There are probably only two film franchises that truly capitalise on what it means to be British. Both involved recurring actors and similar themes. Both were filmed at Pinewood Studios. And there the similarities tend to end. The Carry Ons and the James Bond films are so far apart in terms of style, content and budget that it is hard to believe they were produced in the same studios at the same time. Both franchises were highly successful though and mainly during a time when the British film industry was in crisis. The two series also occasionally used the same actors or crew. Here is a quick run down of when James Bond carried on (and no I don't mean the innuendo-encrusted Roger Moore era).
Probably the most famous link to the Carry Ons is Shirley Eaton. The original Carry On girl, who starred in early hits Carry On Sergeant and Carry On Nurse (as well as a cameo in Constable), played Jill Masterson in the 1964 epic Goldfinger. Appearing in the early part of the film, Shirley shared several scenes with the hero of the piece, Sean Connery, before meeting her untimely end after crossing Goldfinger himself. The iconic image of Eaton covered in gold paint lives long in the memory.
Shirley was not the only Carry On actress to be painted gold for that film. Model turned actress Margaret Nolan appeared in the stylish title sequence for the film, also sprayed gold. Margaret also grabbed an early acting role as Dink, again opposite Sean Connery in the same film. This was the year before her Carry On debut as Miss Jones in Carry On Cowboy. Nolan would go on to make five further Carry Ons - Henry, Convenience, Matron, Girls and Dick.
Another well-known Carry On face has made appearances in two James Bond films - one officially part of the series and one, a little more controversially, produced away from the traditional base at Pinewood. Valerie Leon made her Bond debut in the classic Roger Moore film The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977 with a few short scenes as a rather glamorous hotel receptionist. Six years later she appeared as the Lady in the Bahamas in the film Never Say Never Again, this time opposite Sean Connery, reprising his role as Bond after a twelve year absence. Valerie had by then appeared in six Carry Ons - Khyber, Camping, Again Doctor, Jungle, Matron and Girls. Leon also holds the rare distinction of appearing in all three cult British film series, with roles in not just the Carry Ons and Bond but also the Hammer Horror films.
This honour is shared with another actress from the same era, the very glamorous Madeline Smith. Smith had a cameo role as Mrs Pullitt in the last medical Carry On, Carry On Matron, made in 1971. So successful was Madeline in the role that the Carry On producers asked her back for a bigger part in the next film, Abroad. Sadly Madeline was busy and the role went to Sally Geeson. Madeline went on to appear as Miss Caruso, a young lady who appears in the opening scenes of Roger Moore's first outing as James Bond, Live and Let Die, in 1973.
Another major link with the Carry Ons actually took place behind the camera. Legendary cinematographer Alan Hume worked on countless Carry On pictures during his long career in the film industry. Although he was in great demand for many big budget films, he always made time for six weeks of constant giggling with Sid, Joan and the gang at Pinewood. Alan went on to work as Director of Photography on three 1980s Bond films, all starring Roger Moore. Alan worked on For Your Eyes Only in 1981, Octopussy in 1983 and finally A View To A Kill in 1985.
Another behind the scenes presence was the actress Nikki Van der Zyl. Nikki had the small role of the messenger in the 1966 Carry On classic, Don't Lose Your Head. She is the actress who runs up to the guillotine and drops the message in the basket for Charles Hawtrey to read later...Nikki spent most of her career as a voice over artist. Her vocal talents can be heard in nine of the James Bond films, beginning with Dr No in 1962 and ending with Moonraker in 1979. Apparently Van der Zyl also worked as a vocal coach to German actor Gert Frobe, who famously played Goldfinger in 1964.
One final behind the scenes Carry On link, although technically he was seen on screen. Stunt man Nick Hobbs, still active in the profession, made several appearances in the Bond franchise, beginning with 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me and ending with Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997. Early on in his career as a stunt man, Hobbs appeared in Carry On Girls, believe it or not, as stunt rider for Barbara Windsor in her role as Hope Springs! Although Barbara is seen riding the motorcycle (rather nervously) with Sid in the closing credits, the scene when Hope rides away from the pier was actually done using Nick Hobbs. Now there's a claim to fame!
Keep your eyes peeled for three other blink and you'll miss 'em Carry On Bond cameos. In 1963, Francis de Wolff played Vavra in the gypsy fight scenes in one of my all time favourite Bond films, From Russia with Love. The following year he filmed a cameo role as Agrippa in the wonderful Carry On Cleo. And in 1983, two small part Carry On players turned up rather unexpectedly in the Roger Moore Bond film Octopussy. Brenda Cowling and Gertan Klauber played two rather talkative Germans who give James Bond a lift! Brenda of course played Matron in the maternity hospital sequence in Carry On Girls, returning for an uncredited appearance in the audience of Professor Crump's lecture in Carry On Behind. Gertan Klauber meanwhile popped up in several Carry Ons - Spying, Cleo, Follow That Camel, Doctor, Henry, Abroad and Emmannuelle. He would return to James Bond with an uncredited role as a fairground cafe owner in 1987's The Living Daylights. He was also married to fellow Carry On actor Gwendolyn Watts.
Does the name Eva Reuber-Staier mean anything to you?The Austrian born model and actress played Rublevitch in three Rorger Moore James Bond films - The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy. Nearly a decade before her last Bond appearance, Eva had played one of the Birds of Paradise in Joan Sims' troupe who entertained the punters at the Old Cock Inn in Carry On Dick!
Finally, two very small but worthwhile Bond / Carry On links. The actor Michael Medwin, still going strong at nearly 93, played a doctor in the unofficial Bond picture Never Say Never Again in 1983. Over twenty years before this, Medwin had the cameo role as Ginger opposite Kenneth Connor and Norman Rossington in the second Carry On film, Nurse, released in 1959. And before I go, I must mention the wonderful Janet Brown. The famed Mrs Thatcher impressionist played the Iron Lady in the comic scenes at the end of the 1981 film For Your Eyes Only. Janet was of course married to the Carry On legend Peter Butterworth.
So there are a fair few Carry On connections in the world of James Bond. Have I missed any out? Do get in touch if you can think of any others!