Monday 14 September 2015

Carry On Amanda

In the latest of her guest blogs, Coronation Street Blog editor Glenda Young tells us why she's such a fan of that wonderful actress Amanda Barrie...

As editor of the Coronation Street Blog I’m a big fan of actress Amanda Barrie. She played one of my favourite characters in Corrie, Alma Baldwin from 1981 – 2001.  I have a signed copy of Amanda’s biography It’s Not a Rehearsal and I thought I’d revisit it with a view to writing this blog post for the Carry on Blog about Amanda Barrie’s experiences of the Carry On films.

Carry on Cabby barely gets a mention. She does comment that when she was offered the role in Carry on Cleo: “I had already played a much smaller role in Carry on Cabby and had apparently caught the eyes of the producers.”

There’s a lot more in the book about Carry on Cleo. Amanda writes that she was almost dropped from the film before she even started. After being away on holiday her appearance had changed quite dramatically as she had lost a lot of weight and her skin was deeply suntanned. She says she might have been dropped “if they had thought they could find somebody else in time.”

Amanda tells a funny story about being fitted for her Cleo costume and the costumier being up in arms because as she says in own words, “I had no tits”. Pinewood Studios and the costumier discussed what to do, as they really needed a busty woman to play Cleo. Amanda refused to have injections to make her bosom bigger and says that in the end Pinewood relied on clever camera angles to enhance the role. She also mentions that the first six weeks of rehearsals for Cleo she was quite ill through a mixture of bulimia and anorexia.

Amanda’s pose as Queen Cleopatra for the movie poster was, she says, her own idea and she deliberately played the part a little bit camp, introducing Cleo’s lisp for fun.  She says that the milk bath scene almost killed her. It was real cows milk, 200 gallons of it and the thermostat broke so that it got far too hot. Her stand-in refused to get in as it was so hot and she says “Like a fool, in I went.” She walked into the bath and as the liquid bath passed her heart “something went bang and I passed out. One of the stagehands grabbed her by the wig to pull her out of the water and says says “I think if I had gone in that heat it would have been the end of me.”  After the milk bath scene aired in the film, she was offered a Playboy shoot, which she declined out of modesty but says in her book now that she regrets not doing it. She did, however, make front cover of Tatler magazine.

In the film there’s a scene where Cleo is rolled up in a carpet and a table is supposed to collapse on top of her. The stunt girl was late and so Amanda said she’d do her own stunt. The stunt girl turned up just before Amanda could be rolled up in the carpet and when the table collapsed on the stunt girl, it came down heavier than expected and broke several of her teeth.

Speaking about her Carry On co-stars, Amanda says she was terrified of Kenneth Williams and his bouts of jealous rage. She recounts one story where she picked up a dressing gown to wear to cover her body as she walked from her caravan to the bathing pool on set. As she walked in the dressing gown, she felt it rip from her body and she was left starkers. Kenneth Williams had pulled it off her, saying with menace in his voice: “My dressing gown, dear, I think!”

Of Sid James she was very fond and they shared a love of horse racing.

And summing it all up, Amanda says this of her Carry On experience: “I remain extraordinarily grateful to the Carry Ons.”

Glenda Young
Twitter @flaming_nora

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also Facebook

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