Friday, 5 August 2016
Life After the Carry Ons - Charles Hawtrey
This is a new occasional series of blogs in which I will look at the careers of each of the main Carry On team players once they left the series. Some would go on to appear in many other productions over the years while others would sadly not be so fortunate. Today I am looking at the later career of Charles Hawtrey.
Charles Hawtrey has always been a real fans' favourite in the Carry Ons. One of the most loyal actors to the Carry On brand, Hawtrey clocked up 23 appearances in the films, beginning with the very first in the series, Carry On Sergeant in 1958 and coming to an end in 1972 with Abroad. There was no other actor quite like Charles and he was irreplaceable once he left the series. A gifted film actor, Hawtrey's career dated back to silent films and included several pictures with Will Hay as well as regular work at Ealing Studios. Sadly, personal issues made him unreliable and by late 1972 Peter Rogers had had enough. It was a very sad end to a long and profitable assocation and I've always felt the films that followed Hawtrey's departure really do lack something.
While Carry On Abroad proved to be Charles' last film, it wasn't quite the end of his acting career. For while he did retreat into a kind of obscurity, living down on the Kent coast at Deal, he did make the occasional acting appearance. For several years in the late 1970s he turned up in various provincial pantomimes and summer seasons. Sadly, as with the Carry Ons, his poor time keeping and volatility led to his theatrical appearances becoming few and far between. He appeared in the farce Stop It Nurse! at the Pavilion Theatre, Torquay in 1972, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Nottingham in 1974 and his final theatrical appearance came in late 1979.
Hawtrey also continued to appear on radio. He had been a big star on BBC Radio right back to the early 1940s, starring in Norman and Henry Bones, The Boy Detectives opposite Patricia Hayes. Charles appeared in a series of three radio plays about a criminal gang - they were Burglar's Bargains (1979); A Right Royal Rip-Off (1982) and The Bigger They Are in 1985. These plays saw him work alongside fellow Carry On actors Bernard Bresslaw and Peter Jones.
On television, his last acting appearance came as Clarence, Duke of Claridge in a 1987 episode of the children's series Super Gran. He had also appeared in a minor role in Eric Sykes' television adaptation of his silent film The Plank in 1979. Charles did make several appearance as "himself" on television during the late 1970s and 1980s. He appeared twice on This Is Your Life - first of all for actress Dinah Sheridan in 1979 and then two years later to be reunited with Carry On Sergeant co-star Bill Owen. In 1976 he made a guest appearance in the children's show Runaround, appearing as a cackling Dracula opposite regular host Mike Reid. His final credited appearance was an interview in the BBC series Movie Memories in 1981 which saw him interviewed by Roy Hudd.
Apart from these rare appearances, Charles seemed content to retire from the spotlight. An astonishing career in the British film industry came to a rather sad end. Charles' own demise in late 1988 at the age of 73 is well documented and is something on which I'd rather not dwell. As with all his Carry On colleagues, Charles has left us a wonderful legacy of superb comedy performances and for that we must always be grateful.
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