Monday 4 May 2015

Was Jim right not to Carry On?

I've been thinking a lot about Jim Dale lately. No, not like that. Well maybe a little bit. He's back in London soon with his one man show which I'm thrilled to have tickets to go and see next month. Having heard from him again through the Carry On Forever documentary it has made me look again at his contribution to the films.

As the romantic lead Jim is just perfect in all the Carry Ons he appeared in. His comedic bumbling and athletic stunts really added an extra dimension to the films in which he starred. My favourites are Cowboy, Doctor and Again Doctor. There was nobody else in the team who could play Jim's parts. It was such a shame when he decided to leave the series after Again Doctor in 1969. 

This was obviously the right thing for him as he went on to have decades of success in other films, but mainly on the West End stage and latterly, years of hits on Broadway. JIm is quoted as saying he moved on because the role he was offered in Up The Jungle (the one eventually played by Terry Scott) was not right for him. Certainly the part of Jungle Boy does not benefit from a great deal of dialogue, but surely the physical aspect is something Jim would have taken to a different level. From a selfish point of view, his decision also robbed us of the image of him in a loin cloth for 90 minutes! Almost unforgivable! 

Undoubtedly the Carry Ons changed after Jim's departure. The 1970s saw them become much saucier with boundaries constantly being pushed further and further. Would this have suited the characters Jim Dale played? I'm not sure. Had he stayed he would have been playing the roles subsequently taken on by the likes of Kenneth Cope, Richard O'Callaghan and Patrick Mower. Can you see Jim starring in the likes of Carry On Loving, Matron and England? Probably not. He did of course return in 1992 for Columbus, but we won't go there...

Another aspect of this is the Carry On producers' failure to replace Jim after his departure. Various actors have a crack at it to varying degrees of success. Roy Castle is great as Captain Keene in Up The Khyber. Julian Holloway was on perfect cheeky chappy form as Jim Tanner in Camping but sadly some of his scenes were cut. O'Callaghan and Cope both excelled in early 1970s offerings but the problem remains, none of these actors stuck with the franchise long term so there was little continuity. For a production team so adept at casting decisions, surely they could have found another young male romantic lead?

Who else was there at the time? Robin Askwith appeared in Carry On Girls before embarking on a career with the Confessions series but he lacked Jim's innocence. Someone like Richard Beckinsale would have been perfect casting, but was he already too big a name  to want to appear in the Carry Ons? Likewise someone like Barry Evans or George Layton could have joined the team. Plenty of options I guess but for whatever reason Jim Dale's shoes were never properly filled. Maybe that's simply because it was an impossible task?

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  1. I like Jim Dale, he's just like Snoopy of the Carry Ons and Kenneth "Marty Hopkirk" Cope was great too in 1972's Carry On Matron.

  2. Jim may have rejected not just for script of jungle but the fact again doctor nearly killed him. 2 horrific injuries