Friday, 17 June 2016
Joan Carries On ... as Cora Flange
This blog is part of a new regular series on Carry On Blogging. I'm going to attempt to blog about each of Joan Sims' wonderful roles in the Carry On films. Joan was the most prolific of all the actresses involved in the series, clocking up 24 films. Indeed, only Kenneth Williams made more Carry Ons.
Today I am going to write about Joan's role in what many consider to be the last great Carry On film ever made. In 1972 a full roster of classic team members flew off four a long weekend package holiday to the delightful Spanish island of Elsbells. Ahem. Yes I'm talking about Carry On Abroad. As with many of the best films in the series, Abroad excels because it gently lampoons something currently in the public consciousness. In this case, the trend for foreign travel and the cheap package holiday.
All the gang put it terrific performances and Abroad is surely one of the purest Carry Ons - it's innuendo followed by sight gag followed by witty one liner followed by full on slapstick throughout. There is none of the pathos that even Convenience managed the year before. In a cast littered with team members and memorable guest turns (particularly June Whitfield and Jimmy Logan) Joan shines in the role of Cora Flange.
Cora is wife to Vic (Sid James) and landlady of what looks like one of the best boozers in cinematic history. Sid and Joan work tremendously well together in Abroad and look so right behind the bar. Their relationship on screen, although highly comedic, is also truthful and believable. Cora is afraid of most forms of travel so Vic is used to travelling alone, only this time he fancies a bit on the side with Sadie Tompkins (Barbara Windsor). Vic's fiendish plan is sabotaged by an unknowing Jack Douglas and Cora ends up tagging along for the holiday. With fellow holidaymakers including Kenneth Connor, June Whitfield, Bernard Bresslaw and Charles Hawtrey, it was never going to be plain sailing!
Before talking more about Joan, special mentions must go to three outstanding performances. Kenneth Williams is on deliciously manic form as Wundatours courier Stuart Farquhar while Peter Butterworth and Hattie Jacques are sublime as the inept owners of the Palace Hotel, which quickly crumbles around the British guests. It really is an all guns blazing film and due to Hawtrey's imminent departure at the end of the year, it would be the beginning of the end.
Anyway, back to Joan. As Cora, she gives probably the straightest most dramatic performance in the entire film. Cora is a woman in middle age, fed up with her straying husband and her general lot in life. The part isn't the usual nagging wife as it goes way beyond that. The joy in the performance is that Cora almost gives up on her husband and contemplates shenanigans of her own with pent up Stanley Blunt (Connor) only for Cora and Vic to reconnect at the end of the film, Sadie no longer a threat and Vic more aware that he has a good thing going with his long suffering wife. It's a lovely performance from Joan and I think Sid James and Joan Sims reach the pinnacle of their cinematic relationship in Carry On Abroad.
My favourite scene of the film involves both Joan and Sid. A running gag throughout the film involves Pepe's inability to fix their french windows. After the wild last night party, Sid attempts to open the windows, expecting them still to be devoid of glass. Of course the glass had been fitted and Sid goes straight through them! Joan's reaction and huge laughter is completely infectious, going way beyond performance. Sid and Joan laughing their heads off in bed, completely drenched and clinging on to an umbrella is a moment to cherish. It just doesn't get any better than that.
Carry On Abroad features one of the most satisfying conclusions to any Carry On film. The whole party of holidaymakers have crowded into Sid and Joan's pub for a rather tempting lock in. As Charles Hawtrey bolts the door behind them, Cora and Vic are together again and all are blissfully happy. It's pure joy and a real golden moment for a film series which would never really be the same again. Joan is right at the heart of the film and it's one of my very favourite performances.
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