Carry On Loving has always been one of the Carry Ons I could take or leave. It came at an interesting time for the series as it reached the saucy Seventies and experimented with younger cast members and naughtier material. The film is basically a tribute to Carry On Regardless, a decade before, and features at its heart another agency with its location in the same place as Helping Hands.
Loving focusses on Sid and Hattie's Wedded Bliss Marriage Agency and features the regular rogues gallery of familiar faces looking for love - Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims and Terry Scott amongst them. As it started filming on this very day in 1970, here are five reasons why I love a bit of Loving:
1. As with Carry On Regardless many years before, Carry On Loving is such a melting pot of familiar character players and joyous cameos. While Sid and Hattie are at the helm, many other brilliant actors pop in and out of the action and it's a joy. Any British film which employs the likes of Joan Hickson, Patsy Rowlands, Peter Butterworth, Bill Maynard and Patricia Franklin is definitely worth its weight in gold. The action jumps about quickly so the film keeps hold of its liveliness and pace.
2. Richard O'Callaghan makes for probably the most successful Jim Dale replacement the series ever hired. His bumbling, hopeless, inexperienced Bertram Muffett is wonderful and the character is set up as soon as he meets up with the complete opposite - wordly wise Hancockian Sid James as Sidney Bliss. There are so many innocent misunderstandings and complications involving Richard's character and its Talbot Rothwell's farce writing at its finest. My favourite part of this character is the delightful model aeroplanes made from milk bottle tops! When he joins forces with Jacki Piper's Sally Martin the next generation of Carry On stars are off and running!
3. Sid is the governor! Carry On Loving came along just before Sid took on the role of Sidney Abbott in the sitcom Bless This House. This role saw Sid become more of a cardigan wearing, pipe smoking father figure. This change was soon reflected in the Carry On parts he took on. However in Loving, Sid is at his lecherous, wheeler dealing best. He's a man on a mission, keeping "wife" Sophie (Hattie Jacques) sweet while he never gives up chasing Joan Sims' Esme Crowfoot! By the end of the film Sid and Hattie are reunited and pretty much happily married! As Sid worked best with Hattie and Joan, it's all wonderful stuff.
4. I absolutely love the scene which sees Terry Scott's Terence Philpott introduced to the Grubb family! At its helm in the superb Joan Hickson doing what Joan did best. Hickson puts in a terrific performance as the Victorian mother in law from hell and the assorted odd family members are a source of joy despite them being mainly wordless cameos. Add to this a great performance from a dowdy Imogen Hassall, pre-glamorous transformation to Jenny Grubb (still in her sausage stuffing days here) and you have a classic scene which could easily have been part of a stage farce. Terry Scott is in his element here and you can see why he made such a great stage farceur. He milks the comedy potential from each and every element of the scene and it's a joy.
5. Finally, I have a massive soft spot for the farcical finale at the wedding reception for Sid and Sophie Bliss. All the main cast are reunited for one final slapstick scene and it doesn't pull any punches. Bernard Bresslaw's grunting Gripper Burke sets things in motion when he realises Sid has been the one carrying on with his Esme! It all kicks off and soon the cakes and flans are flying in a good old messy finale. While it's hilarious to watch it must have been horrendous to film as both Jacki Piper and Patsy Rowlands later recalled how the cream from the cakes all went off after the first day and the next day the actors had to continue regardless! Grim! I can imagine Kenneth Williams hated filming that sequence but nevertheless, I still love it.
So there you go, five reasons why I love a bit of Carry On Loving!