Friday, 10 June 2016
Joan Carries On ... As Mrs Tidey
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 another landmark Carry On film. Carry On Matron was the last Carry On film with a medical theme and while for me it's not up there with the likes of Carry On Doctor, it's still a great ensemble piece with plenty of highlights. The film is set in the Finisham Maternity Hospital and the plot goes back and forth between Sid James and his gang's attempt to stage a robbery in the hospital (to steal a supply of birth control pills) and the camp antics of the hospital staff, principally Hattie Jacques' Matron, Kenneth Williams' Sir Bernard Cutting and Charles Hawtrey's Dr F.A Goode (yes, really!)
We meet very few patients during the film, other than the cameo roles from the likes of Madeline Smith, Margaret Nolan and Amelia Bayntun, however the only patient to really get any screen time is Joan Sims. Compared to other recent roles in the series in the likes of Henry and Convenience, the role of Mrs Tidey in Carry On Matron is much smaller and more limited although Joan being Joan, she still shines and makes the most of every opportunity she is given.
Joan's plot strand, as is usual with the Carry Ons, is very simple, paired down and goes straight to the point. She is an expectant mother with a gluttonous appetite who is very overdue but clearly in no rush to give birth. Instead, she spends her days lying in bed stuffing her face! Fair play I say! Joan is on her usual brilliant bouncing out of the screen form and really brings some life to her scenes in the hospital ward. She spends the entire film in bed in her nightie, not the most demanding of roles!
Joan's on-screen husband in Matron is played by another Carry On stalwart, the fantastic character actor Kenneth Connor. Kenneth had returned to the Carry Ons in 1969 after a five year break and by the time of Matron, he had found a new niche in a wonderful range of supporting character parts. Playing a wide range of middle-aged, working class eccentrics, Connor excelled. There is no finer example than the role of Mr Tidey. A frustrated little man and British Rail employee, Mr Tidey really just wants his wife to get on with it. As with Joan, Kenneth is restricted to just a few scenes in Matron but his performance is sublime. Sadly, although playing husband and wife, Joan and Kenneth don't actually have any scenes together in the film.
Joan shares most of her screen time with the likes of Terry Scott (playing the gloriously named Dr Prodd), Jacki Piper (in her last appearance in the series as Sister) and Hattie Jacques as the titular character, Matron. It's lovely to see Joan and Hattie sharing screen time in Carry On Matron, as despite both being prolific team members, they didn't actually work directly with each other that often. Joan and Hattie are both at the top of their game in Matron and they are a joy to watch.
Although a major star of the Carry Ons and the most prolific leading lady the series ever had, often Joan demonstrated just what a fantastic actress she was when her parts were less substantial cameos. As with the best of her cameos in the films (I'm thinking Zig Zig in Camel and Chloe Gibson in Doctor), Joan makes a terrific impact with what is in effect very little screen time. What a star and a class act.
Fear not, Joan was back to a leading role in the very next film in the series, which I'll profile next week. In the meantime, tell me what you think of Joan's role as Mrs Tidey in Carry On Matron!
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