Saturday 12 December 2015

Carry On Christmas: The 1969 Television Special

With Christmas fast approaching, i thought I would blog about one of my favourite television outings for the Carry On team: the original Carry On Christmas special from 1969.

This first ever Christmas special has it all. It boasts a cast groaning with classic Carry On regulars; it has a tip top script from regular scribe Talbot Rothwell; it has an amazing guest star on top form and it's deliciously rude, naughty festive fun from beginning to end.

Peter Rogers was approached by Thames Television to make this special at a time when the Carry On brand was at the peak of its popularity. The previous year had seen Carry On Camping and Carry On Up The Khyber reach the top of the box office charts, even beating the likes of James Bond and many other big budget international pictures. Clearly wanting to cash in on this success as much as possible, businessman Rogers saw the opportunity to bring the film series to the television screens as being highly lucrative. And indeed it was. 

The 1969 special is my favourite of all four Christmas episodes the gang made. Setting it in Victorian times with Sid James leading the pack as a gloriously nasty Scrooge, the episode has all the usual Carry On goons mugging away around Sid as the star. The show is made up of various sketches, all pretty loosely linked together. The only one which doesn't really work for me is the Frankenstein parody featuring Terry Scott as a deranged doctor, Bernard Bresslaw as the monster and Barbara Windsor as his erm Fanny. It's funny in places but about as festive as the middle of January.

Much better is the hilarious sequence which sees Hattie Jacques dressed up as a nun with Bresslaw, Hawtrey, Scott and Peter Butterworth as carol singing school girls. The four male actors clearly relish being in drag and mug for the camera with complete shamelessness! Hawtrey in particular is on excellent form throughout and impishly giggles and falls in and out of character. Peter Butterworth barely manages to conceal his giggles while Hattie gamely continues with the script and attempts to keep them all under control! Priceless stuff.

The highlight for me is the pantomime sequence at the end. Terry Scott and Peter Butterworth go through their ugly sister routine with aplomb, relishing the chance to bring what must have been a regular stage role for them both to the small screen. Barbara Windsor is great as a downtrodden Cinderella while Charles Hawtrey nearly loses his wig as Buttons! Best of all is the magnificent arrival of guest star Frankie Howerd as the Fairy Godmother. His costume is completely outrageous and this being Frankie, he barely acknowledges the script, going straight into stand up mode. He ad-libs aplenty with Charles Hawtrey and gives Barbara the giggles! It's an absolute joy.

So if you are looking for a festive Carry On special to watch this Christmas, my advice is go for the first and best of the lot, the 1969 Carry On Christmas.

What a Carry On at Christmas! 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan 

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