Thursday 14 January 2016

The other Miss Syms

Before I start, I know the lovely actress Sylvia Syms never actually appeared in a Carry On film, but she came very close to it, appearing alongside the likes of Sid James, Joan Sims and Jim Dale in the 1965 comedy The Big Job. I think Sylvia was terrific in that film and wonder therefore why she never did star in another Peter Rogers Production. Here are a few of my favourite Sylvia Syms' films. 

Sylvia was a very welcome presence in The Big Job, providing not just glamour but also a sparkling comic performance as Sid's girlfriend who desperately wants to become his wife. As the gangster's moll, she is part of the gang that also includes Lance Percival and Dick Emery. What a cast! By 1965 Syms was already a big name having appeared in several well received and now classic British films.

One of my favourites is the war film Ice Cold in Alex. This 1958 Pinewood offering stars John Mills, Anthony Quayle and Harry Andrews as they attempt to make it across the desert back to British lines in Alexandria. Syms plays a nurse, Diana Murdoch who accompanies the men on the trip. It is a classic, solid British war film that just isn't produced these days. The group face multiple perils en route and in the midst of the drama, love blossoms between Sylvia's character and Captain Anson, played by the legendary film actor John Mills. The film also boasts that famous final scene of the main characters enjoying that ice cold beer at the bar in Alexandria at the end of their perilous journey. The scene ended up, many years later, in an advert for Carlsberg lager.

Another film of Sylvia's that I love is the 1961 Basil Dearden picture, Victim. This film is notable as the first English language film to use the term "homosexual". The film focuses on the story of a successful barrister played by Dirk Bogarde who although apparently happily married to his wife Laura (Syms) has a previous life that involved a relationship with another man. 

The plot involves a blackmailing ring and despite his best efforts to avoid the controversy, eventually Laura finds out the truth about her husband. For the times, this film proved to be both highly controversial and also a major breakthrough. It was a big gamble for Dirk Bogarde, the matinee idol star of the frothy Doctor comedies. He puts in a wonderful performance and is matched by Syms as his distraught by still loving wife.

Much more recently, Sylvia starred alongside Helen Mirren in the 2006 film The Queen. This film tells the story of the Queen's reaction to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 and the rise of Tony Blair. Sylvia is on wonderful form in her role as the Queen Mother. Written by Peter Morgan and directed by Stephen Frears, the film was a huge success and won Mirren an Oscar. 

Other appearances have included Expresso Bongo with Paul Scofield, The Punch and Judy Man with Tony Hancock and Shirley Valentine with Pauline Collins. Thankfully Sylvia is still active today and has recently celebrated her 82nd birthday. As a tenuous link to Carry On, Syms' actress daughter Beatie Edney played Joan Sims in the Kenneth Williams biopic Fantabulosa.

So do you think Peter Rogers should have snapped up Sylvia Syms for a role in an official Carry On after her turn in The Big Job? Or do you think she was offered a role and turned it down? 

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