Saturday 1 August 2015

Whatever Happened To ... Carole Shelley?

I have been running an occasional series of blogs looking at some of the familiar faces who graced many Carry On films without necessarily gaining star billing. One of my main reasons for setting up this blog was to turn the spotlight onto these wonderful actors who worked for years in supporting roles in British film or whom just never seem to receive the publicity they are due.

Today I am going to write about an actress who starred in two early 1960s black and white Carry On films. Carole Shelley first appeared in Carry On Regardless in 1961. Carole played Mrs Delling in scenes which saw her come home early while her husband (Jimmy Thompson) was asking Liz Fraser's Delia King to try on some new frillies on her behalf. Delia was of course from The Helping Hands agency. Much farce ensues, involving Liz, a cupboard and a dodgy man's accent.

Carole came back to join the Carry On team again in the classic 1963 series entry, Carry On Cabby. Carole plays the dreadfully titled Dumb Driver in this film. She is really one of the many glamorous Glam Cab drivers, first seen in the line up alongside Amanda Barrie. Again it is a cameo role but her gift for comedy is clear for all to see. So what else did Carole Shelley get up to in her acting career?

Carole Shelley began her career in Britain, starring in several other films at the time she made her Carry On appearances. She played a typist in No My Darling Daughter in 1961 and Mrs Smith in Michael Winner's The Cool Mikado in 1963. She also turned up in episodes of the BBC Sunday Night Play and The Avengers. For whatever reason after this point, Carole relocated to the United States where the majority of her career has played out.

In 1968 she co-starred in The Odd Couple, a vehicle for Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. She would reprise the role in the television series screened in 1970. Also in 1968 she went on to appear in the Tony Curtis film, The Boston Strangler. Later film roles include Some Kind of Nut (1969); The Whoopee Boys (1986) and most recently the big screen version of Bewitched, released in 2005 and starring Nicole Kidman. On American television, Carole has appeared in the likes of The Cosby Show, All My Children and Frasier. 

The majority of Carole Shelley's career has been on stage. Shelley made her Broadway debut as Gwendolyn in The Odd Couple in 1965 (the role she went on to play on television and on film. She went on to appear in such diverse productions as As You Like It, Absurd Person Singular, Billy Elliot, Show Boat and Cabaret. Carole won a Tony Award in 1979 for her performance in the stage production of The Elephant Man and was nominated again in 1987 for Stepping Out. In 2003 she created the role of Madame Morrible in the original production of Wicked.  

Now 75, Carole Shelley continues to live and act in the United States. Most recently, in 2014, she took over the role of Miss Shingle in A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. So many big roles in American film, television and stage seem a far cry from the Dumb Driver in Carry On Cabby!

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