Tuesday, 31 May 2016
The television comedy writer Carla Lane has sadly passed away. The BBC has reported that Lane passed away earlier today in a care home at the age of 87.
Lane, born in Liverpool, was one of the few female television writers during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, writing about ordinary working class people and channeling humour and pathos in equal measure from every day situations. Her biggest successes were The Liver Birds (1969 - 1979), Butterflies (1978 - 1983) and Bread (1986 - 1991).
Early on in her writing career, Carla wrote 24 episodes of the classic Thames television situation comedy Bless This House. This series starred none other than the man himself, Sidney James. Lane will mainly be remembered for producing comedy series which put strong women at their core however in Bless This House, surely as traditional as comedies get, she found crucial early experience.
My own favourite of Carla Lane's body of work in the BBC2 comedy drama Butterflies. It was a shift from pure comedy for Lane and for its star, Wendy Craig. It told the story of Ria Parkinson, a middle class woman with two grown up sons and a successful middle class husband. Without a career of her own, she faced middle age without much of a purpose and soon and contemplates an affair with a rich, rather suave businessman. This series depicted changes in our society as a generation of stoic women found their voice, their freedom and their independence.
I found Butterflies' blend of traditional situation comedy with a serious edge of pathos to be both believable and refreshing. It showed a different side of leading lady Wendy Craig and demonstrated the strength of Carla Lane as a truthful writer in command of her subject matter.
Without a doubt Carla Lane was a trailblazer, leading the way in the days when the BBC was still overwhelmingly a male-dominated organisation. Lovers of British comedy owe her a great debt. She will be sorely missed but as with all the greats, we at least have a wonderful body of work to remember her by.
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So here goes. Most of this blog will be photos as I have a lot to share!
Let's start off with the famous Pinewood Studios main entrance. We saw it recently in the Carry On Forever documentary when Shirley Eaton returned to her second home. Although the studios now have a more modern entrance for the 21st Century, this iconic building thankfully remains.
Further round the estate is the cul de sac, Pinewood Close. A house in this short street was used as for the Potters' home in Carry On Camping. It was used again as the house owned by Bernard Bresslaw and Patsy Rowlands in Behind and finally it appeared in Carry On Emmannuelle.
Lunch was had at The Jolly Woodman pub out in rural Buckinghamshire. The pub was featured in both Genevieve (one of my favourite films) and of course, Carry On Dick in 1974.
Next up was a visit to Maidenhead to find the town hall, which featured prominently in Carry On Doctor, Again Doctor and Behind.
Then we moved on to the village of Denham. Two photos from here, the first is the local church used to film the end of Carry On Matron when Kenneth Williams and Hattie Jacques were married.
And remember this shot? Bill Maynard and Bernard Bresslaw made a quick getaway following the announcement of Sid's next big idea...
Finally, a couple of very special blue plaques commemorating two wonderful British comedy stars. Here is Frankie Howerd's home in Kensington:
And best of all, Joan Sims' from her flat in Kensington Square, just off High Street Kensington:
I hope you've enjoyed my trip down memory lane. If you have any photos from Carry On filming locations you'd like to share feel free to do so via Twitter or Facebook.
Monday, 30 May 2016
After several false starts in recent years, a brand new Carry On film is supposedly going into production later this year. The film, titled Carry On Doctors (not to be confused with the original Carry On Doctor) will start filming later this summer for a 2017 release. Not only that, it is already being heralded as the beginning of a whole new series of films. Another title, Carry On Campus, is being lined up to go into production hot on the heels of Doctors.
According to the producers, the film will be aiming to create a brand new ensemble of British comedy actors and not attempting to find the next Sid James or Kenneth Williams. Just as well really as in my opinion the entire Carry On team were one off talents and completely irreplaceable. I do like the idea of the new series allowing new comedy talent to thrive and find its niche.
I've already heard rumours that no surviving stars will be involved in the new film. I'm in two minds about this. While I think a new generation of creative people should be in charge of such a project, the film will inevitably sink or swim depending on how it is received by the Carry On films' loyal fan base. Surely if you are resurrecting the name Carry On, you must use it as an opportunity to give longstanding fans an unexpected treat. While I think new blood should carry the film, what about a few sparkling cameos would give the traditional Carry On audience something to cheer for and really get them onside.
With that in mind and delving into Carry On fantasy land, I wanted to throw this question open to loyal Carry On fans. If you could choose, which surviving Carry On actors would you love to see appear in Carry On Doctors? I have narrowed it down to fourteen of our favourite stars and I want you to vote for who you would most like to see back to help relaunch the series. So here are my top choices:
Amanda Barrie is one of the most recognisable faces from the original series thanks to her prominent, eye-catching roles in two classic Carry Ons - as Anthea in Cabby and in the title role in Carry On Cleo. Her popularity has endured thanks to her two decades as Alma in Coronation Street. Bernard Cribbins is a national institution, beloved for his countless screen appearances and for his involvement with classic childrens' series such as Jackanory and The Wombles. He starred in Carry On Jack, Spying and Columbus. Jim Dale is a Carry On hero and the romantic lead in 11 of the films. Starring in some of the classic 1960s series entries, he is best remembered for playing bumbling handsome doctors in Carry On Doctor and Again Doctor.
Angela Douglas is a real fans' favourite having appeared in four 1960s Carry Ons - Cowboy, Screaming, Follow That Camel and Up The Khyber. Shirley Eaton was one of the original stars of the Carry Ons, most famously playing the lead in Carry On Nurse. Fenella FIelding needs no introduction thanks to her amazing performance as the Carry On vamp in the 1966 film Carry On Screaming as well as several supporting roles in the Doctor series. Liz Fraser appeared in countless classic British comedies, Carry On Regardless, Cruising, Cabby and Behind amongst them. Anita Harris made two Carry On appearances, in Follow That Camel and the original Carry On Doctor.
Carol Hawkins provided a glamorous touch to two 1970s films in the series - the classic Carry On Abroad and Behind. Julian Holloway notched up eight supporting turns in the series, including the likes of Doctor, Khyber, Camping and Henry. Valerie Leon added stunning support to six Carry Ons, most notably Up The Jungle and Girls. Jacki Piper starred in four series entries, Up The Jungle, Loving, Convenience and Matron. June Whitfield appeared in four of the films spanning the entire run, from Nurse in 1958 to Columbus in 1992. Finally, Carry On blonde bombshell Barbara Windsor appeared in nine original Carry Ons and is one the series' most high profile stars.
So now is the chance to have your say, just for fun! I'll keep the poll open for a couple of weeks, so Carry On Voting!
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This is the latest blog in a brand new series for Carry On Blogging. It might be slightly ambitious, but I'm going to attempt to do a run through the alphabet of some of the more interesting Carry On supporting actors. One of the reasons I set up this blog was to turn the spotlight on some of the lesser known Carry On actors who nevertheless played an important role in the success of the film series.
Today we continue with the next letter in the alphabet, E and E is for E.V.H Emmett.
Carry On films: E.V.H Emmett provided the voice over throughout the classic Carry On Cleo in 1964.
Best known for: Aside from providing his vocal talents for a wide variety of British films, Emmett was best known as a British newsreader on radio and the official commentator for Gaumont documentary films.
Did you know: E.V.H Emmett was also a scriptwriter, working on films such as Dance Hall (1950), Under the Southern Cross (1957) and Bothered by a Beard (which he also produced and directed).
What are they up to now: Sadly not a lot. Emmett passed away at the age of 68 in June 1971.
Stay tuned for the next entry in my A - Z of Carry On Supporting Actors!
You will find the same pictures, comment and blog posts available on my Carry On Blogging Facebook page and it provides another great forum to interact with me and other Carry On fans.
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And in the meantime, do follow me on Twitter too - I love you comments, feedback and general Carry On banter, so keep it coming! Links to both Twitter and Facebook pages at the bottom of this blog!
Carry On Following!
You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also on Facebook
Sadly the television networks have let us down again. Despite the mad proliferation of random stations bringing us everything from how to lay a patio to the exploits of housewives from the Mid West, it would seem none of them can provide a right good old fashioned Carry On on a Bank Holiday Monday.
For me, a Carry On film or two on the box on a Bank Holiday is tradition. A British Bank Holiday means a precious day off for many hard working people. It can be a day out at the seaside, maybe a barbeque with friends or even getting around to some of that much needed DIY. Whatever we all get up to, it's a comforting thought that we can collapse in front of a Carry On film at the end of the day.
For several years now ITV3 seems to have been the home of Carry On. Since the wonderful documentary Carry On Forever in 2015, they have shown some of the films on a fairly regular basis. Channel 4 also used to show the occasional Carry On - I remember a wonderful season of old black and white British comedies being shown on 4 in the 1990s and several Carry Ons were included. I sat one wet Bank Holiday with my grandfather and roared with laughter as Joan Sims got tipsy at that wine tasting with Nicholas Parsons! These days Film 4 will show the likes of Khyber or Behind but that's about it. It's now very rare to see a Carry On film on the BBC. I don't know why that is as even within my lifetime they did show them quite often, even if it was at 1am, you could still set the video!
Some Carry On films are shown again and again on the television while others are rarely shown at all. I can't remember the last time a channel showed Carry On Nurse, Cabby, Doctor or Abroad. Anyway, I digress. My main reason for tapping away at the keyboard this fine Bank Holiday morning (well it is in Scotland anyway) was to bemoan the lack of a Carry On in the schedules. So which Carry On do you think best suits Bank Holiday viewing?
Well for me only one fits the bill. It has to be Carry On At Your Convenience. I'm not quite sure why. Maybe it's the workers on a day out to the seaside sequence that does it for me. It's a memory of holidays from days gone by, before tablets and ipods and city breaks. For me nothing quite sums up both the joy of the Carry Ons and what a traditional British knees up should be about, than the sight of Kenneth, Charles, Sid and Joan camping about Brighton pier. It's so gloriously evocative with the kiss me quick hats, the ghost train, the ice cream, fish and chips and one two many in the pub on the pier! I love it and it's just a crying shame we can't enjoy the antics of W.C Boggs and Co today. Still, there's always the DVD...
So which Carry On do you think best suits Bank Holiday viewing?
Sunday, 29 May 2016
This is part of 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 Jim Dale.
Jim Dale was the boyish clumsy, yet charming romantic lead of many of the 1960s Carry On films. Joining the series with small cameo roles in the likes of Carry On Cabby and Carry On Jack, the former pop star and variety performer quickly moved up the ranks to become a fully-fledged star and a mainstay of the series. Jim has always been a favourite of mine and I think he really did add something unique to the Carry On formula. There was nobody else who could play Jim's parts in the films and I think they did suffer once he left the series in 1969.
From Horsa in Cleo and Lord Darcy in Don't Lose Your Head to Dr Kilmore and Dr Nookey in Doctor and Again Doctor, Jim Dale brought a delightful sense of comedic timing and eye-catching physicality to all his Carry On performances. He gelled with the rest of the team too. I particularly loved his chemistry with Kenneth Connor in Carry On Cleo and with Sid James in Don't Lose Your Head and Again Doctor. As one of the youngest members of the team, it was obvious that someone of Jim's talent would probably want to go off and do other things. Still, it was a shame he chose to depart after filming his tenth series entry, Carry On Again Doctor in the spring of 1969. Perhaps the writing was on the wall as the previous year had seen Jim miss out of both Khyber and Camping to pursue other roles on stage. Also, the films were becoming increasingly rude and dare I say vulgar by this stage and perhaps this wouldn't have suited Jim's style if he'd continued.
So what else did Jim get up to in his career once his glory days at Pinewood were behind him?
Despite his early screen successes with the Carry On comedies, most of Jim's subsequent career highlights have been on the stage, and many of them on the other side of the Atlantic. It was the pull of live theatre that had persuaded Jim to leave the Carry Ons in the first place. In 1970 Sir Laurence Olivier had invited Jim to join his National Theatre Company, then operating from The Old Vic, years before the famous National Theatre complex would open on London's South Bank. At The Old Vic, Jim created the title role in Scapino. He also played Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew. Other plays Jim worked on at this time included The Card, a musical by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall which co-starred Millicent Martin, Joan Hickson and Eleanor Bron. He also played Autolycus in A Winter's Tale and Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In 1974 JIm won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance for his role in Scapino.
It was this role that got Jim noticed over in the United States. He would go to play Scapino on Broadway in the mid 1970s. Other stage roles on and off-Broadway have included Joe Egg, Me and My Girl, Travels with my Aunt, Candide, Comedians and The Threepenny Opera. By far Jim's biggest theatrical success was the role of Barnum, which came along in 1980. Barnum was a musical based on the life of P T Barnum, a showman and circus owner who travelled America with his various acts. The show combined elements of traditional musical theatre and the spectacle of the circus and was ideal for Jim, bringing together his talents in music, comedy and physicality. Jim even learned how to walk the tightrope for this role. Jim starred as Barnum opposite Glenn Close for 854 performances between April 1980 and May 1982. He won a Tony Award for his landmark performance.
In 1995 Jim made a triumphant return London's West End with the role of Fagin in the classic Lionel Bart musical Oliver! This production also co-starred with former Carry On colleague Patsy Rowlands. Jim continues to work on the stage, mainly in New York, however he did of course bring his terrific one man show, Just Jim Dale, back to London's Vaudeville Theatre last year and I was thrilled to be able to go and see it.
Jim did make several further screen appearances after he left the Carry On team, however he never really did continue as a film star as such. Notable performances included the role of a young Spike Milligan in the film Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall in 1973. Jim was joined in the cast by the likes of Pat Coombs, Windsor Davies, Arthur Lowe, Bill Maynard and Spike himself, playing the role of his own father. Also that year, Jim starred with Eleanor Bron, Lynn Redgrave and Donald Sinden in the big screen version of the Peter Nichols' play The National Health.
Other film roles have included the classic children's films Digby, The Biggest Dog in the World (which saw him working once again with his Carry On leading lady Angela Douglas) and Pete's Dragon, a Disney film featuring the likes of Shelley Winters and Mickey Rooney. In 1977 Jim joined an all star British cast for Tony Richardson's bawdy comedy film Joseph Andrews. Seen as a follow up to Richardson's previous hit Tom Jones, Joseph Andrews featured Jim as the Pedlar. The film also sees Jim sing a number of ballads. Joining Jim in the film were the likes of Peter Firth, Beryl Reid, John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft, Patsy Rowlands, Wendy Craig, Penelope Wilton, Norman Rossington and Kenneth Cranham. Quite a line up!
One of Jim's later screen roles was that of Inspector Crisp in the 1984 British-American comedy film Scandalous. This film saw him working alongside Robert Hays, John Gielgud and Pamela Stephenson. After that, Jim concentrated on stage work although there was one final fling with the Carry On team. In 1992, Jim returned to Pinewood to play the lead in a brave attempt to revive the old Carry On formula. Sadly Carry On Columbus didn't pass muster, despite Jim's spirited turn at the centre of the action.
These days Jim is best known to younger generations as the narrator of the Harry Potter audio books in America. For one of the books, The Order of The Phoenix, Jim managed to create staggering 134 different character voices! It's no wonder that he has won two Grammy Awards for his Potter performances.
Jim has been resident in New York for over thirty years and still lives there today with Julia, his wife of 36 years. Jim was awarded the MBE in 2003 for his work in promoting English literature to children. Now unbelievably in his 81st year, Jim shows little sign of slowing down thank goodness. Without a doubt, he is one of the Carry Ons biggest success stories and a very talented man. Long may he continue to entertain us.