Wednesday 1 April 2015

Carry On Reading!

A big part of the Carry On phenomenon for me has always been the publications that celebrate the series and inform fans of the films both how they were made and who made them. 

Fans of the series tend to be divided into casual viewers and obsessives who must know everything there is to know about everyone involved! I have the kind of brain that soaks up random facts and figures about particular interests so I love finding out weird and unusual facts about the Carry On stars, quirky stories about filming and where that filming took place. 

One of the first CarryOn books I ever read was the brilliant Carry On Companion back in the late 1990s. Written by Robert Ross, an authority on so many aspects of not only the Carry Ons but all aspects of British comedy, it is a delight to read and offers a very personal view on the films, the authors likes and dislikes. I loved it and it formed the basis of my passion for all things Carry On. I remember writing to Robert to tell him how much I enjoyed his book and amazingly he replied, sending me a really friendly note. 

I've also read and enjoyed Carry On Confidential, written by Andy Davidson. A thorough trot through our favourite comedy films, Andy's love for the series and the actors is clear from his terrific book. Apart from books written about the series, I've also really enjoyed reading numerous books published by some of the actors themselves.

One of my absolute favourite memoirs is It's Not A Rehearsal, written by Carry On and former Coronation Street star Amanda Barrie. I loved Amanda in both series so reading her life story was a must. It's a rollicking good read, covering her association with the Carry Ons and her friendship with Sid James on the set of Carry On Cleo. It also chronicled her spiky relationship with that one off, Kenneth Williams. It's a really well written account of a colourful life, well lived.

Joan Sims' autobiography High Spirits was published in 2000, sadly all too near to the end of her life. This was an absolute joy for me as Joan remains one of my very favourite actresses. While it was great to learn of Joan's life and career it did feel a bit rushed in certain places, perhaps due to her health at the time. What struck me above all else was how vulnerable and unaware of just what a tremendous talent she had. A great shame that just as her career picked up again she was sadly lost to us all.

Joan's great friend, the actress Liz Fraser, published her autobiography, Liz Fraser And Other Characters, back in 2012. I thoroughly enjoyed Liz's book, it was very authentic, honest and didn't pull any punches, a bit like the great lady herself! Liz has had a wonderful career in British film and television and she tells her tale with enormous relish. 

Finally, although not published by the actor himself, Kenneth Williams infamous diaries are essential reading. I first picked up a copy in an airport before I went off on holiday many years ago. I devoured it. It is a superb read and a rare occurrence of a public figure's life captured from teenage years, through fame and out the other side. Often witty, sometimes infuriating and inflammatory it is imbued throughout with a desperate human vulnerability and a one off who never quite fitted in. It's a book I've returned to again and again, always taking something new from it. Highly recommended.

So those are my favourite books on a Carry On theme. What are yours?

Carry On Reading!

The Carry On Companion (and other books by Robert Ross) can be bought here

Andy Davidson's Carry On Confidential can be bought here 

Copies of Joan Sims' autobiography are still available here 

Liz Fraser's autobiography can be purchased here 

Amanda Barrie's autobiography can be purchased here

The Kenneth Williams Diaries are available here 

And of course if you don't like shopping on the internet, most of the above can be found by having a good old rummage in your local book shop.

Follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and @GraemeN82 

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