Thursday 2 April 2015

Was Barbara right not to Carry On Forever?

It has been reported in the press that Barbara Windsor has opted out of appearing in the new Carry On Forever documentary for ITV. The question is, was she right to do so?

Barbara is a British institution with a career and public profile dating back to the late 1950s. She's done it all - films, theatre, television, radio - and she's a real grafter, always bouncing back when the chips are down. She is known as much for her colourful personal life as she is for her on-screen performances but a lot of us love her for both.

She has never been my favourite actor in the Carry On team but I admire her plucky attitude to life, she's a true survivor and reinventing herself through EastEnders was a brilliant turning point in her career. Although I've never been an avid watcher of the London soap I am aware that she delivered some excellent dramatic performances as Peggy Mitchell. She really is one of a sadly diminishing breed today.

Barbara was great in the Carry On films. I loved her cheeky first appearance in Carry On Spying and she excelled as the nurse who raised Sid's blood pressure in Carry On Doctor. Perhaps she was pigeonholed as the bubbly blonde in all of her appearances, limiting her acting range. It did mean she was, perhaps unfairly, given most of the plaudits as the most famous Carry On actress of them all. I often felt that other actresses, Joan Sims and Hattie Jacques in particular, were side-lined to some extent despite their ability to take on a wider range of roles in the franchise and beyond.

Anyway, it is what it is. Barbara has done very well in her career and some of that must be credited to her success in the Carry On films. She did appear in the last big tribute documentary in 1998 so I'm slightly puzzled as to why it seems she is not part of this series. She is no longer a regular in EastEnders so there can surely be no contractual obligations getting in the way. Perhaps she was just unavailable when they were making Carry On Forever or maybe she felt she had nothing new to add. 

Whatever the reason, I'm sad that it looks as if she won't be a part of it. It would have been nice to see her reunite with her old chum Bernard Cribbins to reminisce about Carry On Spying, or catch up with Anita Harris to remember playing nurses together in Carry On Doctor. I think there would have been plenty of new angles for her to be involved and keep things fresh.

I'm sure Carry On Forever will still be a glorious tribute to our favourite film series but it does seem a shame that when so many of the original stars are no longer around to contribute themselves, some that are opt out. 

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