Friday 10 April 2015

My Top Ten Carry On Films: Number 7!

I'm going to attempt to figure out what my absolute favourite Carry On films of all time are and I will be publishing the results on this blog. This is going to be a hard task for me as I love so many of these films that my favourites change on a regular basis. There will be a few I can immediately discount, none of which will be much of a surprise I'm sure. Others will be more difficult to choose between.

What I intend to do is come up with my top ten Carry Ons and reveal them blog by blog until I get to my all time number one. I'll make it clear that this is just down to my own personal choice and mainly due to personal feelings or memories attached to particular films. It should be an interesting project and I hope that as I go through them you will all feel free to comment and agree/disagree as you see fit! 

In at number 7 in my all time favourites is Carry On ... Don't Lose Your Head

Don't Lose Your Head was made during a transition period for the Carry Ons. From 1958 until 1966 the films were released through Anglo Amalgamated. However by early '66 that relationship was coming to an end. Peter Rogers moved the franchise to Rank, who although happy to have the films were also nervous as the Carry On name was heavily linked to another distributor. Therefore the next two films, Don't Lose Your Head and Follow That Camel came out without the familiar Carry On in the title.

I love Don't Lose Your Head. It's basically a send up of the Scarlet Pimpernel and a thoroughly energetic romp it is too. I think Carry On films always look good in period costume and there's a lot of that on display here. There are also some very grand locations used, most notably Cliveden and Waddesdon Manor, both in Buckinghamshire. So grand, but not far to travel. Business as usual for Peter Rogers then!

Don't Lose Your Head features a compact but prime cast of Carry On regulars. At the heart of the film, and why I love it so much, are two double acts. Sid James and Jim Dale are the team the audience are rooting for. They play Sir Rodney Ffing (with two fs) and Lord Darcy Pue, two English gents who decide to come to the aid of their French friends facing the guillotine. 

Sid is widely known throughout the film as The Black Finger Nail, due to his calling card! I love how Sid and Jim play it posh and effete for the first few scenes of the film before quickly dropping the facade and springing into life. Both actors also take on numerous other roles throughout the film, mainly disguises.

We see them as coachmen, Sid as an insurance salesman, Jim selling toys by the guillotine (with fully detachable heads!) and both dragging up as old crones knitting in the audience as the guillotine falls. I particularly love Sid's dragged up "Citizen Miss" opposite Kenneth Williams, although apparently Sid hated drag!

The other double act, the baddies of the piece, are Kenneth Williams and the glorious Peter Butterworth playing Citizens Camembert (The Big Cheese!) and Bidet. They bicker and snipe at each other like the Carry Ons very own Laurel and Hardy. Brilliant performances from both actors and great to see Butterworth get a starring role. Peter has excellent comic timing throughout and the ability to spot the opportunity for a visual gag a mile off. Lovely stuff. 

Charles Hawtrey pops up in a terrific role as the foppish Duc de Pommfrit, rescued from the guillotine by Sir Rodney, just in the nick! Hawtrey has some great scenes in the film, camping about with impish glee and obviously have a whale of a time. The French actress Dany Robin also appears as Sid's love interest. Robin is pretty effective in the part and it's good to have a proper French actor involved, although who knows what she made of it all! She later married Sid's agent Michael Sullivan.

The film also benefits from a sublime performance from Joan Sims, playing Madame Desiree. It is one of her best performances in the series. Joan was very much the female Kenneth Williams in that vocally she could sweep from common to posh and back again all in the delivery of a single line. She is very high pitched and common in this role and it suits her perfectly! Sims also looks stunning in a wide range of gorgeous gowns. Although she dreams of becoming Lady Rodney Ffing, sadly it doesn't quite work out as she hoped by the end of the picture!

Don't Lose Your Head also features one of my all time favourite scenes, starring a mischievous Sims and Hawtrey. Sitting together in the rose arbour ("I had no idea we was so near the sea!") the two characters flirt outrageously with Sims uttering the line "My brother, the count..." Nothing special on paper, but Sims delivery and her look away alter the meaning significantly! You can just about see both actors crack up on camera but thankfully Gerald Thomas left this hilarious moment in the film. 

The film also boasts some delightful supporting turns from Marianne Stone as an innkeeper, Peter Gilmore as Citizen Robespierre and Michael Ward as the foppish Henri.

So that's what I love about Don't Lose Your Head. Anything I don't care for? Well, being honest, the finale does go on a bit too long. James, Dale and Hawtrey take on Camembert and his soldiers, in the process destroying various priceless artefacts. It does get a bit much after a while although Kenneth Williams does fall into a harp with glorious comic timing! Apart from that, I think it is a great example of mid-60s Carry On. 

Carry On Chopping!

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  1. One of my absolute favs! ... Love the kenny Williams line at the boarder control... 'Has anyone passed out in the night?' ... And the guard replies 'only the sergeant and he's sleeping it off now' ... Classic !!

    1. Glad you agree! Loads of great moments in Dont Lose Your Head

  2. Thank you Graeme for this wonderful blog ... Looking forward to your number 6 !

    1. That's very kind of you to say! Number 6 coming up shortly!

  3. A pity about the dragging at the end at the Chateau. Would otherwise be my personal favourite.