Wednesday 5 July 2017

They just don't make them like they used to!

It's a question I often ask myself but it seems the likes of Joan Hickson, Joan Sims and Irene Handl really just aren't around any more. For me this is very sad. I understand that for years they dominated the very best of British film and television and that they could not be around for ever. It's just such a shame that nobody has really come along to continue their legacy. 

The Carry Ons made the very most of some of our wonderful, formidable character comedy ladies. Joan Sims, one of the very finest, starred in twenty four of the films while her close friend Hattie Jacques was also a leading player. The films also featured some amazing talent in smaller roles or guest spots. The likes of Patsy Rowlands, Joan Hickson, June Whitfield, Pat Coombs, Esma Cannon, Marianne Stone and Renee Houston appeared time and time again and really were just a cut above. Reliable, dependable yes, but also stars in their own right. The audience knew what to expect and the producers, keen on watching the pennies, knew what they were getting. They quite simply added class to everything they appeared in and saved many a dodgy production!

Three of the best as far as I am concerned are the late great Peggy Mount, Irene Handl and Esma Cannon. Peggy never made a Carry On however she did work closely with Sid James for several years in the brilliant ITV comedy, George and The Dragon. They loved working together and it showed. Peggy also starred in the wonderful 1956 film Sailor Beware alongside familiar Carry On faces Cannon and Shirley Eaton. Irene Handl did pop up, albeit briefly in two early Carry Ons - as Bill Owen' bumbling wife in Carry On Nurse and a year later, as a distraught mother looking for her Willy in Carry On Constable. Irene made countless film appearances at the time, one of my absolute favourites being that of Fred Kite's wife in I'm All Right Jack. 

Finally the delightful, diminutive Esma Cannon, long a favourite of mine. Her four Carry On roles (Constable, Regardless, Cruising and Cabby) were an absolute joy and she brought a unique contribution to so many British films over the years. Something of a mysterious, private figure, she suddenly retired from the profession at the peak of her fame in the mid 1960s. I really wish she had stayed with the Carry Ons for a few more films.

Anyway, I digress. The clip below is not actually from a Carry On, it's from the 1960 comedy, Inn for Trouble. The film stars reliable names in Leslie Phillips and Charles Hawtrey, but for me the three wonderful character actresses featured below steal the show. So sit back and enjoy some peerless comedy acting from Irene, Peggy and Esma. They don't make them like that anymore maybe, but at least we can still enjoy their fantastic legacy.

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