth Knight's life and career, please do drop me a line.