Tuesday 15 September 2015

Why didn't Joan Carry On?

There's a Carry On mystery that's always puzzled me. It seems strange to start off a blog post admitting I don't know the answer to my subject, but I'm hoping someone who reads this will be able to help.

By 1961 Joan Sims had appeared in four consecutive Carry Ons - Nurse, Teacher, Constable and Regardless. Joan was obviously popular with the gang and had quickly become an integral part of the team. Her roles as Stella Dawson, Sarah Allcock, Gloria Passworthy and Lily Duveen were all memorable and provided Sims with the chance to demonstrate her superb comic versatility. Given her popularity, why then did Joan go on to miss the next four films? 

Joan did not appear in Cruising, Cabby, Jack or Spying. She would return to Pinewood for Carry On Cleo in July 1964 and appear in every Carry On until the original series came to an end in 1978. So why was Joan absent between 1962 and the summer of 1964?

Dilys Laye was on record several times saying that Joan was originally cast as Flo Castle in Cruising, however ill health meant Dilys got the role at very short notice. I love Dilys in the role and I'm pleased in a way that Joan's absence gave DIlys the chance to begin her Carry On association. If Joan was ill, why didn't she return to the series for the next entry, Cabby in 1963?

There was another rumour flying around that Joan was involved in a relationship with a member of the Pinewood crew at around this time. Allegedly Peter Rogers was not too keen on artists associating with the crew in that way so dropped Sims until the relationship fizzled out. I can't remember where I read this one, but it seems a bit improbable to me. Joan went on to appear in the Rogers and Thomas films Nurse On Wheels and Twice Round The Daffodils, narrowly missing out on the starring role in Nurse On Wheels. If Rogers had taken this view then why would he have cast her in those films?

Finally, it's possible I guess that Joan was just too busy with other work during the early 1960s. Perhaps the gap that her illness created meant she was then able to sign up for other films or television? During this period she appeared in the films His and Hers, A Pair Of Briefs, The Iron Maiden and Strictly For The Birds. On television she was busy providing support to Dick Emery and Stanley Baxter in their long-running sketch shows. So maybe she just couldn't fit in regular trips to Pinewood?

Whatever the reason, I'm just glad Joan did go back to Pinewood in the summer of 1964 to film her role as Calpurnia in Carry On Cleo. The nineteen Carry Ons that followed would have been far worse off without her wonderful acting talents.

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  1. What wonderful bawdy-humoured times they were for us all. The `Carry On` Films Cast were all well-loved by the General Public. Joan Sims was a treasure. Capable of producing many priceless expressions to suit the context.

  2. wasnt Dilys in Carry on Spying?