Wednesday, 4 January 2017
The Pinewood Rep Company - Cyril Chamberlain
One of the joys for me of the Carry Ons and all the comedy films turned out during their long reign was the continuity provided by the reliable Pinewood Rep Company. Oh this was never a formal company of actors, if faces reappeared it was because Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas could trust them to turn up on time, say the words in the right order (and only once) and accept the low pay terms in return for regular work and friendly circumstances.
While the same faces appeared again and again in the Carry Ons, many often also crossed over and worked for Peter's wife Betty and Gerald's brother Ralph on their productions. A quick bit of research shows that during the 1950s and 60s in particular, many actors went back and forth between the two successful stables with somewhat alarming regularity! So let's take a look at another one of my favourite faces from that era: Cyril Chamberlain.
Cyril Chamberlain is a very familiar face to anyone who has a soft spot for the Carry Ons, particularly the early Norman Hudis era films. Cyril was never a star but worked consistently in films for more than three decades. Most importantly to us loyal fans, Cyril provided some excellent continuity in the early days of Carry On, playing supporting roles of various sizes in the first seven films in the series. His initial appearance, in the very first film in the series Carry On Sergeant, was as a rather stern, formidable Gun Sergeant opposite Bob Monkhouse. That one scene in Sergeant led to a bigger supporting role as patient Bert Able in the smash hit Carry On Nurse made later the same year and released in 1959.
After the big team efforts of the first two films, the third in the series, Carry On Teacher, saw a much smaller, more compact cast of regular actors feature alongside a group of excellent child actors. Cyril was one of the few supporting actors to join the gang for Teacher, playing one of his biggest roles as the slightly cynical, reserved caretaker Alf. Later in 1959 he was back again for the supporting turn as Thurston, mainly working with the debuting Sid James in Carry On Constable. In late 1960 he had probably his smallest role in the series, playing a policeman who arrests Kenneth Williams' mistaken linguist at Windsor and Eton Railway Station in Carry On Regardless. Cyril's six Carry On was the first colour film in the series, Carry On Cruising in which he played the chirpy ship's steward Tom Tree. Sadly 1963 would see Cyril's last big screen assignment with the gang. He played Sarge, the Speedee Cab radio controller in my favourite film in the series, Carry On Cabby.
Now there is some debate here if Cabby was actually Cyril's last appearance with the Carry On team. According to IMDB, Chamberlain played an uncredited role in the 1964 film Carry On Spying - this is news to me and I'm yet to spot him. Has anyone else seen him in Spying? If you have, do write in and tell me!
Of course being a valued member of the Pinewood Rep Company, there were many more roles for Cyril outside the Carry On gang. By my calculations Cyril Chamberlain clocked up at least seventeen films for either Peter Rogers or his wife Betty Box. Cyril's very first outing was actually for Betty, when he played a Policeman in her 1954 hit film Doctor in the House. The following year he worked again for the Doctor films in the follow up Doctor At Sea, this time playing the character of Whimble. Cyril's third Doctor comedy, Doctor At Large came in 1957 however this time he only had an uncredited role, once again playing a copper. In 1958 Cyril was back working for Peter Rogers, playing the part of a Barman in the Tommy Steele musical biopic The Juke Wore Jeans.
There then followed two more roles for Cyril in Peter Rogers/Betty Box productions - first of all as a Guard in the 1959 film Upstairs and Downstairs and then later the same year, working for Peter in one of my favourites, Please Turn Over, playing Mr Jones. In 1960, Doctor In Love was Cyril's forth Doctor film, again uncredited, this time in a Bit Part - he features while Leslie Phillips and Michael Craig take a rather revealing (!) shower! In 1961, Cyril joined many other familiar faces in the Bruce Montgomery scripted music school comedy, Raising The Wind, playing a Porter. Cyril played Mrs Webb's Team Mate in the 1962 Peter Rogers film The Iron Maiden, his version of the classic film Genevieve.
Sadly Cyril retired from acting in 1966, moving to Oxfordshire to open an antique's shop. He passed away in 1974. He was yet another one of those many solid, reliable character actors that Peter Rogers and Betty Box both called upon again and again during the peak of their film production in the 1950s and 60s.
I'll be back soon with another blog in these series looking back at another prolific member of the Pinewood Rep Company.