Monday, 18 September 2017

An Afternoon with the Carry On Girls

 

Misty Moon Events are hosting an event at the Cinema Museum this Autumn with a strong Carry On theme. Focussing on the actresses who appeared in the classic film franchise, their Carry On Girls event will bring together some of our favourite Carry On ladies for an afternoon of fabulous film memories.

The Carry On films (1958–92) are one of the most popular franchises in film history. There have been 31 films and four Christmas specials, a TV series, and three stage plays. We are celebrating the films with the ladies of Carry On.

 

Misty Moon’s MC for the afternoon is Linda Regan who starred in Carry On England in 1976. Linda played A.T.S Private Taylor. She also made an uncredited appearance in the TV movie Carry On Again Christmas (1970). Linda played Yellowcoat April in the popular holiday camp sitcom Hi-de-Hi! (1984-1988).

Sally Geeson starred in two Carry On films Carry On Abroad (1972) as Lily, and then in Carry On Girls (1973) playing a domineering television production assistant. She also had an early uncredited role in Carry On Regardless (1961). Sally is probably best known for playing Sid James’s daughter in the TV series Bless This House (1971–1976).

 

Christine Ozanne was in Carry On Nurse (1959) as the cleaner. She is the author of The Tome of the Unknown Actor.

Laura Collins appeared in Carry On Matron (1972).

After the Q&A the girls will meet and greet the audience and take part in a paid signing.

 

More guests to be announced soon.

Doors open at 14.00, for a 14.30 start. Refreshments will be available in our licensed cafe/bar.
 

TICKETS & PRICING

Tickets in advance £14 (£13 concessions). On the door £15 (£14 concessions).
Advance tickets may be purchased from Billetto, or direct from the Museum by calling 020 7840 2200 in office hours.


You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram


Sunday, 17 September 2017

Happy Birthday Sherrie Hewson!

Many happy returns to the actress Sherrie Hewson who celebrates her birthday today!

Sherrie made her Carry On appearances very early on in her acting career. She would go on to star in a wide variety of shows, forming a well known association with the comedian Russ Abbot during the 1980s, starring in a wide range of classic television including The Gentle Touch, Jackanory, Minder, Within These Walls and Juliet Bravo. Sherrie of course went on to star alongside Gwen Taylor in the ITV sitcom Barbara and these days is most famous for being a panelist on Loose Women and starring in the Carry On-esque comedy series Benidorm.

I love Sherrie as Maureen Naylor/Holdsworth in Coronation Street. It was a rare occasion where my own surname, Naylor, appeared in the credits of a telly programme! She brought some wonderful comedy to the Street as well as some classic drama. Her relationship with on-screen mother Maud (the fantastic and much missed Elizabeth Bradley) was vey real and beautifully played. I still wish Maureen would pay the residents of Weatherfield another visit.


Sadly, Sherrie joined the Carry On team just as their star was on the wane. Carry On Behind was her only film appearance with the gang but it's a smashing last great attempt at Carry On on the big screen. As one of the bright young girls giving Windsor Davies and Jack Douglas the run around, Sherrie displays fine comic timing and works really well with Carol Hawkins. It's a shame she didn't join the team for earlier outings as she was a natural fit with the rest of the gang.

Sherrie also appeared in four episodes of the ATV series Carry On Laughing the same year. While the series wasn't a run away success, Sherrie is a high point, forming a wonderful double act in several episodes with the master, Peter Butterworth. 

Whatever Sherrie is up to today, I hope she has a fantastic birthday.


You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram


Saturday, 16 September 2017

Remembering the Past, Celebrating the Present

 

While many of the leading Carry On actors are no longer with us, although thanks to constant repeats they often feel very much alive, we thankfully still have a fairly strong collection of actors around in 2017 who played important parts in the Carry On story. It's to be expected that actors who played the leads in the 1950s and 60s may no longer be around in a new century, we still miss them and wish many had been given just that little bit longer.

Even though the Carry Ons hit their stride more than half a century ago, it still shocks and baffles on occasion when anniversaries come round and you realise the likes of Sid, Charles and Frankie would now be over a hundred years old. Most of the Carry On gang died far too young with only Kenneth Connor really making it to old age, and even then he was just 75. Of the main team today, we only have Jim Dale and Barbara Windsor left, both juvenile leads in the team at the time but now into their eighties. Although I'm sad the leading lights of the team are mostly all long gone, their passing has allowed supporting actors or faces who popped in and out of the series to receive the plaudits they are seriously due.

 

With yet another London Film Convention upon us - and one featuring a strong Carry On line up - it has made me realise how much affection I feel for some of the actors with links to the series who are still going strong in 2017. Most are still working and showing very little sign of their years. There is something very special about some of our more mature working actors which is so identifiably British and it's a constant source of joy for me. As with film stars of yesteryear there is always such a strong presence when one of these actors enters a room. They know how to carry themselves, they know how to conduct themselves and they are the ultimate professionals when meeting and greeting their admirers. They are grafters and despite grand reputations of films they have made and people they have worked with, the vast majority are warm, friendly and incredibly down to earth.

I've had the tremendous good fortune to interview or meet several of these actors over the past few years and they've never let me down or disappointed. Madeline Smith has to be one of the most memorable - a sheer joy to chat with over the phone and even more welcoming and friendly in person. Madeline is always entertaining to listen to and very open and honest about her career. Another lady who never disappoints is the glorious Amanda Barrie, long a heroine of mine thanks to her fantastic stint as Alma in Coronation Street. Meeting your heroes is always a risky business but Amanda has been a joy and everything you could wish for. I've had similarly pleasing experiences with the likes of Valerie Leon and Jacki Piper, two actors who belie their years still ooze glamour many years after their time in the Carry On spotlight.

 

One of the most memorable Carry On performances of all time must be that of Fenella Fielding in Carry On Screaming. Fenella, who celebrates her 90th birthday in November, is one of the old school while remaining down to earth and amazed by her own popularity. Probably one of the nicest of all is Anita Harris. Still remarkably unchanged from her glamorous sixties persona, Anita is working as hard as ever - still talented, kind and generous with her time. 

We simply don't seem to produce people with this kind of star quality these days. I don't know why but we just don't. While a lot of what I do on this blog is remembering and celebrating long lost heroes like Sid, Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims and Peter Butterworth, I think it's still important to cherish those that remain. These vital, still vibrant are a vital link to the past but also have much to offer in 2017.



You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Thursday, 14 September 2017

What a Carry On at the London Film Convention!


The London Film Convention is now in its 45th year.  The Convention gives fans of classic film and television a chance to meet stars, have photos taken with them and go home with an autograph as a lovely memento.

The next Convention is due to take place on Saturday 16 September 2017 and there are some great Carry On names down to attend. Leading the field is the one and only Mr Bernard Cribbins. A true legend and veteran of every medium you could imagine, Bernard is best known for his association with Doctor Who, The Wombles, The Railway Children, Jackanory and of course, Carry On. He appeared as Albert Poopdecker in Carry On Jack in 1963, Harold Crump in Carry On Spying the following year and returned for Columbus in 1992. Bernard will be attending from 1-3pm.


Another familiar face from the early days of Carry On is Amanda Barrie. The star of Coronation Street, Bad Girls, The Real Marigold Hotel and of course, many many leading roles on the West End stage, Amanda made her Carry On debut as Glam Cab driver Anthea in Cabby in 1963 before grabbing the title role of Cleopatra in Carry On Cleo the following year.

  

Valerie Leon starred in six Carry Ons: Up The Khyber, Camping, Again Doctor, Up The Jungle, Matron and Girls. She also took the lead role in the classic horror film Blood From The Mummy's Tomb and appeared opposite two James Bonds - Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me and Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again. 

Also attending will be the original Carry On girl, Shirley Eaton. Bond girl Shirley starred in Sergeant, Nurse and Constable as well as appearing in the very first Doctor film and the likes of The Naked Truth, What A Carve Up and Dentist On The Job. Shirley will be attending between 10.30-4pm.

Joining Valerie and Shirley is another class act of British film comedy - Fenella Fielding. Fenella appeared in two Carry Ons, first of all as Penny Panting (!) opposite Kenneth Connor in Carry On Regardless and then several years later in her most iconic role as Valeria Watt in Carry On Screaming. I have been fortunate enough to meet Fenella before and she is an absolute delight.


Also flying the Carry On flag will be fan favourite Margaret Nolan. Margaret is well known for her many years in the best of British comedy and drama in both film and television. Margaret got her big break in films playing Dink opposite Sean Connery in Goldfinger, also appearing in the classic title sequence. She went on to star in six Carry Ons - Cowboy, Henry, At Your Convenience, Matron, Girls and Dick.

Also in attendance is the star of many of Hammer Horror film as well as James Bond (Live and Let Die) and Carry On (Matron), the gorgeous Madeline Smith. Maddie's other credits include the film of Up Pompeii with Frankie Howerd, Theatre of Blood with Vincent Price, The Two Ronnies and later, satirical work with the likes of John Bird and John Fortune.
 

And last but by no means least is the evergreen entertainer, Anita Harris. Anita has enjoyed a long career as a singer, dancer and star of musical theatre and is still wowing audiences around the country to this day. Early on in her career she made two Carry Ons - first of all as Cork Tip in Follow That Camel and then as Nurse Clark in Carry On Doctor, both made in 1967.


The London Film Convention will be taking place on Saturday 16 September between 10am-5pm at Central Hall, Westminster, in Central London. You can find out more by visiting their website here

If you attend this event please do get in touch and let me know how it went and who you met!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

Favourites in Five: Jason Figgis

 

I started a brand new series of blogs a couple of weeks ago, asking some of my favourite people to write in about the five most important influences on their lives from the world of theatre, film and television. You can read Sarah Miller Walters' wonderful blog here , actress Judy Matheson's super piece is here and blogger, author and Sid James fan Stuart Ball's blog is here

Today it's the turn of film director, Jason Figgis.



ROBERT MITCHUM 

Robert Mitchum was a towering figure in Hollywood and I don’t just mean his 6’2” frame carrying a 48 inch chest. He was feared by movie moguls and loved by women, as well as men. His loose style was effortless and even gave him pause to answer a reporter who enquired of his acting style with the humorous retort : “With and without a horse”. Mitchum was a tough guy onscreen but off, an intellectual - his need to be the consummate professional powering his approach to his roles that saw him look for meaning in everything he did. He joked that he would be happy to paint houses if they paid him the same crazy money but Mitchum was merely making light of a profession he was passionate about. Legend has it that he was so upset by the mogul Howard Hughes insistence on reshooting a feature film three times that he roughed up two security guards; locked himself into the set and proceeded to tear the entire construction apart; watched on the sidelines by a bewildered and highly amused cast and crew. Such was his talent as an actor that while shooting the superb Cape Fear for Gregory Peck’s production company, Peck himself sidled up to Mitchum to assure him that he was not in the least bit upset that his co-star was stealing every scene out from under him. Peck knew that in Mitchum he had cast the most charismatic actor to play the most charismatic and terrifying antagonist opposite his genial lawyer. The film was a smash critical hit for Mitchum and Co. and continued a career trajectory that had begun in the 1940s with film noir and would reach further critical heights with such powerful thrillers as The Yakuza and The Friends of Eddie Coyle. For me Robert Mitchum was the consummate actor. He was a physical powerhouse with a face that was etched with deep insight into the human condition. He believed that he had three expressions; looking right, looking left and looking straight ahead but Mitchum was in fact one of the most underrated actors of the 20th century. 

 

NICOLAS ROEG 

One of my earliest memories of film (and one of the most influential) was witnessing Jenny Agutter carry her onscreen brother (in fact Nicolas Roeg’s own son) across the broiling sands of the Australian bush. This was memorable for two reasons: My older brother Danny had starred with Agutter in a “Troubles” story set in Belfast called A War of Children and secondly, the power of Roeg’s scope as a visionary director. The film was, of course, Walkabout - a highly controversial tale of child abandonment and awakening (not least because of the teenage Agutter’s many scenes of sometimes full frontal nudity). Agutter went on to star, weeks later, in the children’s classic The Railway Children for actor/ director Lionel Jefferies. She was so tanned from her months in Australia, that she needed to be constantly “paled” down for her scenes set in a cold Yorkshire landscape. The dialogue in Walkabout was sparse but the imagery was rich and full of beautiful and terrifying things. To cap it all, one of John Barry’s most haunting scores was utilised to great effect. I looked for more of Roeg’s work and discovered his sublime cinematography for John Schlesinger’s Far From the Madding Crowd and his next great work, Don’t Look Now which starred Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie in two tour de force performances that garnered much critical acclaim. Everything that Roeg has touched is tuned to such artistic perfection that no matter what the genre, he has made it his own. 

 

STANLEY KUBRICK 

When Kubrick released a feature film - it was an event, not only in Hollywood, but in my house. Like Roeg, Kubrick was the consummate artist and even though others produced his work, he held such a powerful grip on every area of creativity within the filmmaking process, that he can, without doubt, be considered an auteur. He attacked a new genre each time he made a picture and in doing so, seemed to have the uncanny ability to redefine that genre. He was also obsessed with perfection of performance. One of my favourite anecdotes concerned Tom Cruise on the set of the excellent Eyes Wide Shut. Cruise had walked through a door approximately 50 times and when he questioned Kubrick’s rationale, the great master responded: “But, don’t you want to get it right”. That pretty much summed up Stanley Kubrick’s obsession; he always wanted to get it right and, he always did.

 

MICHAEL CAINE 

I had the good fortune to spend a few nights alone at Ian Fleming’s former home near Reading and was struck with the awesome grandeur of the surroundings. One particular room, with walls adorned with photographs of Fleming with many other famous faces, I found to be a very eerie place. It was if Mr. Fleming was still present and was curious about I, the unknown interloper. When Michael Caine stood before his spy-ring boss in the superb The Ipcress File, thanking him for a much needed raise as he could now afford the latest grill that he had been looking at, Caine redefined Ian Fleming’s idea of what a spy should be. Harry Palmer (as portrayed by Michael Caine) was practically the antithesis of Fleming’s Bond. He was an intellectual first and much more interested in cooking than breaking apart the latest nest of potential national security threats. The film proved to be a success as both types of physical and intellectual alphas were accepted by the film-going public. It certainly didn’t harm the success of the film that Caine was an unconventionally beautiful, blonde, 6’2” presence. Something that set Caine apart from his contemporary leading men though was his ability to inhabit any role that he was cast in. He could play the intellectual spy, the philandering Eastend boy, the Nazi soldier, the upperclass English officer or even, the thug. He was also one of the first of the English New Wave to realise that less was more. He allowed his hooded eyes to do the talking and they spoke volumes. With a single tear misting one of those peepers, a nation of women and men gulped back their own begrudging emotion. They weren’t expecting how so little could produce so much. Even though Caine has continued his great successes in Hollywood, I believe the 60’s and 70’s in British film were his defining decades with such films as Zulu, Alfie, The Italian Job and of course, what I consider his best film, Mike Hodges’ Get Carter. The latter I watch at least twice a year, relishing such lines as “You’re a big man, but you’re out of shape. With me, it’s a full time job” (I paraphrase as best I can but ... you get the message). 



M. R. JAMES 

The English ghost story in its present short form can be attributed to the realist terrors that flowed from the fountain pen of the erudite scholar Montague Rhodes James. He wrote ghost stories to entertain his fellows and students across the dark hours of a winter’s evening as Christmas approached and soon found a much broader audience - and indeed a publisher, who was more than happy to promote the safe terrors of the Victorian/Edwardian ghost story. What set James apart from his contemporaries was his ability to interweave realist scholarly narrative with the more salacious elements of the paranormal. We believed the journey that our hero was on, we believed his quest and his translations of ancient Latin texts, so that when the horror was visited upon him, we believed that too. My introduction to his work was courtesy of the BBC and Lawrence Gordon Clark’s exemplary adaptations of his stories for a season of Ghost Stories for Christmas, throughout the 1970s. It was a bigger thrill for me and my brothers than the prospect of Santa Claus, as we huddled with pillows on a cold Dublin Christmas Eve, while the very austere BBC announcer introduced us to yet another spine tingling adaptation of the master’s work. Since then, I have of course read all of his works, and their impression has never been even slightly lessened by the regular revisits to his landscapes of the macabre. If you haven’t picked up a collection as of yet, I urge you to hold off no longer. 


Thank you so much to Jason for taking the time to write such a thoughtful, fascinating piece for the blog. You can follow Jason on Twitter and find out more about his career in film here


You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram
 

Happy Birthday Amanda Barrie!


It's hard to believe it but the wonderful Amanda Barrie celebrates her 82nd birthday today. The ever-youthful star of stage and screen was born Shirley Anne Broadbent on 14 September 1935 in Ashton Under Lyne.

Amanda is a real fans favourite, starring in two early Carry On films in the 1960s. She first of all played the supporting role of Glam Cab driver Anthea in Carry On Cabby before following this up with a starring role as Cleo in the classic Carry On Cleo in 1964. Sadly Amanda did not return the Carry On team for further adventures as her agent sent her off for a season at the Bristol Old Vic instead! 

Amanda was a natural in the Carry Ons, working beautifully with the likes of Sid James, Kenneth Williams and Kenneth Connor. Other film appearances at the time included A Pair of Briefs (with Joan Sims), Doctor in Distress (with Dennis Price) and I've Gotta Horse (with Billy Fury). On stage, Amanda played leading ladies in a host of West End productions including She Loves Me, Cabaret, Hobson's Choice, Absurd Person Singular, Stepping Out and Private Lives. 



Of course we all know her best these days for her long stint playing the wonderful Alma in Coronation Street. Amanda first appeared in the Street in guest spots as the cafe owner in 1981 and 1982 before returning on a permanent basis from late 1988. She would play the role until the character's death from cancer in June 2001. Alma featured in some memorable storylines which included marrying Mike Baldwin, being kidnapped by Don Brennan and being romanced by Ken Barlow. She also had wonderfully strong female friendships with the likes of Audrey, Gail and Hayley. Fourteen years after her last appearance she is still much-missed by fans.

Amanda has gone on to appear in the likes of Doctors, Bad Girls, Holby City and most recently Benidorm with her former Corrie co-star Sherrie Hewson. Amanda has also become a regular on the pantomime circuit.

Amanda married her longterm partner Hilary Bonner at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 2014. 

Whatever she is up to today, I hope Amanda has a terrific birthday!



You can read Glenda Young's blog post about Amanda's autobiography here

You can read my interview with Amanda from earlier this year here

You can read about my meeting with Amanda at the London Film Convention here











You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also Facebook

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Happy Birthday Patrick Mower!

 

Today we wish the suave, evergreen actor Patrick Mower a very happy 79th birthday! Patrick, a real Seventies heartthrob if ever there was one, is now best known for his long running role as Rodney Blackstock in the ITV soap opera Emmerdale. Patrick has played the part since the year 2000.

Patrick has been a fixture on television and cinema screens since the 1960s with his most memorable roles coming from a variety of gritty, small screen detective shows in the 1970s. As well as roles in The Sweeney, The Avengers and Jason King, he took lead roles in both Callan and Special Branch. To Carry On fans, Patrick is best remembered for his role as Len Able in the less than successful 1976 film Carry On England, in which he played love interest to Judy Geeson.

Patrick took part in the 2015 ITV tribute show, Carry On Forever, and remains proud of his involvement with the Carry Ons. A further Carry On link comes in the shapely shape of Emmannuelle actress Suzanne Danielle, who was Patrick's real life partner for seven years. 

 

Whatever Patrick is up to today, I hope he has an excellent birthday!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also Facebook

Monday, 11 September 2017

Connor Carries On ... as Horace Strong

 

Next June will mark Kenneth Connor's centenary. This feels like the right time to celebrate the man's legacy and what better a legacy that his seventeen glorious performances in the Carry On films. As I've already done with the three main leading ladies of the series, I plan to embark on a series of blogs profiling each of Kenneth's roles in the Carry Ons, giving my own take on his contributions.

Kenneth is another one of those actors who worked steadily, prolifically and across all mediums throughout his career. From his very early days in film before the outbreak of World War Two, through the 1950s which saw him become an integral part of British radio comedy to the Carry Ons and his unforgettable roles in several 1980s sitcoms, Connor was an incredibly gifted actor. He worked right up until his death at the age of 75 in November 1993. However unlike Sid, Kenneth Williams or Barbara Windsor, I feel that Connor never really got the credit he deserved. He didn't have an outrageous private life, no scandals to be told. He shunned the limelight and his many performances as the ordinary man in the street mirrored his own life away from the cameras. 

 

Kenneth was also one of the precious few actors who's career spanned pretty much the entire run of the Carry Ons. He was there at the very beginning in Carry On Sergeant and, a five year gap in the mind 1960s aside, remained loyal to the films until the very end of the original run in 1978. Connor, along with Williams and Eric Barker were the only actors to appear in the very first and the very last of the series. Kenneth was still around when Columbus was made in 1992 but declined to take part, probably very wisely. This new series of blogs will be a celebration of all those wonderful comedy performances in the Carry Ons - from bumbling romantic lead through to crumbling character parts, Kenneth could play them all.

So let's start right back in 1958 with Carry On Sergeant. This film is quite unlike most of the others that followed. The National Service comedy is fairly down to earth, gentle fare and the comedy content is generally light on innuendo. It represented the austere, post war Britain and the main reason for its stunning success at the box office was that the vast majority of the cinema going public could easily identify with the characters on screen and the situations in which they found themselves. While much of the content of Sergeant is pretty much unrecognisable as a Carry On compared to the bawdy antics of later entries, some of the faces debuting here would become long standing series contributors. Along with Kenneth Connor we have Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey and Hattie Jacques. All would be mainstays, returning again and again to Pinewood Studios for fun with Peter Rogers Productions over the next decade or so. 

 

Other actors in Carry On Sergeant would reappear in later films (Shirley Eaton, Terence Longdon, Bill Owen to name a few) however none of these original stars of Sergeant quite left their mark like the Kenneths and Charles. The leading names in Sergeant were William Hartnell, Bob Monkhouse, Eric Barker, Dora Bryan and Eaton. All reliable actors, well versed in the art of comedy and film making. However even from the get go, it's the actors further down the cast list that shine the brightest, and none more so than Kenneth Connor. Quite simply, his Horace Strong is a comedy masterpiece. 

Horace is the most fragile, ineffective, reluctant hypochondriacal recruit in the entire film. He flinches at army life, shared barracks, technical tasks and most of all, any form of physical activity. Strong has so many mythical medical complaints he pays daily visits to the medical Officer (Hattie Jacques) whose no nonsense approach meets Horace's dithering head on in several beautifully played scenes. Most of the other recruits take the mickey out of Horace and see him as a major factor in their poor performance compared to other platoons. However there is a great deal of affection in these performances and the camaraderie shines though.

 

For me, the highlight of the film is Horace's battle to put off his persistent love interest, the wide-eyed, love struck Norah, played to perfection by the brilliant Dora Bryan. Dora and Kenneth are comedy gold and together they share many of the best moments. I really wish they had worked together more often as their chemistry and shared comedy timing is just superb. Norah chases Horace throughout the film and this only sends him into even more of a pill-popping panicked frenzy. In the end though, it is Norah (with a little help from Jacques) who helps Horace see the light. On the eve of their final passing out parade, Strong finally acts as his name suggests and wins over Norah before becoming one of the best performing recruits in the film's best of British, proud as punch finale.

Kenneth Connor is the very heart and soul of Carry On Sergeant. On the strength of this performance, it is no surprise that he came to be the Carry On films' leading light in many of the early black and white films that followed.  

 

Next up will be my blog on Kenneth's return to the world of Carry On later in 1958 when he grabbed the starring role of injured boxer Bernie Bishop in the classic Carry On Nurse. Stay tuned for that! 


You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram
 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Carry On Faces in Different Places: Please Sir!


Here we go with a brand new series of blogs looking at some of the cream of British comedy film making from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Although this blog is all about the Carry Ons, believe it or not, there were some other joyous comedy films made away from Peter Rogers Productions. However, given the quality of the actors Peter employed to make his series, it's no wonder that most of them popped up elsewhere.

So far I've looked at the wonderful 1959 crime caper Too Many Crooks and the 1954 domestic comedy starring Dirk Bogarde, For Better For Worse 

Today we're moving away from the 1950s to cover another classic British comedy film, this time from 1971. The hit school-based sitcom Please Sir! had been running very successfully on the small screen since 1968. This being the era of the big screen spin off, it was only a matter of time before Please Sir! made its way to the cinema. 

 

Who's in it?

Please Sir! stars John Alderton as teacher Bernard Hedges and features a supporting cast of Noel Howlett, Joan Sanderson, Erik Chitty, Richard Davies, Peter Cleall and David Barry. 

Carry On Faces?

Deryck Guyler reprises his role as the janitor Potter. He appeared in a cameo role in Carry On Doctor as well as featured roles in Nurse On Wheels and The Big Job. Carol Hawkins grabs her first starring role in a film here as Sharon, going on to enliven Carry On Abroad, Behind and two episodes of Carry On Laughing. Patsy Rowlands, already part of the Carry On team by this stage, plays domestic science teacher Angela Cutforth. There are also cameos from Jack Smethurst (who played a recruit in Carry On Sergeant) and Brenda Cowling (Carry On Girls and Behind).

 

What's it about?

The film expands on the same themes from the television series. A bunch of overgrown, unruly inner city London school children battling through life with the help of their green around the gills teacher, Hedges. Bernard Hedges continues to battle against the strict authority of Miss Ewell (brilliantly played by the peerless Joan Sanderson). The film takes the established characters out of their usual classroom based surroundings at Fenn Street as the cast goes on an outward bound week where they clash with rival schools and cause all sorts of havoc. The outward bound location looks very much like Black Park, next to Pinewood Studios ;) The film also introduces Bernard's future wife Penny (Jill Kerman, who would go on to play Maggie, the florist who came between Ken and Mike in Coronation Street) while he bats off the advances of a very eager Miss Cutforth - Patsy Rowlands on terrific form. The film is harmless early 70s fluff, entirely good natured and suitable for all. 

Best Bit?

For me the highlight of the film is the unrequited love Patsy Rowlands' character has for Hedges. It runs throughout the film and it's deftly, affectionately played comedy brought to life by two great actors in Rowlands and Alderton. Sadly Patsy wasn't a regular in the television series as I'm sure she would have added a great deal! It's also good to see Patsy given more to do in a film - at the time her roles in the Carry Ons were very uneven and often reduced to a maddeningly small amount of screen time. In Please Sir!, Patsy is a joy.

 

Did you know?

Carol Hawkins replaced Penny Spencer who had played the character of Sharon in the original television series. After her breakthrough role in this film, Carol would play Sharon again in the Please Sir! spin off The Fenn Street Gang, which followed the antics of the Fenn Street pupils in the world after school. It ran until 1973.

Also, watch out for a very brief appearance from future EastEnders actor Todd Carty as a young school boy who has a bit of an accident in the assembly at the very start of the film!

The film also boasts a very catchy theme tune, very much of its time:


 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram