Friday 31 July 2015

My Favourite Scene: Carry On Don't Lose Your Head

I have been writing an occasional series of blogs which aim to find out what my favourite scenes are in each of the thirty Carry On films made between 1958 and 1978. I have already blogged about several of my favourite scenes, including those in the likes of Nurse, Regardless, At Your Convenience and Behind. Last week I attempted to find something positive about both Emmannuelle and England but we're on safer ground today as I look back at Don't Lose Your Head.

I adore Don't Lose Your Head. It's a fantastic period romp, subverting the classic Scarlet Pimpernel story with Sid James playing the Black Finger Nail, rescuing the aristocracy from the guillotine in France! Sid and Jim Dale are both excellent in dual roles as mincing upper class gentleman and more earthy characters who take Citizen Camembert and Bidet (Kenneth Williams and Peter Butterworth - both on glorious form).

The film features some wonderful set pieces, beautiful costumes and some fantastic locations, including Waddesdon Manor and Cliveden. I've often thought Carry On films really suited period costume - some of my favourites (Cowboy, Screaming, Cleo) all worked so well and the pantomime style costumed antics really helped. Anyway, on to my favourite scene in Don't Lose Your Head.

The highlight of the film, for me, is a short scene between two of my favourite actors, Joan Sims and Charles Hawtrey. Charles, as the Duc du Pomfrit is flirting outrageously with Joan's Desiree in the rose arbor and they are both on deliciously camp form. It's such an unlikely situation and it works beautifully. Joan also inserts one of the most infamous and fantastic adlibs into this little scene. As she talks about her brother, the Count (Kenneth Williams), she changes the tone of her voice and looks momentarily away. The effect of this unexpected change in performance is incredibly naughty as I'm sure viewers of the film will already know!

It's a joyous moment that thankfully stayed in the finished film and avoided the wrath of the censor. It's shows the Carry On stars at play and once again displays Joan's wonderful comic gifts. Obviously those years in rep and revue paid dividends when it came to such performances. If you look very carefully you can see both actors just about crack up during the take. It's classic Carry On comedy at its very best and it never fails to make me hoot with laughter.

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