Monday 10 August 2015

Not Quite A Carry On: Twice Round The Daffodils

I have been writing an occasional series of blogs looking at other films Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas made together during their long, productive careers in British cinema. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Rogers and Thomas branched out from the Carry On films and packed in even more cinema releases, all made at Pinewood and many featuring familiar Carry On faces.

Today I am going to look back at a classic from 1962. It's a bit of a tear jerker in places but it features a wonderful cast of top British comedy actors. Twice Round The Daffodils was an adaptation of a play, Ring For Catty, written by Patrick Cargill (who himself guest starred in both Carry On Regardless and Carry On Jack) and Jack Beale. It was transferred to the big screen by regular Carry On writer Norman Hudis. 

The film is set in one ward in a hospital treating patients with tuberculosis. The story unfolds as a new bunch of male patients arrive, each with their own back story. As the film progresses, they all develop a soft spot for the main nurse, played by Juliet Mills. Juliet would go on to play starring roles in two other films for Rogers and Thomas: Nurse On Wheels and Carry On Jack, both made the following year. 

The male patients are portrayed by a classic cast of reliable British character actors: Donald Sinden (fresh from success in the Doctor films), Donald Houston (who would go on to appear in Carry On Jack), Ronald Lewis (Nurse On Wheels), Lance Percival (Carry On Cruising, Raising The Wind, The Big Job), Andrew Ray (son of Ted) and of course, Kenneth Williams. Special mention goes to Ronald Lewis who makes for a very effective romantic lead both in this film and in Nurse On Wheels, again with Mills. 

Juliet Mills is ably assisted by a young Jill Ireland as another of the nurses. Jill, years before marrying Charles Bronson and moving to America, had of course had a cameo role a few years earlier as Kenneth Williams' love interest in Carry On Nurse. Scottish character actress Renee Houston is also on hand as a rather stern, formidable Matron.

There are also several other well known actresses in the film, playing visitors to the ward. The most familiar of all to Carry On fans is the fantastic Joan Sims, playing Kenneth Williams' rather mousy sister Harriet. As always Joan demonstrates her ability to transform herself into any character thrown at her. This role is a million miles away from the likes of Belle in Cowboy or ZIg Zig in Follow That Camel. Sheila Hancock and Nanette Newman also show up for scene stealing guest appearances. Quite a cast! 

What sets this film out from many of the others released around this time is the serious side to some of the stories and the dialogue. Yes, there is comedy to be had with the usual hospital shenanigans but there is much less bawdy, broad humour and it actually makes for a refreshing change. Even Kenneth Williams, not one to praise the usual output at Pinewood, wrote in his diary that this was a good film with a good script! 

Twice Round The Daffodils stands alone as a semi-dramatic Rogers and Thomas offering. It manages to have the familiar feel of other hospital comedies such as Carry On Nurse or Doctor in the House while still producing something unique and a little different. If you haven't seen it before, I recommend you check it out.

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