Monday 1 August 2016

Carry On Blogging Interview: Judy Matheson

Another wonderful interview for Carry On Blogging today. I was thrilled when Judy Matheson agreed to answer my questions on her career in television, film and on stage. I also took the opportunity to ask her about my comedy heroine, Joan Sims and of course, her favourite Carry On. So read on to find out more about what it was like to work for Hammer, Betty Box and appear in iconic shows like The Sweeney and The Professionals...

First of all, I'd love to know how you got into acting and how you got started in the profession.

I was encouraged at school to continue professionally with Drama, although coming from Essex, I could only get the County Major Scholarship if it was combined with a teaching degree. My friends Helen Mirren & Paul Freeman were at the same college at the same time for the same reason.


In 1971 you appeared in the horror film Lust for a Vampire. What are your memories of that film and working for the legendary Hammer Horror team?

I have such happy memories of working on Lust For A Vampire. We had some beautiful costumes, & hairstyles, and the location was lovely. I always found working with lots of other young women huge fun. And we did have some big fun on that film; in fact my alternative title for it is ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’!

I did hear much later that there had been some tension in the making of the film but I was blithely unaware at the time.

In 1974 you played Maria in the film Percy's Progress. That film was produced by Betty Box, wife of Carry On producer Peter Rogers and one of earliest and most powerful female film producers in this country. What was she like to work for?

Betty Box. Yes, a bit of a heroine of mine – in fact I’ve just done an interview with an online magazine about ‘Women in Film’ & she was the first name that sprung to mind. A real pioneer, and a very dynamic woman to work with. 

In 1974 you appeared in the very first Confessions film, Confessions of a Window Cleaner. That series became a massive success story at a time when the British film industry was struggling. What are your memories of making that film?

The first Confessions film was quite a big deal at the time. It had a huge launch party before filming even began, and was publicized with great fanfares. I had worked with the director Val Guest, who I had huge respect for, on an episode of The Adventurer (with Gene Barry) and it’s always gratifying to be asked by a director to work with him again. The shooting was ok – I’m not sure how comfortable was with it.  I’ve definitely given better performances. However Robin Askwith & I had worked together several times. We shared a very dynamic agent/manager at the time in Hazel Malone who seemed to have most of the young successful actors of the time in her stable, as it were. We had done adverts and corporate videos and would go on to film Pete Walker’s The Flesh and Blood Show together. I was, and still am, a huge admirer of Robin’s often underrated work.

Confessions of a Window Cleaner featured loads of excellent actors - Joan Hickson, Richard Wattis, John Le Mesurier to name but a few - all jobbing actors but wonderful talents. Did you meet any of them whilst filming and if so, what were they like?

No, sadly I didn’t meet any of those great actors while filming. My scene was pretty much self -contained in the single set. But at the launch and wrap parties they were there, which at the time I seemed to take totally in my stride!


You appeared in two of my favourite television series from the 1970s - The Sweeney and The Professionals. What are your memories of working on those shows?

Both The Sweeney and The Professionals were terrific fun. It was always exciting to be part of those iconic series. I was thrilled to be working with John Thaw, and Dennis Waterman ( who I knew a little) and the great Lee Montague, who took away with him a little piece of my heart! And in both series I got to drive a cool sports car, which I always loved. The Professionals was just as much fun. The villain in my episode was Roger LLoyd Pack, who I had known for some years. He was a lovely man and a terrific actor. He was a wonderful surprise to see in the green room on the first day.


And then to be part of that thrilling sequence, being imprisoned in that demolishing building, and, even more thrilling, to be rescued by Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins, is something a jobbing actress doesn’t forget easily. I was the envy of all my friends!

You have also acted a great deal on stage during your career. What have been your favourite roles and do you prefer live theatre or film/television?

My preferred medium to work in was always film, for the extraordinarily fascinating process of the whole enterprise. Not to mention the wonderful camaraderie of the film set.

You worked with the late Yootha Joyce on a stage production of Boeing Boeing. I'm a big fan of Yootha - what was she like to work with?

In retrospect, though, I should have liked to do more serious theatre, but, again, I enjoyed all the roles for different reasons. The two national tours of Boing Boeing broke all box office records at the time, due the huge popularity of The Man About The House cast. Every town we went to had a ‘Sold Out’ notice on the theatre as we arrived. And it was extraordinary to be on those stages with such a consummate actress as Yootha Joyce every night. She was the doyenne of timing and comedy performance.


I started up my blog as a tribute to the late Joan Sims, an actor I really admire. Why do you think so many of these comediennes and comedy actors are still so popular today?

Which of course brings us on to another comedy great Joan Sims. Coincidentally, she and I went to the same High School in Brentwood (at different times!) She was always used as a shining example to us aspiring actors. She and many comedy actors of her generation were supreme, I think, because of their huge talent which was always combined with sheer hard graft.

I've loved the Carry On films since I was a child and although they deal in stereotypes, the quality of the actors involved always makes them worth watching. Many people see the films as sexist - do you have any views on the way women were portrayed in these films and how much do you think that has changed in the film industry today?

Ha. The criticism of the Carry Ons being sexist seems to totally miss the point. Of course they were! And it’s not as if the men were presented in a totally heroic light. The films are very very funny and also, now, present a wonderful historical snapshot.
More to the point of how women are treated now  in the film industry, in the light of the recent Hollywood controversy about equal pay, it would be  interesting to know if Barbara Windsor, Joan Sims etc were paid similarly to the men.

Of all the roles you've played, what's been your favourite? 
I have enjoyed most of the varying parts I’ve played. I really loved doing Z cars, which is rarely mentioned these days, - great writers, directors and actors. I loved the Charles Wood TV film I did opposite Freddie Jones, which has I think been lost in the mists of time. And I was so lucky to land my first film part in the European noir The Exquisite Cadaver (now apparently on YouTube as The Exquisite Corpse.) The director Vicente Aranda was a great talent and a respected intellectual. That whole first filming experience was completely stimulating. And, interesting to note now, with three wonderful leading female roles.

Nowadays, I am retired from acting, though I do some narration work and occasional film conventions. I also teach two days a week. In September, however, I will be doing a short spoof horror film, with the fabulous Caroline Munro, David Barry, and Emma Dark, for The Misty Moon Film Society, of which I am an honorary patron.

Finally, what's your favourite Carry On film and why?

It’s got to be Up The Khyber. Always makes me laugh like a drain. The thing about the Carry On films is that, then and now, they are simply feel – good movies.


A massive thank you to Judy - it was an absolute delight from start to finish. I hope you all enjoyed reading the interview as much as I did! 

You can follow Judy on Twitter here

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also Facebook

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