Sunday 27 September 2015

My Top Ten Carry On Films: Number 5!

I'm going to attempt to figure out what my absolute favourite Carry On films of all time are and I will be publishing the results on this blog. This is going to be a hard task for me as I love so many of these films that my favourites change on a regular basis. There will be a few I can immediately discount, none of which will be much of a surprise I'm sure. Others will be more difficult to choose between.

What I intend to do is come up with my top ten Carry Ons and reveal them blog by blog until I get to my all time number one. I'll make it clear that this is just down to my own personal choice and mainly due to personal feelings or memories attached to particular films. It should be an interesting project and I hope that as I go through them you will all feel free to comment and agree/disagree as you see fit!  

Coming up with my top five Carry On films is incredibly difficult, but in fifth place is Carry On At Your Convenience!

Convenience is a strange one. In many ways so many aspects of the film are prime Carry On. In fact it is probably Carry On in its purest form and the perfect starting point for anyone new to the films. The innuendos flow, the cast are on top form and there's even a jaunt to glorious Brighton. However the film was also the first major flop in the franchise, only clawing back its money through subsequent exposure on television.

Unfortunately the film, with its send up of the Trades Unions as big-headed idiots, was a rare error of judgement from Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas. The core Carry On audience were working class and most did not take the depiction of the union members favourably. In terms of classic Carry On performances though, I'm happy to move on from that initial reaction in 1971 and concentrate on the good bits.

Convenience saw a continuation of a similar theme from Carry On Loving. The more mature, long-standing members of the cast are complemented brilliantly by younger actors, namely Jacki Piper, Richard O'Callaghan and Kenneth Cope. Cope, best known at this point in time for his roles in Coronation Street and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) takes on the role of Vic Spanner, the Union leader forever calling the workers of W.C Boggs toilet factory out on strike. It is a wonderfully bombastic little man performance from Cope. His dim-witted partner in crime is played by established team member Bernard Bresslaw, providing an excellent double act.

Jacki Piper plays Myrtle Plummer, daughter of Sid James and Hattie Jacques. She is at the centre of a love rivalry between Cope and bosses son O'Callaghan. Piper is a great Carry On glamour girl and seizes the role of Myrtle with relish. 

Of the more traditional Carry On cast, Kenneth Williams takes centre stage as W.C Boggs, boss of the factory who eventually lets loose by accompanying the workers on a delicious trip to Brighton! Patsy Rowlands has one of her biggest and best supporting roles in the series in this film, playing Williams' long-suffering and over-sexed secretary, Miss Withering. The scene between Rowlands and Williams the morning after the night before is absolutely wonderful! 

Sid James is playing a big screen version of himself. For the first time he is shown as a family man with a wife and daughter at home. He's still a man of the people though, the works foreman who enjoys a drink and a trip to the betting shop. The gambling storyline provides a delightful subplot as Sid and a rather slovenly Hattie realise that their budgie can predict the winners. Suddenly Sid is driving a flash new car and lending W.C Boggs money to keep the factory going during a strike. Sid and Hattie are superb together. 

The fly in their ointment comes in the shapely form of Joan Sims, playing next door neighbour and factory employee Chloe Moore. Sid and Joan have an on/off attraction throughout the film which is at its peak on the trip to Brighton. Hattie eventually puts a spanner in the works (as it were) when she decides to take a job in the factory at the end of the film.

Charles Hawtrey has a truly glorious role as Mr Coote, the designer at Boggs' factory. Sporting a wonderful array of matching, bright shirts and ties, he merrily flits about in the background. Hawtrey's real life drinking is referenced several times in this film which does make for an uncomfortable watch, with hindsight.

As usual, Convenience boasts a superb supporting cast. Margaret Nolan pops up as a date for Bernard Bresslaw in the coach trip part of the film and is memorable for a ride on a helter skelter down Brighton Pier! Bill Maynard crops up as Joan Sims' husband Fred in several scenes while Marianne Stone (who I blogged about yesterday) has her biggest supporting turn as Joan's friend Maud. 

Scottish actress Renee Houston, back with the series after two cameos in the early 60s, steals many a scene as Spanner's rumbustious mother and Charles Hawtrey's landlady. Geoffrey Hughes makes his only Carry On appearance as a worker in the factory, years before becoming a television favourite as Corrie's Eddie Yeats. There are also cameos from the likes of Julian Holloway, Shirley Stelfox and Harry Towb. Sadly a larger cameo from series regular Terry Scott was cut from the final print.

The trip to Brighton is at the very heart of the film. It feels so right to see James, Williams, Sims and the rest camping up and down the seafront. Williams famously recites a gloriously vulgar rhyme as they come steamrollering out the pub while they cause havoc at a shooting gallery. Most wonderful of all is the scene where Sid drags up as a fortune teller and predicts the frightening future of Wiliams and Rowlands! When Joan bursts in afterwards and pops Sid's balloons, the shared laughter is tangible, you could tell they were having a blast!

I love the return trip on the bus when everything is speeded up as they visit pub after pub. I would dearly love to track all those pubs down and go on a pilgrimage!

Another scene I always love, which is often credited as Carry On at its best is the initial scene in the works canteen with Cope and Bresslaw persuading the workers to go out on strike. The banter between Cope, O'Callaghan, James and particularly Sims is vulgar and fruity and I adore it! "On the factory floor? Not bloody likely!" Joan Sims is absolutely terrific throughout.

In complete contrast is the scene at the end of the day trip which sees James and Sims outside their houses, late at night. Over a quietly touching, coy conversation about popping in for a cup of tea, the audience is well aware that they are tempted to begin an affair. In a deeply poignant moment, they decide to take it no further, worried about what the neighbours may think. Both actors turn in superlative performances showing what wonderful performers they were. Eric Rogers' music for that scene is also perfectly judged.  

So what if anything can I fault in Convenience? 

Very little really. I think the film dips slightly in the middle when the focus moves away from Williams, Sims and the established cast. A minor quibble, but with Williams on such terrific form, its a shame he disappears for a time. The treatment of the unions, while sidelined today, is still a problem and it must have detracted from the enjoyment of the film. 

All in all though, this film is one the best examples of the Carry On team at their peak and I think it deserves to be in the top five.

What do you think?

Down wiv' em! 

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  1. This is one of my favourites the scene in the canteen near the beginning - never fails to make me guffaw. "Dahn wiv 'em!"

    1. The canteen scene is the stuff of legend! I love the film although it divides fans on account of some of the content