Wednesday 21 March 2018

Carry On Blogging Interview: Patricia Franklin (Part 2)


It was an absolute joy to ring up the actress Patricia Franklin for a good old natter yesterday afternoon. Patricia will be familiar to Carry On fans for her appearances in five films in the series between 1968 and 1976 as well as the big screen version of Bless This House. I wanted to find out more about Patricia's time making the films but also a whole lot more about her acting career. 

I published Part One of our interview yesterday and you can read that here

I wanted to ask you about your role in Carry On Loving. You filmed a scene with Bill Maynard (as Mr and Mrs Dreery) with Kenneth Williams. What are your memories of that?

I remember we went through the scene and both Gerald Thomas and Kenneth kept saying "more, more!" make it coarser! So I did! I'd just been at the Royal Court doing a very controversial play called Saved by Edward Bond and they all knew about it as it had been in the papers. I remember Kenneth saying to me "We don't want any of your Royal Court naturalism round 'ere!" He was lovely to me. I remember being with Joan Sims in Barbara Windsor's dressing room during the making of Carry On Camping and Kenneth was walking up and down the corridor outside. I asked Joan to introduce me and she said "I won't darling as I don't know how he's going to be. He knows who you are and he'll be in here in a minute." Sure enough, a few minutes later he was in the dressing room saying "Who is she then?"


After we had filmed the scene for Loving I was going off to lunch with Bill Maynard and his son who had come to the studios and suddenly Kenneth appeared and took me by the arm. I told him I was going to lunch and he said "Noooo, come with us!" So I ended up at the big Carry On table at Pinewood with the rest of the main team, sitting next to Kenneth. I think he quite took to me! At lunch other actors who were in the restaurant came over to join in the fun - people like Roger Moore and Kenneth More and his wife Angela Douglas. It was great.

I always remember Kenneth taking Gerald to one side after that scene in Loving and saying to him "She reminds me of Mags!" - what a compliment to be compared to his great friend Maggie Smith!

In 1973 you worked on Carry On Girls with June Whitfield and Patsy Rowlands. Was that fun to do and what were they like to work with?

Oh June was just gorgeous. A gorgeous woman, such a good actress and she had beautiful skin and eyes. A stunning lady. She was also so jolly and good fun and I think that came out in the performance. I remember she lived in Wimbledon at the time and she used to give me a lift each day after filming as she could drop me off on the way. My daughter has recently given me a copy of June's autobiography and I'm reading it at the moment. I'll always remember the bra burning scene with June and Patsy. We all just screamed with laughter, such good fun to do.


Patsy was a wonderful actress and such a nice woman. So very talented. I think she was adored really. I remember seeing her in the West End in a period piece with Fenella Fielding and they were both so good. I think I really aspired to Patsy's style of acting. At one time Patsy and I had made plans to get the rights to This Happy Breed and do a theatre production with Patsy playing the grandma and me in the Celia Johnson role but it didn't work out in the end. She was a brilliant actress. I've since met Patsy's son and he was lovely too.

I wanted to ask you a bit more about your theatre career as I don't think many Carry On fans will know a lot about it. What have been some of your favourite parts?

I've been so lucky with the roles I've had in the theatre. I spent about four years as part of the company at the National Theatre. I've worked with directors like Peter Gill, Richard Eyre and David Hare. I did a season of Edward Bond plays at the Royal Court which was quite something as I was pretty much fresh out of RADA. Saved, as I've already mentioned, was very controversial as it involved the stoning to death of a baby in its pram. They had to do a special Sunday night performance in the Royal Court's theatre club and the Lord Chamberlain came to see it. It made so many headlines and people were quite against it but all the big theatre names came round to see us afterwards to congratulate us - actors like Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud. Extraordinary. I was in the Bond season with actors like Nigel Hawthorne and Kenneth Cranham.


I worked with Nigel Hawthorne again in a play called The Ruling Class. I also did Pravda at the National which starred Anthony Hopkins who was great to work with. Another production I remember very clearly was The Government Inspector which starred Rik Mayall. When I was at the National all the big names were there - people like Anthony Hopkins and Judi Dench and everyone was always so kind and lovely to be with. Albert Finney was another great actor I met but sadly never got to work with. He'd been at RADA a few years before me and was part of the new wave of working class actors at the time. I remember seeing him do Billy Liar in the theatre and it was quite a funny story.

Go on...

Well when I had decided I wanted to go to RADA I remember getting my father to watch a programme on television called Face to Face and Finney and Tom Courtenay were on it. I think that clinched it. Anyway, I went to see Finney in Billy Liar and I wanted to get his autograph after the show. My father had said I had to be home by 11 and the show didn't finish until about 10.15 so I couldn't afford to wait outside the stage door. It was the last performance and I really wanted to meet him, so I went to the stage door and told the man it was Miss Patricia Franklin to see Mr Albert Finney. Albert appeared at the top of the stairs in a towel and obviously thought I was part of the crowd attending the post-show party! I quickly told him that I wasn't, I just wanted his autograph on my programme and I couldn't wait as my dad would be cross if I was late home!

I told him I wanted to go to RADA and he said he recommended it and hoped we'd meet again one day in the profession. Well years later, my best friend was going out with the actor Brian Cox and every year they would throw a big party of New Year's Eve. Albert was there and I sat next to him and told him the story of that night at the stage door! Sadly I've not managed to work with him. I still can't believe I had the gall to do that that night!


Going back to Carry On - you appeared in two of the later films in the series, Behind and England. You teamed up with Liz Fraser in Behind. What was she like?

Oh she was lovely and I was in awe again as she'd had such a great career. She had worked with people like Irene Handl (who I adore) and Margaret Rutherford. I remember when we were making Behind Liz got cross with me as we'd both recently filmed separate episodes of a television anthology drama series, all written by different people. She was cross as my episode was getting much more publicity than hers but I think it was down to be being written by Dennis Potter, rather than who was in it!

I remember the day we filmed the scene outside the butcher's shop. It was 24 March, my father's birthday, and it started snowing! We waited for Marks and Spencer to open so the dresser could go and buy cardigans for us to wear! Then we carried on filming. I met Liz at one of the convention signings a few years back and recalled that filming and she said "Oh I can't remember any of that!" but she's a sharp cookie and hasn't changed!

Carry On England, I think I just had one line as a cook. I think there was more dialogue but it got cut for some reason. I know a lot of people weren't too keen on the material as they thought it went a bit far and I wasn't going to do it but Gerald convinced me and we still had fun that day. I think my one line was probably the best one in the film!


If you had to pick from all the roles you've played on stage and screen which has been your favourite and why?

I would probably choose Saved, the Edward Bond play as it made a huge impact and meant a lot. I also loved doing a play called The Garden of England. It was all about the Miners' Strike and was made of of testimony from women who went through it all. The interviews were focussed on before, during and after the strike and it was very powerful to speak those words. Maggie Steed played the interviewer. It was a wonderful piece to be a part of. 

Finally, why do you think the Carry On films are still so popular after all these years?

Well I think they are very good clean fun really! They can be quite witty and some of the scripts were very good but most of all they featured some terrific actors and Gerald was a master director. He knew exactly what he wanted. I remember it as a hive of creativity - everyone knew what they were doing and those actors were at the top of their game. I was doing quite a serious German play in the theatre once and one of company came to me one day and said, "What are you doing in the Carry Ons!?" He'd been watching one on the television with his young son and I had appeared. He couldn't believe it! I loved them and I was very grateful for the range of different parts I was given to play in them.

I'd like to thank Patricia for agreeing to the interview. And also many thanks to Sarah at Beresford Management and to the lovely Andrew Lynford for helping to set it all up!

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

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