Monday 26 October 2015

What A Carry On in Brighton!

I spent a very nostalgic day in good old Brighton last Friday. I always love a trip to the seaside as I grew up by the sea and miss that special sea air in land-locked London. I've also got fond personal memories of Brighton and despite the fact it's probably no longer quite what it was, I never turn down the opportunity to go back.

Of course the Carry Ons have a long association with Brighton. Legendary scriptwriter Talbot Rothwell worked in the town for a time and I believe he met the famous stand up comedian Max Miller there. Miller was well known for his risque jokes and could be said to have laid the grown work for the many years of Carry On humour that followed.

Brighton was (and still is to some extent) a popular holiday destination for many and it is where the core Carry On audience would often be found back in the day. It was also the home to original Carry On leading lady, the late great Dora Bryan, for many years until her death last year. Dora's hotel even featured in two of the films, At Your Convenience in 1971 and Girls two years later. Patsy Rowlands was also based down in Brighton for much of her later life, sadly passing away there in early 2005.

The Carry On team did of course descend on Brighton twice during the early 1970s, marking very rare location filming for the gang. In 1971, the workers of Boggs' toilet factory travelled to Brighton for the annual works outing. This forms the basis for my favourite part of that classic film as the likes of Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey and Joan Sims camp about the pier, telling dodgy jokes, eating cockles and enjoying the hospitality of several local establishments! It feels like the team are returning to their spiritual home in that film - it all fits together so perfectly.

Two years later, Brighton doubled as the dreary seaside resort of Fircombe in Carry On Girls. This is, rather unfortunately, a less optimistic view of the British seaside. Fircombe is basically a dump, where nothing happens and nobody has any fun (if Augusta Prodworthy has her way that is). In comes Sidney Fiddler with his idea of a beauty contest and the rest is rather dodgy cinematic history. Although Girls sees a welcome return to Brighton for the team, the town is treated less than favourably this time around which is a shame. Girls as a whole is hardly a favourite of mine so probably best to leave this well alone!

As I stood on Brighton pier the other day in the cold, autumnal October air, I felt goosebumps as I thought of all those Carry On legends who had once paraded up and down the promenade. Charles Hawtrey as the rather camp Mr Coote, resplendent in a brightly patterned matching shirt and tie; Joan Sims and Sid James, their characters hoping for some time alone together away from prying eyes; Kenneth Williams marauding around the pier telling filthy limericks; Patsy Rowlands in full Miss Withering mode- surely her best Carry On performance? 

Even after all these years, their presence on Brighton front is so real and tangible, it feels like they've only just left, back to London on the coach loaded with crates of Watney's ale! The Carry Ons affinity with Brighton should always be a joy and a chance for a wallow in nostalgia. 

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