Friday, 10 February 2017
When Leslie and Terence didn't Carry On
I have often wondered, sad fan that I am, what might have happened after Terence Longdon and Leslie Phillips both left the Carry On series in the early 1960s. Both actors had sort of shared the rather suave, dashing hero in those charming black and white Carry Ons of the late 1950s and they both departed the films at around the same time. This gap eventually made way for a young Jim Dale to join the fun from 1963 onwards, however Jim, while still playing the romantic lead parts, brought a completely different dynamic with him, erring more towards physical comedy than either Leslie or Terence.
Leslie Phillips went out on a high after playing superb starring roles in Nurse, Teacher and Constable. He went on to lead the Doctor franchise and star in countless British films over the next decades. Longdon was less fortunate with his exit from the Carry Ons. After two well received roles in Sergeant and Nurse, he rather faded into the background with his small roles in Constable and Regardless feeling more like appearances by a token face from earlier films. Anyway, without a doubt, both actors left a hole to be filled and although Jim was hugely successful later on, i wonder what would have happened if someone else had come along.
There were several contenders at the time. The early 1960s saw many skilled light comedy actors appearing on the fringes of the Rogers and Thomas stable at Pinewood. Here are a few who I think may have worked well as Carry On regulars at the time.
Michael Craig was the handsome hero of several well known British films of the late 1950s and early 1960s. He starred opposite Carry On legend Sid James in the likes of Campbell's Kingdom and The Silent Enemy before moving into light comedy roles. These included Upstairs and Downstairs for producer Betty Box (co-starring the likes of James Robertson Justice, Joan Sims, Joan Hickson, Dilys Laye and Sid James); No My Darling Daughter for the same team; The Iron Maiden in 1962 for Rogers and Thomas and other similar titles such as A Pair of Briefs the same year. Probably the closest Craig came to a Carry On was his star turn in the 1960 comedy Doctor in Love, a film which saw him star opposite Leslie Phillips and receive romantic attention from the likes of Joan Sims, Liz Fraser and Fenella Fielding!
Donald Houston went one step further than Craig by actually appearing in a Carry On. His rather menacing turn as a baddie in 1963's Carry On Jack is often forgotten as that film featured few regulars and is often overlooked by fans of the series. In films from the late 1940s, this distinctive Welsh actor made a big success as part of the original Doctor in the House ensemble in 1954. Working for Betty Box and Ralph Thomas automatically made him an attractive proposition for Betty's husband Peter and Ralph's brother Gerald. Donald returned to the Doctor films for another role in the 1963 film Doctor in Distress. Away from Carry On Jack, he also worked for Peter Rogers in the 1962 comedy tear jerker Twice Round the Daffodils alongside the likes of Kenneth Williams, Juliet Mills and Joan Sims.
Ronald Lewis was a matinee idol of countless films from the era. Another Welsh actor, Lewis first earned his comedy stripes in the 1956 hit film Sailor Beware, starring with Peggy Mount, Gordon Jackson, Esma Cannon and Shirley Eaton. He worked twice for Rogers and Thomas, although sadly, never in a Carry On. Ronald made two films for the duo in quick succession in the early 1960s. First of all Twice Round the Daffodils and secondly the district nurse comedy Nurse On Wheels in 1963. He played the romantic lead opposite Juliet Mills in both these films and the pair worked really well together. It always surprises me that Peter Rogers didn't capitalise on this further by casting Lewis opposite Mills in Carry On Jack.
My final suggestion is the lovely character actor Brian Rawlinson. Brian worked tirelessly during a fifty year career on stage and screen, grabbing many eye catching supporting roles. Of all the actors mentioned here, Brian appeared most prominently in the Carry Ons, notching up small roles in Cruising, Cleo and Cowboy as well as similar comedies The Iron Maiden, Nurse On Wheels and The Big Job. Although never really a leading man in any of these films, he had an innocent likeability and a charm that could have seen him progress to larger roles in the Carry Ons.
So those are my choices, do you agree that these actors could have taken over from Terence and Leslie? Or are you a fan of Jim Dale and quite glad that they didn't?!
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