Friday, 12 August 2016
Joan Carries On ... as Mrs Dangle
This blog is the last in a fairly long running series on Carry On Blogging. I've attempted 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 we reach the end of the road, both for Joan's Carry On career and the films in general. Carry On Emmannuelle marked the last gasp of the original run of films and for what remained of the core cast of actors, it was certainly the end of an era. Joan joined fellow veterans Kenneths Williams and Connor, Peter Butterworth and Jack Douglas for one final romp, although I get the feeling most of them probably wished they'd left well alone. Williams in particular had been extremely reticent when it came to signing up for the film. He hated the script, the near the knuckle situations and the usual degrading stunts he found himself in all for the sake of a few laughs. I don't know a great deal on what the others thought of the experience but Joan's autobiography skims over Emmannuelle pretty quickly!
Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas were gradually bowing to the pressure of changing times. The 1970s saw a relaxation of censorship rules and by the end of the decade pretty much anything was possible and everything was on display! The Confessions of and Adventures Of series of sexploitation comedy films took the classic innuendo of the Carry On films and pushed it much further. This direction instantly made the Carry Ons look tired and old hat. Rogers was first and foremost a businessman who wanted to make a profit, so gradually the Carry Ons became ruder both in style and content. The writing had been on the wall since Carry On Behind with saucier humour and much more flesh on show. However Emmannuelle went even further. Although relatively mild and coy by the standards of 2016, it was still a major departure from what had made the Carry Ons such a success. Crucially, the cruder content meant the core audience of families could no longer watch the film together in the cinema. Sadly Emmannuelle was not a commercial hit and marked the end of the franchise.
Joan, who I live dearly and always shone on screen, gives a limited and underwhelming performance as the housekeeper Mrs Dangle. Her presence, as with her role in England, is completely at odds with the rest of the film and she really does stick out like a sore thumb. It's such a long way from her classic roles in the likes of Nurse, Don't Lose Your Head and Khyber and this reall is a job I wish she'd turned down. However like most actors Joan was incredibly loyal to her employers and really did live for her work.
Although receiving a starring credit in the film, Joan is given precious little to do and her part amounts to little more than a cameo. Saddled with some awful dialogue, she does her best but it does neither her nor her career any favours. Out of all the regulars present only Kenneth Connor really escapes unscathed. His cheeky chappy chauffeur character is reminiscent of some of his earlier parts in the series. Kenneth Williams gives a strained performance in the lead role as Emile while Peter Butterworth ages dramatically to play the hard of hearing boot boy. Yet again Butterworth is criminally underused and barely gets an opportunity to make any kind of impact.
Joan does have one rather gentle, poignant moment amongst the tawdry rubbish. In a flashback sequence, Mrs Dangle shares a story of a romantic interlude down the laundrette! In a wordless cameo, Victor Maddern plays a dashing older gent who takes a shine to our Joan. As Joan takes items of clothing out of her bag, the Stripper theme strikes up and we have a classic Carry On moment. In a film that plumbs the depths like Emmannuelle, you have to grab anything you can to stay afloat!
So there you have it, a rather lacklustre end to Joan's Carry On career. It's such a shame her run of 24 films had to end with such a stinker! Thankfully we have many other fantastic films and wonderful performances to enjoy. I hope you have enjoyed my trawl through the Carry On career of Joan Sims. Stay tuned soon for my take on all fourteen of Hattie Jacques' Carry On performances!
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