Friday 15 January 2016

Joan carries on ... as Miss Sarah Allcock

This blog marks the beginning of a new regular series on Carry On Blogging. I'm going to attempt to blog about each of Joan Sims' wonderful roles in the Carry On films. Joan was the most prolific of all the actresses involved in the series, clocking up 24 films. Indeed, only Kenneth Williams made more Carry Ons.

Today we are going to move on to Joan's second role in the series, as gym mistress Miss Sarah Allcock in 1959's Carry On Teacher. Following her debut in Carry On Nurse the previous year, Rogers and Thomas were quick to invite Joan back to Pinewood for another romp with the gang. I absolutely love Teacher, it's a Carry On alright but it also feels more like a combination of a Doctor film and a St Trinian's picture. It's more innocent than some later efforts and the core cast which appear all create memorable characters.

Joan rises up the ranks, achieving fourth billing in Teacher and shares some marvellous scenes with her colleagues Kenneth Connor, Charles Hawtrey, Hattie Jacques and Kenneth Williams. She also enjoys terrific chemistry with her on-screen love interest, the lecherous school inspector Alistair Grigg (Leslie Phillips). Sims and Phillips obviously enjoyed working together and this rapport shines through. 

The basic premise of Teacher surrounds acting headmaster William Wakefield's desire to leave his current post and move to a promoted role at a new school in the country. This decision coincides with a visit from two schools inspectors - Leslie Phillips and Rosalind Knight's strict, officious Felicity Wheeler. The school children, led by Robin Stevens (Richard O'Sullivan) immediately play up and cause all kinds of chaos, not out of deliberate badness but because they want Wakefield to stay. Ted Ray puts in a glorious turn as the sentimental Wakefield.

Joan's role as Miss Allcock is an eye catching turn. She provides much of the glamour, taking up where the absent Shirley Eaton left off.  She is full of energetic enthusiasm leaping about in tight shorts and catching the eye of Leslie Phillips from the off. The film got into trouble from the censors for Leslie's delicious delivery of the name Allcock...and a legend was born! 

Joan conducts the exercise classes with the girls like a Carry On version of Joyce Grenfell and it's all terrific stuff. She also looks amazing throughout, proving herself to be more than capable of the gorgeous, attractive female lead. She quite clearly grabs the role with relish, whether it be the infamous pants splitting scene in the gym, the tea spiking and conga line in the staff room or her scrap with Felicity Wheeler ending up in Phillips getting a smacker!

There is also an early (and admittedly rare) moment of feminism in Teacher as Sims and Jacques (as Maths teacher Miss Short) attempt to track down the ringleaders of all the mayhem and prove they were more intelligent than their male colleagues! Sadly these moments were few and far between in the Carry Ons! 

Joan is a delight throughout Carry On Teacher. She is both innocent and saucy, with many knowing looks and instances of suggestive behaviour. The role of Miss Allcock allows Sims to display many of her ample talents! 

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