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 one of Joan's later roles in the series. In 1976, just weeks after the sad death of Sid James, what remained of the Carry On team regrouped at Pinewood for Carry On England. Joining Kenneth Connor, Jack Douglas and Peter Butterworth was Joan as Jennifer Ffoukes-Sharpe. Those four actors were the only members of the proper team to turn up from England and they probably ended up wishing they hadn't. England was a disaster with the Carry Ons attempting to keep pace with the racy Confessions films. New writers were brought in and a new composer created the musical score and none of it quite worked. Add to that several new faces who couldn't really play traditional Carry On comedy and it was no surprise that the film was withdrawn from most cinemas after a few days.
Sadly Carry On England isn't kind on Joan Sims. Her role wasn't even offered to her originally. The producers had television star Penelope Keith in mind for the role of Ffoukes-Sharpe however due to commitments on The Good Life, Keith turned it down. It baffles me that after almost twenty years and 22 films, Joan wasn't an automatic choice for England. In retrospect Joan probably wished she had not accepted the role at all. Jennifer is probably Joan's smallest and least significant Carry On role, practically a walk on in a sea of dreadful comic turns. Joan herself was quite disparaging about the film and loathed the tight-fitting army uniform she had to wear. Joan always craved a little glamour in the parts she played and England was far than glamorous.
While Kenneth Connor grabs most of the screen time, sadly such prize comedy actors like Sims and Peter Butterworth are shamefully restricted to a few scenes of little note. Joan's role mainly consists of painful romantics with returning star Windsor Davies. I can't even tell if Joan and Windsor have any screen chemistry as they hardly have any time together on screen with the likes of Patrick Mower and Judy Geeson dominating the action. One of the few funny moments involving Joan sees her character take on Peter's in an arm wrestling competition. Yes, that's as good as it gets.
Viewing it today, England is relatively tame and does not deserve its reputation as a dirty film. However at the time it was a step too far for the loyal Carry On audience. For the first time families could not go to the cinema to see a Carry On together. It really was the beginning of the end and a rare misstep from producer Peter Rogers. The idea of bringing in a whole host of new faces to freshen up the series is one thing, however at the same time Rogers and Thomas managed to overlook the talent they already had.
As with the previous entry, Carry On Behind, England shamefully neglects Joan Sims' wonderful talents. After a break of a year, the team would reunite one final time in the original run of films. If you thought England was bad, you obviously haven't seen Carry On Emmannuelle!
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