Monday 7 September 2015

My Favourite Scene: Carry On Cruising

I have been running a series of blogs which focus on my favourite scene in each of the original Carry On films made over the twenty years from 1958 until 1978. I have covered around half of the films now, writing about the likes of Sergeant, Nurse, Cabby and Camping as well as later films such as Behind, England and Emmannuelle.

Today I am going back to 1962 and the first Carry On to be shot in glorious Eastman technicolour. It is of course, Carry On Cruising.

Carry On Cruising was the last in the series to be scripted by Norman Hudis. It has a familiar feel to it - the same central figure of authority surrounded by dimwitted employees who cock everything up only to save the day at the last minute. What makes Cruising different from previous entries, apart from the change to colour, is the lack of familiar faces in the line up. Indeed only Sid James, Kenneth Williams and Kenneth Connor represent the regular team. Until this film, pretty much every series regular appeared consistently. However, Joan Sims was out due to illness, Charles Hawtrey was replaced due to his starry demands and Hattie Jacques was probably busy with Sykes on television. 

On the face of it this isn't good news. However what it does do is cement Kenneth Williams in a starring role and brings to the foreground the lovely contrast between him and Sid. It also creates room to allow several supporting actors the chance to grab hold of bigger parts (as it were). Therefore the likes of Esma Cannon, Liz Fraser, Cyril Chamberlain, Jimmy Thompson and Dilys Laye all get more prominent roles in this film. It actually makes for quite a refreshing change. Cruising is bright, light and frothy and I love it.

Although the two Kenneths and Sid get the biggest roles in the film, I think the funniest, stand out performances go to the leading ladies, Laye, Fraser and Cannon. This brings me rather nicely to my favourite scene in the film.

After a run in with Kenneth Connor's Dr Binn in the swimming pool, Esma's Miss Madderley joins Flo and Gladys (Laye and Fraser) in the bar for a little tipple. Unfortunately, neither Flo or Bridget have the faintest idea what they are ordering and soon a rather drunken competition ensues. Liz Fraser is pretty much playing second fiddle to Dilys Laye in Cruising which is unusual although Dilys seizes the opportunity with both hands and goes at every situation with enormous energy and relish. She really is a delight. Her scenes at the bar with the wonderful Esma Cannon are an absolute joy. The reactions of the barman (Jimmy Thompson) as both women get increasingly sloshed are also spot on. 

Both ladies work their way through all manner of spirits and soon fall foul of Sid James' Captain Crowther who very quickly pins the blame on his new recruits. My favourite line in the whole scene sees Esma Cannon ask the barman for "Two Flo Dears!" While Dilys was quite young at the time, this film was pretty near the end of Esma's career. It must have been terrific for her to play this kind of riotous comedy, especially in the days when women didn't really get to play these parts on the big screen.

It might lack the magic of Sims and Hawtrey, but Carry On Cruising is still an absolute pleasure. 

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