Monday 30 November 2015

Whatever Happened To ... Wanda Ventham?

The actress Wanda Ventham, a glamorous presence in a whole host of film and television roles for decades, is now rather over shadowed by her highly successful actor son, Benedict Cumberbatch. However I think Wanda's considerable talents need to be highlighted, hence this blog.

Wanda can be featured here on Carry On Blogging thanks to her small roles in three Peter Rogers productions during the 1960s. She first played the role of Pretty Bidder in 1964's Carry On Cleo. She appears briefly in the slave auction sequence, losing out to Peggy Ann Clifford in the battle to secure Jim Dale's services. The following year Wanda again adds some glamorous support to the classic comedy crime caper The Big Job, playing a young woman who is desperate to spend some alone time with her boyfriend. In 1968 Wanda was back at Pinewood to play the Khasi's first wife, who turns up at Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond's residency to help right some dubious wrongs! 

Sadly Wanda failed to make any further Carry On appearances but her career would span countless theatre, film and television productions in the decades that followed. 

Wanda Ventham was born in Brighton on 5 August 1935. She trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama alongside the likes of Judi Dench, graduating in 1956. Her first major role came in the film My Teenage Daughter, co-starring with Anna Neagle and Sylvia Syms. Other films over the years have included The Navy Lark (1959); The Spy with a Cold Nose (1966); Mister Ten Per Cent (1967) and Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War (2002). 

On stage, an early role was as Daphne Pink in Watch It Sailor! at the Apollo Theatre in 1960. This was followed by a variety of different roles including Portia in a 1979 staging of Julius Caesar at Chichester; the Ray Cooney farce Out of Order at the Shaftesbury Theatre and most recently two plays in Cape Town, South Africa - Quartet in 2012 and Entertaining Angels in 2014.

Wanda Ventham was always most prolific on television. Her major success on the small screen came in the 1970s when she played Colonel Virginia Lake in the science fiction series UFO. She also had recurring roles in a number of other popular series such as The Rag Trade as Shirley; Only Fools and Horses (as Cassandra's mother) and in Heartbeat, playing Fiona Weston. Between 1972 and 1973 she played the lead role in an adaptation of The Lotus Eaters. 

Wanda's television career is a veritable list of classic treasures. It includes guest spots in the likes of The Saint, The Likely Lads, The Avengers, The Prisoner, The Sweeney, Z Cars, A Family At War, Crown Court, All Creatures Great and Small and Minder. More recently she has also appeared in the Penelope Keith sitcom Next of Kin as well as one off episodes of Lewis and Midsomer Murders. Wanda has also appeared three times, in three different roles in the classic series Doctor Who - in 1967, 1977 and finally in 1987. 

Having apparently retired from acting recently, Wanda made a triumphant return to the small screen in 2014 to play Mrs Holmes, mother to Sherlock in the new BBC version of the classic  series. Playing Mr Holmes was her real life husband, actor Tim Carlton. And of course the titular character was their famous son, Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch has spoken of the complete joy of acting in the series alongside his parents. He clearly rates them both as actors, however bemoans the fact that his mother will probably never get her "Cranford moment" as she'd need a vast body of Shakespearean roles to secure such a part. Apparently Ventham decided early on in her career to accept more commercial roles as the better pay would help fund her son's education.

Wanda Ventham first married in 1957. Together with first husband James Tabernacle she had a daughter, Tracy. The marriage ended in divorce. She met her second husband Tim Carlton whilst working together on the television series A Family At War. They married in 1976 and have been together ever since. Carlton came through the acting ranks in the 1960s, his main friends and contemporaries being the likes of Dennis Waterman and Robert Powell.

I think it's fantastic that Wanda is so obviously proud of her son's acting success. Benedict's parents are often seen at awards ceremonies with their son these days but I still think their own careers deserve recognition too. Wanda was always top of the list for a certain kind of role throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s. She is still fondly remembered by many fans.

If you would like to meet Wanda Ventham, you have a chance early next year. She will be appearing at a special fans convention in Chiswick, London on 30 January. Further details can be found here

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan 

Share Your Carry On Christmas Memories

Christmas is almost upon us once again, or so the adverts would have us believe. This year, I have published many blogs either written by Carry On fans or with contributions from regular blog readers. These guest blogs and Fans of the Week posts have been a joy as I've been able to interact a great deal more with fellow fans.

This has got me thinking and I've come up with an idea for some festive blogs. I would really love you all to share your favourite Christmas Carry On memories with me. This can either be in the form of a full blog if you want to submit one, or just a couple of paragraphs to be included in a blog made up of comments from a range of people - completely up to you. What you choose to talk about is also up to you, but it must be festive in tone and obviously focus on the Carry On films and their stars.

Perhaps you have a favourite Carry On Christmas television special you would like to write about? Maybe you have fond memories of seeing a Carry On actor in pantomime? Or maybe you would just like to reminisce about the thrill of discovering which Carry On films would be in the Christmas telly schedules?

I'd love to share your Christmas Carry On memories on Carry On Blogging this festive season, so why not get your thinking caps on? You have plenty of time to write and submit your memories. When you do so, please email them to

I look forward to hearing from you!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan 

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Sunday 29 November 2015

Kenneth and Joe

I have long been fascinated by the life of Kenneth Williams. He was a sublime comedy actor and lively personality, full of contradictions and complications. Unlike many of his contemporaries we know so much more about Williams and in his own words, because of his infamous diaries. Spanning his entire adult life, he is the modern day diarist and they have become his main legacy.

I have written before about some of Kenneth's most enduring friendships, namely with Maggie Smith and Gordon Jackson. One other friendship has always intrigued me too and that's his bond with the playwright Joe Orton. Orton was the sensational new young writer of the mid 1960s. Openly gay and proud of it, he relished his fame and his contentment with his own sexuality. He was the darling of the West End theatre scene until his life was cut tragically short at the hands of his long-term lover Kenneth Halliwell in August 1967.

I have read Orton's diaries and seen some of his plays and he is a fascinating character, very much of his time. He shook up the theatre scene in this country, challenged long held ideals and deliberately provoked, shocked and in some cases, appalled. He was an imp of a character and it's hard not to delight in his behaviour. What fascinates me even more is the relationship that developed between Kenneth Williams and Joe. They were both gay, working class and working in the arts but apart from that they were very much polar opposites. While Joe embraced his sexuality at every given opportunity, Kenneth shied away from that area of his life. Joe did and said what Kenneth never would or could. 

When they first met in 1964, introduced by theatrical impresario Michael Codron, Kenneth was at the height of his success. He was the star of the Carry On films, was a big name on radio thanks to his association with Tony Hancock and Kenneth Horne and had several theatrical successes under his belt, most notably the double bill The Private Ear and The Public Eye with Maggie Smith. Williams was growing dissatisfied with the work he was being offered and seized on the opportunity to work with the new young playwright. He admired Joe from the start and they became close.

Unfortunately, accepting a role in Orton's latest work, Funeral Games, did not turn out to be a happy experience for anyone connected with the project. The play, in which Kenneth starred with Geraldine McEwan, Duncan Macrae and Ian McShane, toured the provinces in early 1965 but was not a success. Most of the middle class audiences either didn't understand it or quite simply were shocked by it and walked out. These days are recorded in Williams' diaries and he was undoubtedly miserable. Fortunately his friendship with Orton endured despite this painful flop and they even spent time together in Morocco, one of Orton's favourite holiday destinations. They remained in touch even when, the following year, the now retitled Loot became an overnight sensation, taking the West End by storm with a new cast. 

Although Kenneth and Joe would not work together again, they socialised regularly over the next few years. Other friends of Williams thought Joe was rather self-obsessed however Kenneth was obviously caught up in the youthful glamour that came along whenever Joe was around. I've always loved the descriptions of Kenneth's regular visits to Orton's flat at Noel Road in Islington, the home he shared with his lover Kenneth Halliwell. Williams was much closer to Joe and he seemed wary of Halliwell on occasions, sometimes quietly pitying the older man. I think Kenneth Williams envied aspects of Joe's life, wishing he could enjoy himself more and be more like him, however what happened next put any ideas of that firmly on the back burner.

In August 1967, Kenneth Halliwell murdered Joe before taking his own life. Halliwell had been depressed for some time, feeling isolated and threatened by Orton's great success in life. The news came as a massive blow to Kenneth Williams and it caused him to reflect a great deal on their lives and his own life choices. 

Many years later Williams would direct two of Joe's plays at Hammersmith. I often wonder what Orton would have made of Kenneth's efforts. I also wonder what would have become of Joe Orton had he lived. He was undoubtedly a talented writer who was making a name for himself, but was he just very much of his time? His plays are still produced to this day so there is still an audience for his work. If Orton was still with us today he would be 82 so could still be active in the world of theatre. Sadly, we'll never know.

I will always be fascinated by the friendship that developed between Joe Orton and Kenneth Williams. Two men who shared so many common experiences but lived their lives very differently. 

To end, here's a clip of Kenneth Williams discussing Joe Orton in a BBC documentary from the early 1980s.

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Saturday 28 November 2015

The Incredible Versatility of Joan Sims

The Carry On films are sometimes thought of as being sexist or made by men for men. Many of the women who appeared in the series were playing decorative roles and as we know, the female actors involved were never paid as much as the men. Not that the men were paid that much either...

But that's another story. The one actress who never failed to shine in the Carry Ons was Joan Sims. Everyone knows she's my all time favourite actress and although the Carry Ons never made her rich and they possibly limited opportunities elsewhere, the sheer range of roles offered to Sims across her twenty four films in the franchise is just astounding. I'm not aware of any other instance of an actress maturing over such a long period and so many films in one series. 

While to a certain extent it can be a depressing experience to watch, as Joan is sometimes rather quickly relegated to middled-aged, nagging wife or girlfriend, just when you think the game is up, a role comes along that takes you by surprise. While Hattie Jacques was normally always the bombastic Matron and Barbara Windsor the bubbly blonde, Joan could change appearance, accent and status with alarming regularity. She was the female Kenneth Williams, vocally at least. She could shift from appalling poshness to shrieking vulgarity in a heartbeat. She could do any accent and do it extremely well. She was equally adept in costume "drama" as a nurses uniform. Just stunning.

So let's look at the evidence. Over the course of her twenty four films, Joan went from green, young inexperienced student nurse Stella Dawson in 1959's Carry On Nurse, to the repressed, middle-aged housekeeper Mrs Dangle in the last gasp of the original run, Carry On Emmannuelle in 1978. Put the two roles side by side and the performances are almost unrecognisable. 

In between those roles came some absolute crackers. Of my own favourites there's almost too many to choose between. I love the majestic western glamour of Belle in Carry On Cowboy. Joan never looked better than dressed in that gorgeous figure hugging black gown, her blonde hair piled high. Her entrance down that staircase must be her best ever. Then there was Lady Joan Ruff Diamond in Up The Khyber. Here she combines Kenneth Williams' vocal mannerisms to produce a Cockney harridan of exquisite proportions. In Carry On Screaming she takes the role of nagging wife to a whole new level, but later the following year she was almost unrecognisable as Zig ZIg, the exotic, sensual cafe owner who promises Kenneth's Commandant Burger a good time! 

As the years wore on Joan was more and more tied to the middle-aged suburban housewife role. My least favourite of her performances comes in Carry On Girls, released in 1973. I loathe this film anyway, but it feels like Joan's role as downtrodden hotel owner Connie is simply grafted onto the script to make up the numbers. I'm not saying she is bad in the film - Joan never ever gave a less than fantastic performance on screen - it's just that we've seen it all before and it just doesn't do her justice. He next role, as Madame Desiree in Dick was far better - the bogus French accent, leering towards the Cockney once again is a delight! She's at her fruity, saucy best here and the scenes in The Old Cock Inn with Joan in charge are memorable. 

One of my favourite later roles was that of Cora Flange in Abroad. Yes, to a certain extent she's the nagging wife once again but Cora is probably the most normal, well adjusted character in the entire film. A little like Hattie's Peggy Hawkins in the classic Carry On Cabby, Cora is quite a painful role for Sims as the character's marriage is on the rocks. There is a fairly sensitive (for a Carry On anyway) look at middle-aged marriage problems with both Cora and her husband Vic tempted by other people. Of course they are reunited at the end of the film and this provides one of the main highlights. Sid and Joan were just so good together and their shared laughter is so tangible, so real it's completely infectious and an utter joy.

Joan Sims was also in the rare category of being given a semi-serious, tear jerking scene to perform, not once but twice in a Carry On. In At Your Convenience at the end of the day trip to Brighton and accompanied by Eric Rogers' beautiful score, Joan and Sid stroll up their garden paths, clearly tempted to begin an affair. There is a real touching quality to this scene as neither character can give in and go for what they want. Sid and Joan put in superb acting performances here, tinged with comedy of course, but mainly playing it for real and it's fantastic. 

Four years later in Carry On Behind, Joan is paired with the sublime Peter Butterworth for a further touching scene as estranged husband and wife. The dialogue may be corny, but the performances of Butterworth and Sims are so good and strong they not only raise the entire quality of the film, they could quite easily be lifted out and put into something quite different.

At the heart of Joan's incredible versatility is the basic fact that she was just a bloody fine actress. She was RADA trained, slogged her guts out all over the country in weekly rep for years and was equally adept at revue, straight theatre, character voices on radio, television and of course film. Joan could take anything that was given to her, no matter how outlandish, and make it real. 

It just doesn't get any better than that. 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan 

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Friday 27 November 2015

Carry On Hero of the Week: Alan Hume

The whole idea of this new series of blogs is to flag up specific individuals who, in my humble opinion, really made the Carry On films what they were. So many of the actors and crew turned up at Pinewood again and again, working closely over the years to produce such a fine body of work. This week it's the turn of legendary cinematographer Alan Hume.

Alan Hume was a master of his craft. It was mainly down to him that the Carry On films were so beautifully shot. Working on a shoestring budget, Hume's excellence behind the camera meant the films often looked a good deal better than they otherwise might have done. The lighting, camera angles and set ups were all superb under Hume and us fans owe him a huge amount of gratitude for all his hard work.

Alan was involved in the series right from the very beginning, working as a camera operator in the early black and white films before graduating to cinematographer or Director of Photography on later efforts. He also worked on many other Rogers and Thomas films including Bless This House, The Big Job, Nurse On Wheels and Watch Your Stern. He was quite simply world class as is shown by the other films he worked on. During a lengthy career he worked on Star Wars, four of the Roger Moore era James Bond pictures and other classics like A Fish Called Wanda, Shirley Valentine and Stepping Out.

Despite being on the crew of these big pictures, Alan kept coming back for more Carry On fun, which says a great deal both about the man himself and the people he worked with at Pinewood. He always seemed very modest and down to earth, despite his great success. I know all the Carry On actresses loved Alan because he took such great care to make them look their very best in front of the camera. He was also, by all accounts, a terrific audience regularly having to stuff a handkerchief into his mouth to stop his laughter during takes!

Alan continued to work up until the late 1990s, his last main contribution being cinematographer (and interviewee) in the What's A Carry On? documentary in 1998. Alan had four children, all of whom have followed him into the film industry. Sadly, Alan Hume passed away in July 2010 at the age of 85.

So there you have it, my Carry On Hero of the Week this week is the fantastic Alan Hume.

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Thursday 26 November 2015

Whatever Happened to ... Richard Wattis?

I have been selecting blog posts from my growing Carry On Blogging archive this week. I wanted to share this one again as I think the wonderful character actor Richard Wattis deserves to be remembered for his countless appearances on television and film.

Amazingly, Richard Wattis only appeared in one Carry On. He was one of those actors who seemed to pop up just about everywhere. He filmed a supporting role in Carry On Spying alongside Eric Barker in less than a week. Strangely, despite this successful appearance he wasn't asked back to do another film in the series.

Today Richard Wattis is probably best remembered for two roles. First of all, as the snobbish, insufferable neighbour Mr Brown in the BBC situation comedy series Sykes alongside Eric Sykes, Hattie Jacques and Deryck Guyler. Wattis appeared in both the original 1960s black and white series and the return, in colour, in 1972. Wattis also starred in several of the St Trinian's comedy films in the 1950s and 1960s. He always played the suited, cowardly man from the Ministry of Education, usually alongside the likes of Eric Barker again.

Richard Wattis played supporting roles in a wide variety of British films during the 1950s and 1960s, although his acting career dates back to 1938. Among his many screen credits are Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Monte Carlo Or Bust; Hobson's Choice; Dentist On The Job; Very Important Person; Confessions Of A Window Cleaner; The Longest Day; The Colditz Story and perhaps most famously, in The Prince and The Showgirl opposite Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe.

On television, apart from his long running role in Sykes, Richard Wattis appeared with Kenneth Williams in Dick and The Duchess and cropped up in the likes of Father, Dear Father; The Goodies; Danger Man and The Prisoner. Interestingly, Wattis did return to the Carry On fold in 1975. He filmed a short cameo role in the episode Orgy and Bess, part of the ATV television series Carry On Laughing. Unfortunately his role, along with that of the actor Simon Callow, was cut from the final screened episode.

Richard Wattis was born in Staffordshire in 1912. He began his working life in the family's electrical engineering film before turning to acting in the 1930s. His first screen appearance came in the film A Yank At Oxford, released in 1938. Wattis was widely known within the acting profession as being gay, at a time when being open about such things was difficult. He frequently appears in the pages of Kenneth Williams diaries during the 1960s and 1970s, often meeting Kenneth at parties. Richard, always known as Dickie to his friends, is given rather a hard time by Williams in the diaries, often described as being lonely and fond of a tipple or two. As always, one can take aspects of Kenneth's diaries with a large pinch of salt.

When researching this post, it came as rather a shock to realise that Richard Wattis passed away more than forty years ago. So many of his appearances on film and television are still very recognisable that it seems weird that he has been gone for so long. He died of a heart attack in a London restaurant on 1st February 1975 at the age of just 62. Kenneth Williams recorded the news in his diary:

When I went in to see Louie at 11.45 she said "It's been on the radio that Richard Wattis is dead!"  and we had a v subdued lunch in consequence. The BBC rang and asked me to talk about him. I went round to B.H and recalled his kindness to me, beginning with Dick and Duchess.

The Kenneth Williams Diaries,  p, 487

Richard Wattis was yet another one of that band of regular faces; reliable character actors who would turn up in film after film for years without ever truly becoming a star. They were the backbone of our film and television industry for decades.

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What a Christmas Carry On with Sherrie!

Last week I brought you the news that Carry On actress Anita Harris would be appearing in pantomime this year. Well, another wonderful Carry On actor will be treading the boards this Christmas. Sherrie Hewson will be starring in Snow White at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester. 

Sherrie appeared as Carol in the classic 1975 Carry On film, Carry On Behind, opposite Carol Hawkins, Jack Douglas and Windsor Davies. She also went on to appear in several episodes of the ATV Carry On Laughing television series later the same year.

These days Sherrie is most well known for long running roles in the likes of Coronation Street, Emmerdale and the ITV sitcom Benidorm. She has also been a regular panelist on the ITV chat show Loose Women for over ten years. Sherrie is a fans favourite on Twitter and even follows me! 

Sherrie's panto, Snow White, will be running at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester from Saturday 12 December 2015 through until Monday 4 January 2016. Further information can be found on the theatre's website.

If you go along to see the show, do let me know how you get on! 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan 

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Wednesday 25 November 2015

The Death of Robin Stewart

The sad death of Robin Stewart on Sunday came as rather a shock. At just 69, his demise is untimely. Another actor gone too soon. Although he hadn't acted significantly for many years, his link to Sid James and that classic sitcom, Bless This House meant those far off days were still tangible.

As Sidney Abbott's layabout son Mike, Robin starred in the sitcom success for over five years. Although there were suggestions he wasn't as professional on set as some of the senior stars would have liked (indeed he missed out on the 1972 big screen version), there was no doubt a great deal of affection between the regular stars in the series.

Robin had made a return to the limelight in the past few years after having been based in Australia for some time. He appeared alongside old co-star Sally Geeson at several events and met fans at film conventions all over the country. I'm glad he had the chance to reconnect with the past in his final few years.

Sadly, the death of Robin Stewart comes with the dawning realisation that now there is only one surviving member of the Bless This House cast. Sally Geeson is the last Abbott standing. Following Sid's death in 1976, we lost Patsy Rowlands (Betty) in 2005 and both Anthony Jackson (Trevor) and Diana Coupland (Jean) in 2006. They are all greatly missed.

I loved Bless This House. It was my favourite television role for Sid. He was, many say, most at home in this domestic comedy and the role of Sidney Abbott was most like the real Sid - the family man. I used to watch the repeats on the now long defunct Granada Plus every morning before I went to school. Although the teenage problems and marital strife over the housekeeping of the mid 1970s were a long way off by the time I watched in the 1990s, it was still a fun show with lighthearted stories and timeless comic performances from the cast.

As with all successful actors, Robin Stewart leaves behind a legacy of laughter and classic comedy performances. He had the chance to create a niche in Bless This House and work with some of my heroes. Not bad at all. 

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Tuesday 24 November 2015

Remembering Alan Hume

I've stumbled across a really lovely interview online and I thought I should share it here on the blog. I was looking into Alan Hume's career for a blog I've got planned for another time and came across an interview his wife has recently given to a local website in Buckinghamshire.

Sheila Hume, now 89, spoke to the Get Bucks website about her late husband's long and impressive career as a cinematographer and reminisced about all the famous people she counts as friends. It's the first time I've heard about Alan's wife and family and it is a lovely read. It's also great to hear Sheila still makes regular trips to Pinewood Studios and hears from people Alan worked with, such as Sir Roger Moore and Dame Shirley Bassey.

Alan Hume was a wonderful presence behind the camera on so many of the Carry On films, not to mention big budget pictures like the James Bond films and the original Star Wars franchise. I love that despite his terrific success working on international films and with big name stars, he always came back to Pinewood for regular six week shoots with Sid, Kenneth and Joan. What a legend.

You can read the article by following this link.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan 

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Monday 23 November 2015

Kenneth and Gordon

As a massive fan of both Kenneth Williams and Gordon Jackson, their enduring friendship always fascinated me. Here's another chance to read my blog from back in January on the famous actors and the bond they shared.

I've always loved that fine Scottish actor Gordon Jackson. He had a long acting career, beginning during the Second World War in 1942 and rising to prominence in the early 1970s through two stand out roles on television, as Mr Hudson in Upstairs Downstairs and later as George Cowley in The Professionals. While I admire Gordon's performances on screen, and his career is littered with classic films (The Great Escape, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Ipcress File to name only a few), I also found his long, close friendship with Kenneth Williams particularly fascinating.

Gordon Jackson was a quiet, unstarry member of the acting profession. In the days before social media and reality television, he just got on with doing his job and being a family man (he was married to the actress Rona Anderson for nearly 40 years and together they had two sons). However we do get glimpses of the man off stage through his regular appearances in Kenneth's wonderful diaries. Kenneth and Gordon were friends nearly all their adult lives. In a rare diversion for Kenneth, his friendship with Gordon matured and endured despite the various ups and downs of life. It was rare if not impossible to find any mention of Gordon Jackson that was not completely positive and in full admiration.

I must dispel the myth that Kenneth Williams had few friends and was a loner. He quite simply was not. Yes you can see from his diaries that he could be difficult, awkward or down right rude, but in essence he was a lovable, sentimental character who cherished long term friendships. Kenneth had well rounded, deep friendships with the likes of Maggie Smith, Richard Pearson, Stanley Baxter, Hattie Jacques, Barbara Windsor and Joan Sims for many years. 

While some friends came and went, Gordon and the rest of the Jackson family were constants. Kenneth, although undoubtedly a gay man, relished the so-called "straight domesticity" that regular trips to the Jackson household in Hampstead provided. Reading the diaries, as I often do, I can't help but smile when Kenneth records an enjoyable dinner party chez Jackson, an afternoon with their children or being included in a family Christmas. Although Kenneth suffered great pain and sadness at times in his life, it is heartening to see moments of relaxation and pleasure too. 

I remember clearly one of the very few times there were cross words between the pair. Jackson came across as someone who did his best to avoid conflict, however one family trip to Wales on which Kenneth was invited ended badly. Kenneth appeared to have rather old fashioned ideas, even back in 1966, and when Rona's culinary efforts did not meet with his satisfaction, a rather curt exchange resulted! This led Kenneth to leave early and unannounced and head back to London. Normal service was resumed, but it temporarily damaged their solid footing. 

Kenneth did clearly adore Gordon though as a trip to the theatre in 1982 definitely demonstrated. Kenneth was notorious for hating the theatre, particularly later on in life. He was known to walk out mid-performance if it was not to his liking. Patience often wore very thin indeed! However, in 1982 he sat through an entire Agatha Christie play at the Vaudeville Theatre (very close to me now as I write this) and as his diary records, he loathed it. He stayed until the end regardless, only because it starred Gordon Jackson, who's performance he still praised. That from Kenneth, is the ultimate sign of respect!

Gordon outlived Kenneth by only a couple of years. He, along with many other close friends spoke movingly at Williams' funeral in 1988. Sadly, by late 1989 Jackson has been diagnosed with advanced bone cancer. He passed away in early 1990 at the age of just 66. He worked right up until the end, his last performance screened posthumously. 

Kenneth clearly admired Gordon Jackson as an actor, but also more importantly as a man and a human being. I always think it's a touching friendship and a high point in the diaries. If you are unfamiliar with Gordon Jackson or his work, track some of it down and check it out. He was quite simply fantastic in everything he did.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan 

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What a Christmas Carry On with Anita!

Carry On actress, singer and all round lovely lady Anita Harris is taking to the boards in a festive pantomime this Christmas! Anita will be appearing in the classic panto Cinderella at The King's Theatre, Southsea, Portsmouth from early next month.

Anita is a showbiz legend, having enjoyed a long and highly successful career as a pop singer and star of musical theatre for decades. She also, of course, starred in two classic Carry Ons - Follow That Camel and Doctor. It was great to see Anita back on our screens earlier this year, taking part in the brilliant Carry On Forever documentary on ITV.

I also had the great pleasure of meeting Anita at the London Film Convention in September and I'm pleased to say she was every bit as gorgeous and welcoming as I'd hoped she would be. 

Cinderella will be playing at The King's Theatre from 8th December through until 3rd January 2016. So if you are in the local area why not pop along and celebrate Christmas with a Carry On legend?

Full details of the pantomime can be found at The King's Theatre Website and you can also check out Anita's website here.

If you go along to Cinderella, do get in touch - I'd love to hear about it!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan 

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Sunday 22 November 2015

Carry On Rosalind

I love the actress Rosalind Knight. Although never becoming a massive star, like so many of her Carry On colleagues, she has worked continuously during a long career across several different media. Rosalind made her first mark on screen in the Carry On films although that was just the beginning.

Rosalind first appeared in a cameo role in the second film in the series, Carry On Nurse, made in late 1958. Although only in her early twenties at the time, she shone as the accident prone but aptly named Nurse Nightingale. Obviously making her mark, Rosalind was asked back by Peter Rogers for a bigger role in the next film, Carry On Teacher.

In Teacher, Rosalind plays the wonderfully severe schools inspector Felicity Wheeler, who together with Alistair Grigg (Leslie Phillips) conducts an inspection of Maudlin Street School. Of course being a Carry On, things do not go to plan as Richard O'Sullivan's Robin Stevens leads a revolt with the aim of keeping head teacher William Wakefield at the school.

Felicity also falls for the bumbling science teacher, played by Carry On legend Kenneth Connor. Although only meeting and working together for the first time, Knight and Connor work extremely well together and are the heart of the film for me. Sadly Rosalind did not return for any further Carry On films but she has gone on to enjoy a long, varied and successful career on stage, television and in film. It was great to see her reminisce about her time making Teacher in the Carry On Forever documentary screened earlier this year.

Rosalind Knight was always bound to be an actress. She hails from a theatrical family, it's in the blood. Her father was the distinguished actor Esmond Knight and her mother the actress Frances Clare. Her stepmother was Nora Swinburne. In the late 1940s her father took her to the Old Vic theatre in London to see As You Like It and after this Rosalind decided acting was the life was her. She trained for the next two years before joining repertory companies across the country, working at one time with a young Joe Orton. Many years later she would appear in a film about Orton's life, Prick Up Your Ears. 

She got her first big screen break in Blue Murder at St Trinian's in 1957, alongside fellow Carry On actress Dilys Laye. Rosalind would return to appear as a teacher in The Wildcats of St Trinian's in 1980. Other film appearances includes roles in Doctor in Love, Tom Jones (alongside Albert Finney, Susannah York and Patsy Rowlands); The Lady Vanishes (1979) and About A Boy (2002). Rosalind's most recent big screen appearance was as a nun in the film The Lady in a Van starring Maggie Smith.

On the small screen there is hardly anything Rosalind Knight hasn't appeared in. Her roles include parts in Mapp And Lucia, Only Fools and Horses, Midsomer Murders, Coronation Street, Miss Marple, Sherlock and Poirot. Probably Rosalind's most famous television role was as landlady and retired prostitute Beryl Merrit in the outrageous BBC2 comedy Gimme, Gimme, Gimme. The series starred Kathy Burke and James Dreyfus and was written by Jonathan Harvey. It ran from 1999 until 2001.

Rosalind has also had a long career on the stage, both in the West End of London and across the country. Her most recent starring role was in the stage version of Calendar Girls in the West End.

Rosalind married director and producer Michael Elliott in 1959. Elliott co-founded the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. They were together until his death in 1984. The couple had two children, Susannah Elliott-Knight and Marianne Elliott. Marianne has gone on to be a prolific and widely respected theatre director, working at the Royal Court and latterly at the National Theatre. 

With over a hundred screen credits to her name, let's hope Rosalind Knight continues to grace our screens for many more years to come.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan 

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