Friday, 28 October 2016
Hattie Carries On ... As Miss Haggerd
Having covered every one of Joan Sims' 24 Carry On roles it now only seems fair that I turn the spotlight onto another great and loyal member of the team. Sticking with the wonderful women, I've decided to focus on all 14 of Hattie Jacques' Carry On appearances. Hattie's contribution to Carry On comedy was immense. Although appearing in far fewer films that Joan, Hattie created some iconic roles, none more so that the infamous Matron, a character which came to dominate her later career.
However there was far more to Jacques than that. She played Matron in all four of the medical films but there were ten other roles to enjoy too, from a budgie obsessed housewife to an angry, aggressive Spanish cook! So sit back and enjoy a run of blogs which looks at Hattie's Carry On contribution from the very first film in 1958 right through to her last supporting role in Carry On Dick 16 years later. So let's continue our journey today with a look back at Hattie's eighth role in the series, as Miss Haggerd in the 1968 film Carry On Camping.
There's not much new that I can say about Carry On Camping - it's probably the most famous of all the Carry Ons. It's a real rights of passage film that practically everyone in this country has seen at some point. Apart from being the highest grossing film at the UK box office for 1969 and being the first in the series to push the boundaries of nudity, thanks to Barbara Windsor's memorable bikini popping moment, it's also just a bloody funny film. There is no real plot as such, it's just a ragbag group of people all travelling to a campsite and enduring the wonders of the British countryside in the height of summer (alright, the misery of a damp Autumn in the Pinewood Orchard).
At the centre of Camping is the tale of Sid and Bernie attempting to further their relationships with reluctant girlfriends Joan Sims and Dilys Laye. They hit on the idea of a nudist camp however, as we all know, things do not go to plan. However Paradise Camp does bring them into contact with the young ladies of Chayste Place finishing school, including Babs and Fanny, beautifully brought to life by Barbara Windsor and Sandra Caron. Leading the young ladies on their excursion back to nature are Dr Soaper (a nostril flaring performance from Kenneth Williams) and Miss Haggerd, the gorgeous Hattie Jacques. Miss Haggerd is basically another outing for Hattie's Matron persona and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all!
Camping takes the onscreen relationship between Williams and Jacques to another level. They had worked wonderfully together since the Hancock days on BBC radio but their definitive partnership must certainly be in these films. Having come up against Hattie's Matron as a rather lofty patient in Carry On Nurse, by Doctor nearly a decade later both Williams and Jacques were on the medical staff together. As characters we loved to hate, they struck fear into the hearts of the patients and nursing staff alike before getting their comeuppance. Doctor had ended with Matron declaring her affections for Kenneth's Dr Tinkle in some very funny scenes. Carry On Camping sees this story progress even further with Miss Haggerd entering Dr Soaper's tent!
While different characters on the page, Kenneth and Hattie are really just playing the same characters. They are just sublime though so it doesn't really matter. One of the genius moments in Camping sees Miss Haggerd declare her lust for Dr Soaper and in doing so, refers back to the previous film. In her self-referential line, "I used to work in a hospital...there was a doctor there, he looked just like you!" Talbot Rothwell is being very clever and rewarding the long-term Carry On audience. It's a joy. Of course this romantic scene under canvas is brought to an abrupt end by the rave up in the next field but it's not the end of that particular story arc in the Carry Ons.
Rothwell kept bringing it back - we would see it again with different characters but the same actors in Carry On Loving in 1970 before we would finally see Kenneth and Hattie's characters marry at the end of Carry On Matron in 1971. Hattie is glorious throughout Camping, enduring the gross indignities of filming in the freezing cold and the mud along with the rest of the Carry On cast. She has some wonderful scenes opposite Barbara and Sandra Caron and is at her formidable best as the school Matron.
In a cast so packed with regular favourites - Sid, Joan, Charles Hawtrey, Bernard, Barbara, Terry Scott, Peter Butterworth - Hattie stands out in her role as Miss Haggerd and in many ways it's her definitive Carry On performance. Her role in the classic bikini popping sequence means she is part of the one of the most frequently repeated moments not just in Carry On history but in British film. Kenneth's classic line "Matron! Take them away!" the character of Matron went down in cinema history. As I've written before, this run of films sealed Hattie's fate as the perfect Carry On Matron and certainly typecast her in the kind of role. While it must have been frustrating for Jacques the actress, a lady who was bursting with talent, it did give her a lasting place in the nation's affections.
By the end of 1968, Hattie was firmly ensconced back in the bosom of the Carry On team. That year saw the film franchise at the height of its powers - both releases that year (Camping and Khyber) topped the charts and guaranteed a long future for the series, even after ten years and countless films. Who can blame Hattie for sticking with the Carry Ons when they could guarantee that kind of exposure?
Stay tuned for the next blog in this series, which will be looking at Hattie's role as, yes you guessed it, Matron, in Carry On Again Doctor.
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