Tuesday, 24 May 2016
Who was the ultimate Carry On girl?
The role of the glamour girl was an integral part of the Carry On films. Throughout their twenty year lifespan the Carry Ons changed as the country modernised and attitudes altered. The role of women in the Carry Ons is a fascinating one and while for the most part they were decorative, as befitted the time the films were made, the type of actress involved did change as the years passed.
So who was the best fit for the Carry Ons? Let's look at the evidence.
The original Carry On girl, Shirley starred in the first two films in the series, Sergeant and Nurse, before returning for a cameo role in Constable. While Shirley's image is a glamorous one, she herself admits she was much more girl next door in those early Carry Ons and I'd agree with that. She was perfect for the films at that time as the late 1950s Carry Ons were much more innocent than what followed.
One of the most popular Carry On actresses of all, Liz made her debut in Carry On Regardless in 1961, before returning for roles in Cruising, Cabby and much later in Behind. Liz is an interesting Carry On actress as while she originally played the voluptuous, bubbly blonde, she is one of the few glamour girls to return many years later in the role of a middle-aged wife. A great actress with a real flair for comedy, she remains one of my favourite Carry On girls. The British Marilyn Monroe.
When the general public think about the Carry Ons, they immediately think of Barbara Windsor. A main team member for a decade, she only appeared in nine original films but her personality and persona were so strong that she did seem to take over. I think Barbara was at her most glamorous in her very first film, Spying, in 1964. After that things went a bit too far for this fan with more and more flesh on display as the years passed. While I think Barbara is a much better actress than some believe her to be, her roles in the Carry Ons are not some of my favourites.
I would say Angela should be included here although the parts she played were much more demur and "English rose" than many of the other actors featured here. Angela was perfect for the period costume Carry Ons which came into favour in the mid 1960s. Her Annie Oakley in Cowboy, Lady Jane in Follow That Camel and Princess Jelhi in Khyber are all beautifully played and Angela is stunning in each of these roles. A great shame she didn't feature in more of the films, but I doubt the later Carry Ons would have suited her.
Margaret Nolan was a stunning presence in six Carry Ons, first providing support in Cowboy in 1965 before returning for more innuendo-laden fun in the 1970s. After a cameo in Henry, she livened up the Brighton sequence in Convenience, provided eye-catching support in Matron with Terry Scott and most famously of all, starred as Dawn Brakes in Carry On Girls. An actress with a more impressive and intelligent range than the Carry Ons allowed, she was ideal for these films and was always good value.
Taking over where Angela Douglas left off, Jacki Piper came in to play the sweet young female romantic lead in four Carry Ons. Starting off with Up The Jungle in 1969, Jacki has an impressive transformation from dowdy maid to glamorous jungle girl. There followed three more contemporary Carry Ons in which Jacki played more assertive young women and she was always stunning, putting in spirited performances. The only actor to be put under contract by Peter Rogers, for some reason her final role, in Carry On Matron, is much smaller and more limited than her previous starring performances.
Valerie is without a doubt one of the most glamorous actresses ever to feature in a Carry On. Graduating from a non-speaking role in Khyber to cameos in Camping, Again Doctor and a more substantial role as Leda, leader of the all female tribe in Jungle, Valerie was always statuesque, glamorous and slightly intimidating to men. She never really played softer characters but she was a perfect addition to the team and typified that saucy 70s glamour.
So those are my top picks of some of the most glamorous, talented actresses to grace the Carry Ons over the years. Which one is your favourite?