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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