Monday 11 May 2015

Carry On Casting!

The Carry On production team was incredibly skilled when it came to casting. The regular team they assembled for each of the films was always highly skilled in comedy and most importantly for Peter Rogers, working quickly!

While it is unimaginable to think of anyone but Joan Sims playing Belle in Cowboy, Kenneth Williams playing Orlando Watt in Screaming or Sid James playing Mark Anthony in Cleo, some other casting decisions could have worked out somewhat differently.

Perhaps most famously, Barbara Windsor was originally earmarked to play the title role in Carry On Cleo. Apparently the black Cleo wig made her look like her mum so it didn't work out, which suits me as I cannot imagine anyone other than Amanda Barrie playing Cleo. Similarly, the role that Barrie played in Carry On Cabby was initially offered to Fenella Fielding, who turned it down due to the focus the script had on the character's bust! 

Back in 1959, Ted Ray, fresh from success in Carry On Teacher, was approached to take the lead role in Carry On Constable. Ted's commitments elsewhere meant that Sid James was cast as Frank Wilkins and the rest, as they say, is history! Can you see the Carry On series without Sid James now, looking back? Neither can i!

Moving on to Carry On Up The Khyber in 1968, and the role eventually played by Cardew Robinson, that of the Fakir, was written with Tommy Cooper in mind. That I would have loved to see! Tommy Cooper guest starring in a Carry On! What a shame it didn't work out. Jim Dale, a star of eleven of the films, was approached to play Jungle Boy in Up the Jungle, made in late 1969. Apparently Jim wasn't impressed with the lack of dialogue so he turned it down. While Terry Scott was great in the part, I must admit I'm rather disappointed we were robbed of seeing Jim Dale in a loin cloth! 

Kenneth Williams reportedly knocked back a role in Carry On Cabby as he thought the script was awful! The role went instead to character actor Norman Chappell. Sydney Bromley meanwhile, who played rancher Sam Houston in Cowboy, was such a success that he was due to play Dan Dan the Lavatory Man in Carry On Screaming. It was only a last minute intervention that led to Charles Hawtrey taking on the cameo role. 

Bernard Cribbins, a star of two early Carry On films, claimed on one of the DVD audio commentaries that he was asked to play Hengist Pod in Carry On Cleo. I can kind of see this working, but Kenneth Connor was absolutely superb in that film. From a similar period, the role of Sally in Carry On Jack was written for the then blonde bombshell of the series, Liz Fraser. Liz was advised by her agent not to accept any more Carry On parts so the role went to the lovely Juliet Mills.

Carry On England was famously beset by casting problems. Going into production in the wake of Sid's sad death in 1976, several Carry On actors did not want to be involved so soon after the death of their leading man. In addition to this, Carol Hawkins turned down a role due to the nudity involved. Kenneth Williams was approached to play the role given to Peter Jones but due to theatre commitments Kenny couldn't take part. And the role that eventually went to Joan Sims was originally for Penelope Keith, then a huge star on television thanks to The Good Life. I struggle to imagine Carry On legend Joan being overlooked for a part in the series at that stage of the game, but there you go. 

Finally, one piece of casting that was rightfully changed. When Carry On Doctor went into production in 1967, Hattie Jacques had not appeared in the film series since Cabby four years before. Rogers and Thomas therefore offered the role of Matron to Hattie's friend Joan Sims. Sims, although flattered to be thought of for this part, knew that only Jacques could do it justice. So Hattie was back and began another run of terrific performances in the Carry Ons.

Funny how some things work out, isn't it? What a Carry On!

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