Saturday, 22 July 2017

Carry On Blogging on Instagram!


Did you know that Carry On Blogging was now on Instagram? Well it is and if you are too why not follow me there?

You will find the usual great photos of some of your favourite Carry On films and their stars and it provides another great forum to interact with me and other Carry On fans. 

So why not boost my page on Instagram by following and liking some of my posts? It would be much appreciated. I look forward to seeing you there! My Instagram page is here: Carry On Blogging

And in the meantime, do follow me on Twitter too - I love your comments, feedback and general Carry On banter, so keep it coming! Links to both Twitter and Facebook pages at the bottom of this blog! 

Carry On Following!



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

Thursday, 20 July 2017

When Joan met Athene

 

The great actress Athene Seyler is possibly not so well known these days. She may be familiar to fans of the work of Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas as her last film role was for them, in the 1963 film Nurse on Wheels as Miss Farthingale. However Athene's career on the stage dated back to 1909 and in films she was first seen in 1921, in The Adventures of Mr Pickwick. Aside from her brief flirtation with the world of Pinewood comedy, Seyler played a fairly significant part in the life of the young Joan Sims.

When Joan first attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in 1947 for an audition, the celebrate actress Athene Seyler was on the panel of judges. On the day it did not work out well for Miss Sims as her reading of Winnie The Pooh did not go down well. Years later, Athene confided in Joan that she had never been a fan of A. A. Milne. Instead, Joan took the route of PARADA, the preliminary Academy in Highgate, North London, before finally joining the real thing two years later. Athene had left a lasting impression on Joan and Sims became a life long fan of her work. 

 

Over a decade later Joan was delighted to find herself working on stage with the great Ms Seyler when she played her maid in the stage production of Breath of Spring at the Cambridge Theatre in 1958. Joan was enthralled with Athene's brilliant performance as Dame Beatrice Appleby and the pair became firm friends. They would remain in touch and five years later, they worked together again in the aforementioned Nurse on Wheels. This film had been something of a personal disappointment for Joan as she had originally been cited as the lead, Joanna. However Peter Rogers came under pressure from his financial backers to cast a younger actress in the role (it subsequently went to Juliet Mills). Joan's confidence was seriously knocked by this decision and even though she accepted the supporting role of Deborah on the same money, it was a blow. Consolation came in the form of Athene who played one of the villagers in the supporting cast. 

The friendship was obviously a lasting one and the delightful Joan obviously had made her mark on Athene. Years later, Joan was mentioned in correspondence between Athene and the great American actress Helen Hayes. Helen was at the time filming her starring role in the Disney film One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing, in which she appeared opposite the likes of Peter Ustinov, Derek Nimmo, Bernard Bresslaw and Joan. It would appear the filming schedule was taking its toll on Hayes who noted to Athene that the only things keeping her going were the humour of Ustinov and "the warm, funny Joan Sims who sends you her regards". For me it's always fascinating to read about our heroes' heroes. I've always admired Joan and her huge talents and it's great to find out who inspired and touched her in her life and work.

 

Athene Seyler lived a long life, reaching her 101st year before passing away in 1990. She appeared in some classic films during her long career including roles in Doctor at Large in 1957 as Lady Hawkins; Campbell's Kingdom as Miss Abigail; For Better For Worse in 1954 as Miss Mainbrace and the wonderful Make Mine Mink with Terry-Thomas, Hattie Jacques and Billie Whitelaw. On stage she took roles in such classics as The Cherry Orchard, Romeo and Juliet, Harvey and The Rivals. She became the President of RADA in 1950. One of her last screen appearances came in the late 1960s in the classic television series, The Avengers. Athene virtually retired from the acting profession by 1970 although she continued to appear as an interviewee well into the 1980s on programmes like the BBC chat show Wogan. In 1990, aged 101 she even appeared on stage at the National Theatre to discuss her life and work. 

To end, I'll leave you with a link to one of Athene's last appearances, as a cast away on the BBC Radio 4 series Desert Island Discs. She was interviewed by Sue Lawley in 1988, at the age of 99. It's a fascinating listen. You can listen here

 

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

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Liz Fraser Presents on Talking Pictures TV

 

1959 was a busy year for actress Liz Fraser. Liz made her screen breakthrough thanks to a certain little film comedy called I'm All Right Jack. The huge success of that movie guaranteed Liz a golden career in the very best of British film and television comedy over the next several decades. Two of Liz's early films, debuting the same year as the Boulting Brothers' classic, will be broadcast by Talking Pictures TV over the next few days.

The Night We Dropped a Clanger is a 1959 comedy film starring a prime cast of Brian Rix, Cecil Parker, William Hartnell and Leslie Phillips. A British secret agent is sent on a secret operation in occupied France during the Second World War but a diversionary tactic turns into a farcical tale of mistaken identity. The film features a notable supporting cast. Alongside the lovely Liz Fraser as Lulu, look out for Irene Handl, Hattie Jacques, Patrick Cargill, playwright Ray Cooney and a first screen appearance from future Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs, playing Briggs.

You can catch this film on Talking Pictures TV at 12.10 tomorrow, 19th July. A specially filmed introduction from star Liz Fraser will be screened before the film at 12.05.

 

Desert Mice, also released in 1959 is a British film comedy starring Alfred Marks and Sid James as the leaders of a group of ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association) entertainers with the British army in the North Africa desert during the Second World War. The group manage to thwart a Nazi plan during their tour. The title of the film is a play on "Desert Rats". Liz Fraser co-stars as Edie alongside Irene Handl again, John Le Mesurier, Dora Bryan and Dick Bentley. Interestingly, Dora was actually a real life ENSA performer during the war. 

This film will be on Talking Pictures TV at 14.05 on Friday 21st July. A specially filmed introduction from Liz will be screen at 14.00.

 

I always enjoy seeing familiar Carry On faces like Liz, Dora and Leslie Phillips in other comedy films made around this time. Hope you enjoy them!

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

New Film Role for Amanda Barrie?

 

I spotted an interesting little Twitter titbit this morning. Urban Collective posted a tweet informing us that their client Amanda Barrie was out filming once again today with the hashtag #featurefilm. 

Amanda has had a very busy year following her self-imposed 'gap year'. We have seen her appear in the BBC's documentary The Real Marigold Hotel and More 4's The Baby Boomer's Guide to Growing Old. Amanda has also made acting appearances in the BBC's medical drama Holby City and ITV's sitcom Benidorm. Another interesting project has been an online series filmed in Israel called The Bar Mitzvah. 

 

A return to the big screen is an exciting next step for Amanda. Although featuring in several British films early on in her career, Amanda has spent most of her acting life on stage or television. Early film roles, aside from Carry On Cabby and Cleo, have included A Pair of Briefs with Joan Sims; Doctor in Distress with Dennis Price; Operation Bullshine with Dora Bryan; I've Gotta Horse with Billy Fury and the Disney comedy One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing with Joss Ackland. I wish Amanda had made more films back in the day, however with twenty years leading productions in the West End, it's understandable she didn't have the time.

So what could this new film be? According to Urban Collective, the film will also feature other renowned British actors. Intriguing! If anyone knows anything about the project, do get in touch! Of course if I hear any more about this new film, I'll blog it.

 



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

Swords and Sandals Outdoor Cinema Presents: Carry On Cleo!

 

The brilliant Carry On Cleo is getting an outing on the big screen this Summer as part of a special screening of films in the City of London. Cleo, which starred Sid James, Amanda Barrie, Joan Sims, Kenneth Williams and Kenneth Connor, is one of the finest of all the Carry Ons, thanks to its sparkling script and sumptuous costumes and sets (left over from the Liz Taylor epic.

"Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!" This unforgettable line by Kenneth Williams’ Julius Caesar was voted the funniest ever film one-liner. Truly a British comedy classic, this film is a hilarious parody of the Elizabeth Taylor epic, Cleopatra. 

Brought to you by the City of London Corporation in partnership with Pop-Up Screens and supported by the Barbican, this is one (inflatable) summer screen not to be missed. Come prepared for all weather; bring a picnic, someone to feed you grapes, plenty of blankets and cushions; and settle down to enjoy swords, sandals, superstars, silliness and songs on the site of London’s first entertainment arena.

Plus, tuck into Italian street food, accompanied by a beer or cocktail. Enjoy pop-up events and talks on selected evenings. And see how the Romans entertained themselves with a visit to London’s Roman Amphitheatre which is open until 9pm.

Please note that no chairs are provided and no glass or bottles can be brought into Guildhall Yard for these events. Please dispose of your rubbish carefully.

Book your tickets via the Barbican website

Read more here
Carry On Cleo will be shown on 14 August at Guildhall Yard EC2V 7AE.
The event opens at 6:30 pm and the screening will begin at sunset (approximately 20:45). 

Prices £10 / £8 concessions plus booking fee.


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

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Carry On Pledging: Forgotten Heroes of Comedy

 

I grew up reading the books of comedy historian Robert Ross. I still have my copy of his first ever published book, The Carry On Companion, on my book shelf having purchased it over twenty years ago. Robert is embarking on an important new project focussing on all those wonderful comedy heroes who just don't get the recognition they deserve. The book, titled Forgotten Heroes of Comedy, will be published from the results of a crowdfunding campaign and it's something all fans of classic comedy should be a part of.

The idea behind this project is very close to my heart. One of the main reasons I started this blog was to write about and highlight some of the wonderful talent in the Carry Ons who I felt had not received the plaudits they so richly deserved. Robert has also been very kind in his support for this blog. You can read my interview with him here

Here is a little more on the book:  

Do you remember growing up in the 1970s? Dick Emery was the most famous comedian on British television. His shows would attract millions of viewers. His outrageous gallery of grotesques were played out in a thousand school playgrounds. "Ooh, you are awful!" we would say. Now, where are his shows? Never repeated. Rarely discussed in all those clip-stuffed nostalgia fests on television. A forgotten hero of comedy.

What about Larry Semon? You've never even heard of him, have you? In the Hollywood of the 1920s he was one of the kings of comedy. Both Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy *supported* Larry on film. He directed, produced and starred as the Scarecrow in the original film version of 'The Wizard of Oz'. Dead before he was forty, today he hardly gets a footnote in comedy history.

 

How about little Jimmy Clitheroe? The Clitheroe Kid. He was one of the most popular characters on radio and television. He even appeared as General Tom Thumb opposite Burl Ives and Terry-Thomas in 'Jules Verne's Rocket to the Moon'. Really! He was still playing a schoolboy well in to his forties. Jimmy's catchphrase was: "Don't some Mothers have 'em!" Now that sounds familiar! But who gives Jimmy the nod of recognition. No~one.

Until now…

In this long over-due and affectionate salute, celebrated comedy historian Robert Ross pays tribute to some of the finest, funniest and most fascinating names in comedy – from both sides of the Atlantic. With the passionate input of such favourite comics as Tim Brooke-Taylor, Hattie Hayridge, Roy Hudd, Michael Palin, Ross Noble, Chris Addison and Bernard Cribbins..., Ross will pay long over-due tribute to legends of humour who, for a variety of reasons, didn't quite reach the heady heights of stardom or, once they had, couldn't cope with the pressures. Whether it be personal demons, changing trends in comedy or a rival act undermining their fame, the ups and downs of the Forgotten Heroes of Comedy will make for fascinating reading.

Presented in alphabetical order for ease of reference and to give a scattered through the ages feel it will be illustrated throughout with a lavish collection of rare film stills and original theatre posters. The book will be the ultimate talking point in pubs and offices and living rooms across the country. I bet he hasn't included the forgotten member of The Three Stooges. That Shemp Howard who reluctantly gave up a profitable career as Hollywood's busiest character actor to join his brother Moe in the team. Oh. Yes. Yes, he has! So whether it is a favourite from the distant smoke and ale-stained world of the Music Hall like the great George Robey – the man dubbed The Prime Minster of Mirth decades before John Major – or the down-beat poetry of Hovis Presley who dropped disenchanted bombs on the late 1990s, the Forgotten Heroes of Comedy will finally elevate them to the Hall of Fame where they belong. Forgotten, no longer.

With an introductory piece by that very much remembered and influential comedy hero, Monty Python pioneer Terry Jones, this book will enthral and enlighten the most die-hard of comedy admirers.

The book will profile such comedians as...

Ronald Frankau, Arthur Haynes, Wee Georgie Wood, Charlie Drake, Dustin Gee, Sonnie Hale, Ray Martine, Richard Hearne: 'Mr Pastry', Wheeler & Woolsey, Jewel & Warris, Bernie Winters, Dickie Henderson, Hal Walters, John Junkin, Frank Randle, Sir George Robey: 'The Prime Minister of Mirth', Danny Ross, Robert Moreton, Nat Jackley, Ted Lune, Florence Desmond, Eric Barker, Alfie Bass, Bill Fraser, David Battley, Peter Butterworth, Charley Chase, Mel Blanc, Billy Danvers, Jerry Colonna, Leslie Fuller, Tommy Handley, Bobby Howes, Claude Hulbert, Ernie Kovacs, Lupino Lane, Bunny Doyle: 'The Minister for Idiotic Affairs', Tom Walls, Roy Kinnear, Spike Jones, Zeppo Marx, Una Merkel, George Williams, Derek Royle, Wilson, Keppel & Betty, Richard 'Stinker' Murdoch, Tommy Godfrey, Jack Norton, Jack Train, Michael Bates, The Western Brothers, Billy Dainty, Jake Thackray, Gladys Morgan, 'Monsewer' Eddie Gray, Arthur Houseman, Olsen & Johnson, Ted Ray, The Ritz Brothers, Peter Glaze, Claude Dampier: 'The Professional Idiot', Ronald Shiner, Billy Russell, Leslie Sarony, Thelma Todd, Albert Whelan, Tommy Trinder, Al Read, Larry Noble, Doug Fisher, G.H. Elliott: 'the Chocolate Coloured Coon', Harold Berens, Douglas Byng, Chic Murray, Mario Fabrizi, Michael Bentine…

 

If you want to help make this book happen, you can pledge your support here


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

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Come on BBC, what about The Dame June Whitfield Story?


I blogged earlier in the week that Channel 5 would be broadcasting a documentary called The Barbara Windsor Story (which went out last night) on the lead up to Dame Babs turning 80 years young. This got me thinking. Isn't it about time that someone chronicled the life of Dame June Whitfield? I think so - so come on BBC, let's have the Dame June Story!

I know June Whitfield has been lauded and celebrated in many ways during her long and successful career in the acting profession, however her well-deserved and long overdue Damehood suggests it's time for a new television special looking at the life and career of the lovely June. June has been on our radio airwaves, our television screens, our cinema screens and in the nation's theatres for eight decades now and is still active in the business in her 92nd year. June has worked with so many wonderful, talented comedy actors and comedians from the post-war era, through the satire boom and heady days of British comedy and light entertainment and on to alternative comedy and the modern day.


I know there is a certain amount of rewarding June because she is still around while many of her contemporaries have passed on to the big comedy society in the sky, however the length, depth and breadth of her career marks out June from the rest. June has been involved in so many of our classic, fondly remembered comedy moments, from Tony Hancock's blood donor sketch to clowning around in the back gardens of suburbia with Terry Scott; from Eric Morecambe's comedy shorts to Carry On Girls' prim and proper Augusta Prodworthy; from Jennifer Saunders' bonkers, light-fingered mother in Absolutely Fabulous to the cheeky, bottom-pinching pensioner in Doctor Who. 

Who else around today or indeed ever can claim to have worked with both Wilfred Pickles AND Julian Clary? 

 

Many comedy talents wouldn't be around today if it wasn't for performers like Dame June Whitfield. She led the way, doing what she did, competently, patiently, with skill and talent while egos and attitudes around her peaked and troughed. June has lived through a fascinating period in our history, growing up between the two World Wars, learning her craft during the blitz and the air raids, making her way at the BBC at a time when men with Bryl Cream and pipes ruled the roost and yet through all that, she could still quite easily be your friend's nan or the sweet lady down the road. 

So how's about setting aside some time on the BBC for The Dame June Whitfield Story? What do you think?

 


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

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Barbara Carries On ... As Sadie Tomkins


Barbara Windsor will be celebrating her 80th birthday this August. In the run up to this milestone, I've decided to blog profiles of each of her nine famous Carry On roles. Much the same as I did with both Joan Sims and Hattie Jacques, these blogs will take each part in turn and provide my own personal take on them. 

Barbara, or Dame Babs as it is now, is a showbiz legend in the UK, with a career dating back to the 1950s. As the recent Babs drama on BBC1 revealed, things haven't always been easy for Windsor, but her hard work and determination have seen her bounce back time and time again. No matter what else she has done in her career, the Carry Ons will always dominate. So let's carry on today with Barbars's role as Sadie Tomkins in Carry On Abroad.

 

Many people consider Carry On Abroad to be the last great Carry On film ever made. In 1972 a full roster of classic team members flew off for a long weekend package holiday to the delightful Spanish island of Elsbells. Ahem. As with many of the best films in the series, Abroad excels because it gently lampoons something currently in the public consciousness. In this case, the trend for foreign travel and the cheap package holiday. 

All the gang put it terrific performances and Abroad is surely one of the purest Carry Ons - it's innuendo followed by sight gag followed by witty one liner followed by full on slapstick throughout. There is none of the pathos that even Convenience managed the year before. In a cast littered with team members and memorable guest turns (particularly June Whitfield and Jimmy Logan) Barbara puts in a strong performance as Sadie.



The main plot (if it can be called that) circles around Vic Flange's attempt to sneak off on holiday with Sadie behind wife Cora's (Joan Sims) back.Sid and Joan work tremendously well together in Abroad and look so right behind the bar. Their relationship on screen, although highly comedic, is also truthful and believable. Cora is afraid of most forms of travel so Vic is used to travelling alone, only this time he fancies a bit on the side with Sadie Tomkins (Barbara Windsor). Vic's fiendish plan is sabotaged by an unknowing Jack Douglas and Cora ends up tagging along for the holiday. With fellow holidaymakers including Kenneth Connor, June Whitfield, Bernard Bresslaw and Charles Hawtrey, it was never going to be plain sailing! 

Before talking more about Barbara's role in the film, special mentions must go to three outstanding performances. Kenneth Williams is on deliciously manic form as Wundatours courier Stuart Farquhar while Peter Butterworth and Hattie Jacques are sublime as the inept owners of the Palace Hotel, which quickly crumbles around the British guests. It really is an all guns blazing film and due to Hawtrey's imminent departure at the end of the year, it would be the beginning of the end.

 

Barbara very much plays to type in Carry On Abroad (no surprises there). She's the cockney blonde with the big bust and the suitcase full of skanties ready to burst open as soon as she claps sight of Jimmy Logan. Originally planned as a bit of fun with Vic, Sadie's holiday romance turns out to be Scottish good time lad Bert Conway (Logan). There is much comedy gleaned from the rivalry between Logan and James for Barbara's affections while Joan Sims lurks in the background as the ultimate put upon wife. Sid and Barbara work extremely well together in this film and their chemistry is irresistible, although as always I think Sid and Joan are the far better partnership. Full marks also to Jimmy Logan for his spirited turn as Bert. As a known entity, coming into a long established film series must have been a challenge but I love Logan and it's great to have a Scottish actor involved. (I wish I could speak so positively of his follow up performance as Cecil Gaybody in Girls). 

I like Windsor and Logan together - they make for a believable couple and even if their on again off again relationship is a bit tedious, it only gets brief coverage due to Abroad's constant requirement for endless double entendres and slapstick. Barbara holds her own against the latest flock of new young Carry On actresses in the glamorous shapes of Sally Geeson, Carol Hawkins and Gail Grainger and while the role doesn't test her acting credentials (no surprise there) it's reassuringly Babs. There is the usual bra popping sequence with Sid in a hotel corridor with Joan watching on which is par for the course, however there is also a rather memorable (if not necessarily for the right reasons) shower scene featuring the same actors. Quite a lot of Barbara is on display in this scene and it's all for the benefit of a rather lame sight gag. It feels cheap and rather nasty to be honest and it highlights yet again how the formerly innocent Carry On brand was being stretched by this period in their history. Things would only deteriorate further once they had the Confessions films to compete with.

 

In the end all the couples are reunited or get together and a happy ending is guaranteed in what must be one of the most satisfying finales of any Carry On. All the main characters gatherered round the bar in Sid's pub. Barbara's Sadie Tomkins gets together with Logan and all is well. Joan and Sid are once again solid as a rock and the screen fades to black on surely the best collection of British comedy talent ever to grace the silver screen.

Abroad is probably the last great outing for the gang. Barbara would return for just two more films in the series, neither of which are particular favourites of mine. However, I shall attempt to put those feelings to one side as I continue this series with the next of Barbara's roles - as Hope Springs in the 1973 film, Carry On Girls. 

To finish, here's some classic innuendo from Carry On Abroad, featuring Barbara and Sid:

 

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