Friday, 29 September 2017

Whatever Happened to Valerie Shute?

 

I've been running an occasional series of blogs looking at the lives and careers of some of the lesser known names connected with the Carry On films. The Carry Ons featured a cast of many wonderful character actors who added a touch of class to our favourite series of British comedy films. Recently I've looked at actors who played fairly small roles in some of the early Carry Ons - Freddie Mills, Denis Shaw and Anna Karen.

Today I am looking back at the career of an actress who only ever had small roles in the films but still managed to appear in several titles for Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas. Valerie Shute is not a widely known name these days but she is still remembered by Carry On fans, probably for one role more than any other and she didn't even have any lines! Quite a feat! 

 

Valerie appeared in five Carry Ons between the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her first appearance came in the classic Carry On Camping in 1968. She played Pat, one of the Chayste Place girls who accompany Headmaster Dr Soaper (Kenneth Williams) and Matron (Hattie Jacques) to the Paradise Camp site where they attract the attentions of several male campers, especially Sid James and Bernard Bresslaw, before escaping with a bunch of hippies at the end of the film. Valerie can be seen throughout although her part, as with many of the actresses playing the school girls, is fairly negligible. She obviously proved herself to Peter Rogers though as she was back at Pinewood and working for the legendary producer once again the following year. Valerie was cast as one of the nurses in the third medical film in the franchise, Carry On Again Doctor. Valerie is seen in the speeded up sequence that sees Long Hampton hospital fly into chaos thanks to the bumbling antics of Dr Nookey (Jim Dale).

In 1970 Valerie grabbed her most memorable Carry On role with the part of the Girl Lover in the saucy dating agency comedy Carry On Loving. This memorable part lacked any lines to speak of (pardon the pun) but Valerie popped up all over the place throughout the film, always locked in a passionate embrace with her on-screen boyfriend played by future Citizen Smith and Last of the Summer Wine favourite, Mike Grady. Apparently Mike still regards this brief role as one of his favourites because he got to spend all day snogging Valerie Shute! Over the course of the film the pair crop up on the top deck of a London bus, in a lift with Sid James, in a phone box, in the back of a Mini and finally, under the table at the climatic wedding banquet which ends with Valerie taking one of Pinewood Canteen's very best cream cakes square in the face!

 

In October of the same year, Valerie filmed a role as a Maid in the very grand, rather splendid 21st film in the series, Carry On Henry, however sadly the role was cut from the final print. Valerie took on her last Carry On role almost a year later when she played patient Miss Smethurst in Carry On Matron. Probably her most prominent Carry On role, Valerie featured in a short scene at Finisham Maternity Hospital with the memorably named Dr Prodd (Terry Scott). And that, as they say, was it in terms of Carry On for Valerie Shute. So what else did Valerie get up to in her acting career?

Carry On Camping was actually Valerie's screen debut. Further small roles followed away from the series including parts on television in the Please Sir! spin-off, The Fenn Street Gang in 1971, Secret Army in 1977, The Danedyke Mystery in 1979 and the following year, a recurring role in the Yorkshire Television soap opera, Emmerdale Farm. In 1981 Valerie was part of the cast of How We Used to Live, an education drama tracing the lives of a fictional Victorian family in rural Yorkshire. Valerie made her last screen appearance to date two years later in 1983 when she was in the cast for the Alan Plater television play, Pride of Our Alley. After that, it looks as if Valerie retired from the acting profession. 

 

Valerie Shute was born in London in 1945. In November 1973 she married writer Willis Hall and they remained together until his death in 2005. Willis formed a well regarded writing partnership with his childhood friend Keith Waterhouse. Some of Hall's most famous works include the bitter-sweet comedy film Billy Liar, A Kind of Loving and Whistle Down The Wind. On television he created the series Budgie for Adam Faith and the comedy series Queenie's Castle for Diana Dors. In all he wrote over 40 radio and television plays and twelve children's books including the Vampire series of titles.

If anyone has any more information on Valerie's life and career, please do get in touch!



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

Robin Askwith Takes to Twitter - for one day only!

 

Excellent news - the legend that is Mr Robin Askwith will be taking to Twitter next Sunday, 1 October! To be quite honest with you, anything could happen! Robin, never shy of speaking out or telling a few tales, will take the reigns of the lovely Tracy Crocker's account for just one day only.

Many on Twitter have been campaigning for Robin to launch his own Twitter account however after speaking to him earlier in the year, it's clear he's a bit cagey of signing up for real. Despite this, Tracy has been doing a sterling job of posting some classic and little seen photos from Robin's life and career and it's clear he still has a big fan base out there. Robin has had a long, varied and successful career on film, television and on stage with hits including the film of Bless This House, Carry On Girls, If, Britannia Hospital and of course the Confessions films. On television we've also seen him in Benidorm, Coronation Street and Casualty among many others.

And don't forget Robin will be back in the UK for a special one man show at the Phoenix Artist Club on Tuesday 10 October. You can find out more about that here

Also, you can check out my interview with the man himself here and here 

So give Tracy Crocker a follow on Twitter and watch out for Robin's social media take over next Sunday! It's bound to be a right Carry On!

 



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

Anita's Last Laugh in Vegas!

A new ITV series will follow a group of showbiz legends prepare for the gig of a lifetime in Las Vegas. And there are a couple of Carry On connections involved!

What happens when a group of British showbiz legends are let loose in Sin City? . . . ITV is about to find out in a brand new five-part series for 2018 called Last Laugh In Vegas.

Some of the most famous names from comedy, music and variety from the 60s, 70s and 80s are to be given one last shot at putting on their dream gig in the variety capital of the world.  The theatre is booked for one night only and eight acts will be given the chance to fulfil the dream they thought had long gone and put on a spectacular variety performance at one of the iconic venues in Las Vegas.

The eight showbiz legends are comedy double act Cannon & Ball, entertainer Bernie Clifton, comedian Mick Miller, pianist and entertainer Bobby Crush, singer Kenny Lynch, 60’s pop idol Jess Conrad OBE, actress and singer Anita Harris and actress, singer and comedienne Su Pollard.

Anita Harris is best known to Carry On fans for her two appearances in the series back in the mid 1960s. She played the featured role of Cork Tip in the 1967 film Follow That Camel and later the same year played Nurse Clark in the classic Carry On Doctor. Singer Kenny Lynch made a cameo appearance as a bus conductor in the 1970 film Carry On Loving and also sang the title track, Love Crazy, for the 1978 film Carry On Emmannuelle. 


Cameras will follow these stars from their departure from their homes in the UK to the moment they step onto the stage in Vegas.  They’ll live in a house together, enjoy and explore the Vegas Strip and rehearse and reminisce together to deliver a show that they'll all be proud of.   

Viewers will also be treated to a unique insight into the legends' vast and varied careers as they look back and talk firsthand about their incredible stories.  

The culmination will be an hour long special of their variety performance in Vegas.

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

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Fenella's Memoirs at the Homotopia Festival!

 

Fenella Fielding is best known for her 1960s film appearances in classic comedies including ‘Carry On Screaming’, ‘Doctor in Clover’ and ‘Carry On Regardless’. For the past year she has been playing a series of live shows, reading extracts from her audio book of memoirs and now that show is heading for Liverpool's Homotopia Festival. 

 

She was the voice of the Blue Queen in ‘Dougal and the Blue Cat’ and the telephone operator and loudspeaker voice in ‘The Prisoner’. Her illustrious career in theatre includes the title roles in ‘Hedda Gabler’ and ‘Colette’. She’s fondly remembered for a number of appearances on the ‘Morecambe & Wise Show’ as well as playing The Vixen in ‘Uncle Jack’. Her most recent TV appearance was ‘Skins’ in 2012.

Fenella will be reading excerpts from her recently released audio book of memoirs ‘Do You Mind If I Smoke?’ They are very personal stories about innocence, early struggles, professional jealousies and intriguingly a chapter about London tarts and gangsters. The stories are witty, warm and beautifully observed scenes from an extraordinary life – expressing great warmth for the characters encountered… and all told in that unmistakable, ever alluring Fenella Fielding voice.

The evening will include a short Q&A with Fenella hosted by Simon McKay, co-author of the book and a personal friend of Fenella. Afterwards, there’s a chance to meet Fenella and buy a signed copy of the book.
  
Homotopia launched in 2004 and is a Liverpool based arts & social justice organisation making art, interventions and participation that inspires and unites communities. Every November it presents an annual festival of local, national and international LGBT+ arts & culture featuring an eclectic programme including theatrical world premieres, contemporary dance, visual art, debate, youth & community participation, heritage & film.

Fenella will be at Homotopia on Saturday 4 November. Her memoirs show will be at Liverpool's Unity Theatre and will start at 7.30pm. You can buy tickets here and you can find out more about Homotopia here

 

And you can read my review of one of Fenella's fantastic memoir shows at the Phoenix Artist Club here

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

An Audience with Madeline Smith at the Underground Theatre!

 

The Underground Theatre is proud and honoured to welcome actress Madeline Smith to our theatre today, where she’ll be in conversation with the UGT’s own film buff Chris Leach, talking about her life and career on Sunday 5 November.

In, no doubt, a very packed and upbeat one hour, Madeline will share  the adventure of her life on film with us… a life that has seen her work with so many of the greats – such as Roger Moore (in his first James Bond film), Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Frankie Howerd and even The Two Ronnies.

Following this one hour conversation, there will be a half-hour break for refreshments, then Chris will introduce the film for the afternoon, The Amazing Mr Blunden, which stars Madeline in a key role. This enchanting ghost story is director Lionel Jeffries follow up to his classic and much loved ‘The Railway Children’, and is cherished just as much by many.
With a cast including Laurence Naismith, Diana Dors, David Lodge, James Villiers and Lynne Frederick, the film also stars Madeleine Smith as Bella.

This ‘audience with’ starts at 2.30pm with the venue opening at 2pm.

Admission is free to holders of tickets for the Sunday Cinema film following this – The Amazing Mr Blunden. (£5 including tea and cakes).  No admission without a ticket.

 

Seating is limited, so please buy your ticket to the film early to avoid disappointment.

You can buy tickets for this event via the Underground Theatre Website 

And you can read my interview with the fabulous Maddie Smith here

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

Live in Colour with Art & Hue's new TV pop art prints


 

In 1967, the colour was switched on for the first time in Great Britain, literally and metaphorically.


The BBC broadcast the first colour pictures in July 1967 before BBC 2 started broadcasting in full colour from December of the same year.

Additionally, society at large, and the British cultural landscape, seemed more colourful when homosexuality was decriminalised on the July 27th 1967.


Referencing the colourful progress in Great Britain 50 years ago, Art & Hue has created a group of four pop art prints to add style to the iconic rainbow as well as a contemporary take on retro television for your walls.




Available in three sizes and 28 colour options, choose from Rainbow, Pastel Rainbow (a delicate ice-cream palette), RGB (the three colours of the vintage TV screen spectrum), CMYK (the colours of printing), as well as 24 other colour choices.

Exclusively by Art & Hue, all pop art prints are printed on museum-quality archival card of 310gsm, made from 100% cotton, using fine art pigment inks which last hundreds of years.
 


Visit www.artandhue.com/tv to see the full collection of pop art prints.


 




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

Carry On Guest Blogging!



Earlier last year I wrote a guest blog for the wonderful History Usherette Blog which is run by @agathadascoyne . I wrote about the social history of the Carry Ons, comparing Carry On Cruising with Carry On Abroad, highlighting how Britain had changed over that ten year period. This experience got me thinking.

I have really enjoyed hearing from those of you who have submitted answers to my Carry On Fan of the Week blog series. I love interacting with fellow Carry On fans - if you want to take part in that, please do get in touch via carryonfan15@gmail.com. I want to open this idea up further now, though. 

If there are any keen bloggers out there who would like to try their hand at writing a guest blog for Carry On Blogging, do get in touch. It can be about anything, as long as it has a Carry On connection. Perhaps you could write about how you first discovered the Carry Ons or who your favourite actor is and why? Anything really that takes your fancy. All you need to do is get writing and email the results to carryonfan15@gmail.com.

Carry On Scribbling!


You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Whatever Happened to Anna Karen?


I'm continuing my occasional series of blogs on some of the lesser known stars of Carry On today by looking at the life and career of an instantly recognisable actress. Anna Karen may only have played very small roles in two Carry Ons, but she's had a long career in television and film and holds a very strong Carry On connection to this day - namely her best friend, a certain Miss Barbara Windsor.

Anna first appeared in the Carry On films in October 1968 when, at the age of 32 she played one of the girls at Chayste Place Finishing School in Carry On Camping. Although featured throughout the film, Anna has little if any dialogue however her role is often remembered for the legendary cat fight in the school between her character and Babs, played by none other than Barbara Windsor. One can only imagine the fun Anna and Barbara had on location with the likes of Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey and Hattie Jacques in toe!


Anna returned to Pinewood Studios to work for Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas two years later when she cropped up in the final scenes of Carry On Loving. This dating agency comedy, very much a follow up and tribute to the earlier classic black and white Carry On Regardless, sees Sid James and Hattie Jacques run a rather hit and miss matrimonial agency. The climatic farcical wedding banquet scene at the end sees the action descend into a cake fight with the best the Pinewood canteen could provide flying everywhere. Anna pops up as a disgruntled new wife, partnered with the legendary farceur Lauri Lupino Lane. Another pretty wordless role, poor Anna suffers for her art with a jelly down the front of her decolletage. 

Of course Anna did go on to bigger and better things. These days she is known for two roles on the small screen in particular. In 1969 she found lasting fame as Olive, the put upon, rather dowdy, bespectacled sister of Stan and wife of Arthur in the LWT sitcom On The Buses. Starring alongside Reg Varney, Stephen Lewis, Doris Hare, Michael Robbins and Bob Grant, this bus garage comedy ran until 1973 and proved to be a huge success in the ratings. It also led to three spin-off films, all featuring the same cast and made at Elstree Studios. The first was On The Buses in 1971, followed by Mutiny On The Buses in 1972 and finally Holiday on the Buses the following year. All very much followed the same story arc and featured similar situations. I must admit that although I recognise their lasting popularity, this series and the films they spawned are probably amongst my least favourite of their genre. 

Anna's other best-remembered television role came over two decades after On The Buses. In 1996 she was reunited with Carry On co-star and long-time friend Barbara Windsor when she joined the cast of EastEnders to play Aunt Sal, sister to Windsor's character Peggy. Although never a regular character, Anna has continued to appear in the BBC soap opera over the years, mainly at big events such as weddings and funerals. I always appreciate such continuity in programmes like EastEnders and the chemistry between Karen and Windsor made for some very believable scenes. Anna last appeared in the show when Sal attended Peggy Mitchell's funeral in 2016 after Barbara decided to bow out of the role. 

Anna would work for Ronald Chesney and Ronald Wolfe, the writers of On The Buses, on two further television projects during her career. The first of these was a short-lived period variation on The Rag Trade called Wild, Wild Women. Set in 1902, it featured a very similar set up to the earlier comedy series and starred Barbara Windsor, Pat Coombs and Joan Sanderson. Sadly it only made it to one series as it failed to ignite the interest of viewers. Nearly a decade later when Chesney and Wolfe were asked to bring back their earlier hit The Rag Trade, this time for LWT, they called upon the services of Anna Karen once again. Running between 1977 and 1978, the updated show saw original stars Peter Jones and Miriam Karlin reprise their roles as Harold Fenner and Paddy Fleming with new additions including future EastEnders actress Gillian Taylforth and Carry On England star Diane Langton. Anna played Olive Rudge, her character from On The Buses!


Anna Karen was actually born Ana Caren Krege in South Africa in September 1936. Apparently, one of her first jobs in the profession after arriving in London was as a strip tease artist and dancer in the Panama Club in the capital's West End. By the mid 1960s she had broken into the world of film with appearances in the likes of The Sandwich Man (1966), Ken Loach's Poor Cow (with Carol White) in 1967, the sex comedy What's Up Nurse (1978) and more recently as Marlene in the 1996 film Beautiful Thing. On television, other roles have included appearances in Dixon of Dock Green, And Mother Makes Five, The Dick Emery Show, The Kenneth Williams Show, Super Gran and Roland Rat: The Series! 

Living in Essex for most of her life, Anna was married to the actor and comedian Terry Duggan from 1967 until his death in 2008. As well as continuing with occasional appearances in television and on film, Anna has also taught drama at an arts academy in Hornchurch, Essex. Despite some ill health in recent years, Anna still pops up in documentaries and chat shows, most recently seen in Channel 5's tribute to Dame Barbara Windsor as the star turned 80. 


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

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Connor Carries On ... as Bernie Bishop

Next June will mark Kenneth Connor's centenary. This feels like the right time to celebrate the man's legacy and what better a legacy that his seventeen glorious performances in the Carry On films. As I've already done with the three main leading ladies of the series, I plan to embark on a series of blogs profiling each of Kenneth's roles in the Carry Ons, giving my own take on his contributions.

Kenneth is another one of those actors who worked steadily, prolifically and across all mediums throughout his career. From his very early days in film before the outbreak of World War Two, through the 1950s which saw him become an integral part of British radio comedy to the Carry Ons and his unforgettable roles in several 1980s sitcoms, Connor was an incredibly gifted actor. He worked right up until his death at the age of 75 in November 1993. However unlike Sid, Kenneth Williams or Barbara Windsor, I feel that Connor never really got the credit he deserved. He didn't have an outrageous private life, no scandals to be told. He shunned the limelight and his many performances as the ordinary man in the street mirrored his own life away from the cameras. 


Kenneth was also one of the precious few actors who's career spanned pretty much the entire run of the Carry Ons. He was there at the very beginning in Carry On Sergeant and, a five year gap in the mind 1960s aside, remained loyal to the films until the very end of the original run in 1978. Connor, along with Williams and Eric Barker were the only actors to appear in the very first and the very last of the series. Kenneth was still around when Columbus was made in 1992 but declined to take part, probably very wisely. This new series of blogs will be a celebration of all those wonderful comedy performances in the Carry Ons - from bumbling romantic lead through to crumbling character parts, Kenneth could play them all.

So let's continue with Kenneth's second role in the series, as injured boxer Bernie Bishop in the hit film of 1959, Carry On Nurse. After the surprise success of Carry On Sergeant earlier in 1958, Peter Rogers seized on the opportunity of a follow up and set writer Norman Hudis the task of coming up with a medical comedy, tackling another great British institution - the National Health Service. Fortunately Norman's wife Rita was a nurse so he had plenty of real life experience to help make Nurse the biggest hit of the year and also a massive success in the United States. Rogers was clearly beginning to form a team for a series of films as Nurse sees the return of several key faces who not only contributed to Sergeant's success but would also go on to be series regulars for decades. As well as popular actors Shirley Eaton, Terence Longdon and Bill Owen, Nurse saw the return of Kenneths Williams and Connor, Charles Hawtrey and Hattie Jacques. Other new faces included the important additions of Joan Sims and Leslie Phillips.


As with Sergeant earlier that year, Connor proves to be the star of Carry On Nurse, at least for me. Bernie Bishop, arriving in hospital with a broken hand after a boxing match, is the film's every man. Although there are lapses into the funny voices that made him such a vital part of Ted Ray's radio gang and there is a fair amount of bumbling and farce, Connor also proves himself as a straight actor in several scenes which tug at the heart strings. Norman Hudis always added a grounded reality and a touch of social realism to his scripts and in Kenneth Connor, he found a way to contrast the daft antics of Leslie Phillips, Joan Sims and Charles Hawtrey. Resisting treatment and determined not to stay in a hospital "full of sick people" Connor's Bishop is quickly taken in hand both by his straight-talking wife and the hospital nurses and very wisely gives up on his second fight of the night!

Connor shares a few brief but satisfying scenes with Susan Shaw as his wife Jane. Shaw had been a rising star in the British film industry however by the time she appeared in this, her one and only Carry On, her fame was on the wane and a sad future lay ahead. Susan is great in Nurse and forms a believable and touching on screen partnership with Kenneth that leaves the audience wanting more. Kenneth also interacts beautifully with several other male patients on the ward, most noticeably in his chalk and cheese relationship with the snobbish, snotty intellectual Oliver Reckitt played by Kenneth Williams. A solid friendship and mutual respect was formed between these two actors and it's clear they enjoyed sparring together on screen.


Kenneth also features in one of my favourite scenes in Carry On Nurse. No, not the laughing gas sequence although that is pretty great. Michael Medwin and Norman Rossington both provide brilliant cameos as Bernie's boxing manager Ginge and the rather slow-witted fellow boxer Norm. The scene during visiting time sees Medwin try and teach Connor's Bernie a few sly tricks of the trade with the help of dim Norm with calamitous results! Full marks to Norman Rossington for winning all the prizes here when he has very little to say or do. Classic stuff. The mix of shy reluctance and masculine phwoar-ing from Connor is a joy to behold in Nurse. He goes from deep, caring and sensitive husband to shy patient as Nurse Susan Stephen 'reaches the bottom' of things during a blanket bath. That doesn't stop him Cor-ing away as Stephen steps up on a chair next to his bed to open a window. Typical Carry On stuff but quite tame compared to what would follow in the years to come.

Kenneth plays well as part of the gang of male patients which includes Williams, Cyril Chamberlain, Terence Longdon, Bill Owen, Leslie Phillips and Charles Hawtrey, already the loner on the fringes of the action. Bernie plays an active part in the climatic hospital operating scene towards the end of the film and Connor's gift for comic timing comes to the fore. Leslie's upper class twit of a character (Ding dong, you're not wrong!) is anxious to have his bunion removed so he can escape for a weekend of forbidden fruit with girlfriend Meg (Dame June Whitfield no less). Under the guidance of Williams, the gang decide rather drunkenly to get rid of Leslie's bunion once and for all! However, unfortunately the laughing gas in the theatre gets the better of them. Kenneth Connor's delightful giggles steal the show and the entire scene is a joy and an early example of Carry On humour at its very best.


Finally special mention to the delightful cameo from Jeremy Connor, Kenneth's very own son at the end of the film. When Bernie Bishop is discharged, wife Jane and son Jeremy (what a coincidence) turn up to take him home. As Kenneth greets his son, there is an unscheduled slap to the face from young Jeremy which clearly takes Kenneth by surprise but Gerald Thomas wisely left in the final print! As the family strolls off down the corridor, it brings Kenneth's beautifully played performance in Carry On Nurse to a satisfying conclusion.

Next up will be my blog on Kenneth's return to the world of Carry On in 1959 when he played bumbling, lovable science teacher Gregory Adams in Carry On Teacher. Stay tuned for that! 


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

Monday, 25 September 2017

Up Front with Valerie Leon!

 

The ever-glamorous icon of the 70s, Valerie Leon makes her Live At Z├ędel debut this Autumn.

During her career, Leon has been associated with three British film series that have all become cults - Bond, Carry On and Hammer Horror - and was the face of one of the most successful advertising campaigns in British history; the Hai Karate series.

She appeared in six Carry Ons, two Bond films - The Spy Who Loved Me with Roger Moore and Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery - and had a dual starring role in Blood from the Mummy's Tomb.

Leon worked with Michael Caine in the original The Italian Job, Richard Harris and Richard Burton in The Wild Geese and took whipping lessons to prepare for her role as Tanya the Lotus Eater in Revenge of the Pink Panther with Peter Sellers.

Leon made her West End debut in Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand at London's Prince Of Wales Theatre.

This presentation is about her life and work during the golden age of film and television, and is illustrated with vintage material from her association with some of the 70s classics.

"Leon gave us an insight to her long and varied career... and we realised why she still tops the bill as one of the UK's most glamorous and articulate thespians" - Encore Magazine

Valerie will also be available for autographs after the show.

 

You can find out more and buy tickets for the event here

Up Front with Valerie Leon will be at Brasserie Zedel on Thursday 9 November from 7pm.

Please also visit http://www.valerieleon.com/ for more information on Valerie's career and her upcoming public appearances. You can also follow Valerie on Twitter @thevalerieleon

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

Robin Askwith Takes to Twitter - for one day only!

 

Excellent news - the legend that is Mr Robin Askwith will be taking to Twitter next Sunday, 1 October! To be quite honest with you, anything could happen! Robin, never shy of speaking out or telling a few tales, will take the reigns of the lovely Tracy Crocker's account for just one day only.

Many on Twitter have been campaigning for Robin to launch his own Twitter account however after speaking to him earlier in the year, it's clear he's a bit cagey of signing up for real. Despite this, Tracy has been doing a sterling job of posting some classic and little seen photos from Robin's life and career and it's clear he still has a big fan base out there. Robin has had a long, varied and successful career on film, television and on stage with hits including the film of Bless This House, Carry On Girls, If, Britannia Hospital and of course the Confessions films. On television we've also seen him in Benidorm, Coronation Street and Casualty among many others.

And don't forget Robin will be back in the UK for a special one man show at the Phoenix Artist Club on Tuesday 10 October. You can find out more about that here

Also, you can check out my interview with the man himself here and here 

So give Tracy Crocker a follow on Twitter and watch out for Robin's social media take over next Sunday! It's bound to be a right Carry On!

 



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

A Celebration of Iconic 1960s & 1970s Television at Elstree Studios

 

Last night my Dad and I travelled to Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire for a very special, nostalgic evening. As a culmination of Elstree's 90th anniversary celebrations, the studios were raising a glass to some of the most iconic television series ever made in this country - all produced at Elstree. The 1960s and 1970s were a high point in British telly and everything from The Avengers and The Saint to Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Jason King was made at those fabulous studios in Borehamwood.

The evening out was a treat for my Dad who has recently celebrated his birthday. I joked that it was all for him as he was the one old enough to talk fondly of watching John Gregson in Gideon's Way but as it turned out I knew as much about the series being celebrated as he did. As we took our seats in Stage 9, home to many a classic Elstree production, the 400 strong audience was treated to the sight of the original Volvo driven by the late, great Sir Roger Moore in The Saint. The stuff of boyhood dreams! 

Giles Watling, Valerie Leon, William Gaunt & Morris Bright
Our host for the evening was the wonderful Elstree chairman and friend to this blog, Morris Bright. Morris began by introducing a superb montage of clips from some of the very best shows made at the studios before he talked a little about each of the very special guests joining us for the evening. As each actor took their moment in the spotlight I got goosebumps as each and every one of them has played an important part in all our lives over the years. We were joined by the likes of Norman Eshley, William Gaunt, Aimi MacDonald, Derek Fowlds, Peggy Cummins, Derren Nesbitt, Jack Smethurst and Dave Prowse. Flying the Carry On flag were two of my favourites - the lovely Valerie Leon and Angela Douglas. Both Valerie and Angela appeared in many classic series made at Elstree over the years and it was fantastic to hear from them. And guest of honour was one of my all time favourite actresses, Mrs Emma Peel herself, Dame Diana Rigg.

Derren Nesbitt, Angela Douglas, Norman Eshley & Morris Bright
We were treated to two panel discussions, both led by Morris and featuring comments from Valerie, Angela, Derren Nesbitt, William Gaunt, Giles Watling and Norman Eshley. Valerie delighted the audience by producing her contracts from various shows made at Elstree to prove how little actors were paid when they guested on shows back in the 1960s! It was lovely to hear these great actors reminisce about life as an actor in those heady days and how much working at Elstree had meant to them. We were then treated to a special interview Sir Roger Moore gave before he very sadly passed away earlier this year. It had never been screened before and it was a joy to hear him once again. It was obvious, both from the interview and comments from those present, just how fond Roger was of Elstree Studios and all the people who worked there over the years. 

Famous faces on the stage and in the audience shared their memories of working with Sir Roger and some (particularly those from Derren Nesbitt and Jack Smethurst) were absolutely hilarious and perhaps unprintable! What came across though was how genuine the affection was for Roger and what a lovely, kind man he had been, regardless of his fame and success. 

Guest of honour Dame Diana Rigg with Morris Bright
Morris then introduced a montage of clips showing Emma Peel at her very best in The Avengers before ushering the evening's guest of honour, Dame Diana Rigg, onto the stage. Dame Diana was everything you could have wished for. Warm, witty and razor sharp with her memories of working at Elstree on The Avengers. Most touching was her fondness and gratitude for her late co-star Patrick Macnee. The two actors had delicious chemistry together as Steed and Emma and it was lovely to hear they got on so well off screen as well as on. 

Despite her huge success on stage and screen since The Avengers first catapulted her to world-wide fame, Diana was still humble and extremely grateful for the chances working on The Avengers provided and the people it enabled her to work with. She quite rightly said that Britain has the best television in the world and the best character actors in the world and I completely agree with her. A rare public appearance for one of our finest living actors and I'm so glad she came as she seemed really touched when Morris presented her with a special edition of the book on the history of Elstree Studios. The evening was given extra significance when it was revealed that some of The Avengers was actually shot on Stage 9 where we so enjoyed the evening.

The BBC Elstree Concert Band give us the theme from The Avengers

After a brief intermission, the BBC Elstree Concert Band took to the stage to entertain us with renditions of themes from some classic Elstree productions. Each piece was introduced by Elstree's historian, Paul Welsh MBE who proved to be one of the highlights of the evening. His comments throughout were hilarious and at times outrageous!! The band played themes from The Pathfinders, On the Buses, The Third Man (the television series was made at Elstree), The Muppets, Superman, The Saint and my own two favourites of the night - The Avengers and the 1974 film of Murder On The Orient Express. Paul revealed that he had met Agatha Christie around the time the film was made and that the famous author had thought long and hard about giving the go ahead for the film to be made. Apparently she had been less than keen on the previous adaptations filmed with Dame Margaret Rutherford!

We had the best time at Elstree last night. It was an evening put together with care and affection and was full of nostalgia. We were hugely entertained for three hours by some of our heroes from the very best of British television and film and the memories will stay with us for a long time to come. Many thanks to everyone at Elstree for organising such a smashing event and special thanks to both Morris Bright and Paul Welsh for being such terrific, welcoming hosts. 

 



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