Monday 15 February 2016

Carry On Hero of the Week: Peter Butterworth

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 the man who had a relatively small role to play in the success of the Carry Ons, but did well given the difficult timing of his arrival on the scene.

Today's hero of the week is that wonderful actor Peter Butterworth. Peter has become a real fans' favourite over the years and most familiar with the films really rate his comedy talents. So while Peter is justly celebrated by those in the know, my reason for highlighting him in this blog is because I always felt he never quite got the recognition he deserved at the time. Peter Butterworth only joined the Carry Ons in 1965 when he featured in Cowboy as Doc. 

Despite being a relatively late addition, he went on to star in 16 Carry On films as well as many of the Carry On Laughing television episodes for ATV, three Carry On Christmas television specials, the legendary Carry On London stage show at the Victoria Palace and even a Carry On Laughing stage show at Scarborough in 1976. His contribution to the success of the Carry Ons was immense.

Despite all this, Peter often found himself mugging around in the background. As a confirmed scene stealer, this was no problem for Butterworth. Some of his finest moments come in the background of the main action, sending up the main performers or reacting to gags with amazing expressions or inspired physical comedy. The man was a natural and never, ever missed an opportunity to make the most of a comedic situation. In many of the films, his name was found at the bottom of the cast list and he was given the minimum of dialogue and while this was a shame, his contributions were still wonderful. That says a lot for his powers as a comedy performer.

Peter did grab some lovely starring roles in the Carry Ons - particularly is Slobotham in Screaming, his Simpson in Follow That Camel, Brother Belcher in Khyber and Pepe in Abroad. Perhaps the latter is his finest hour. He worked so incredibly hard in that film as the frenetic hotel concierge. It was a very physical, beautifully timed role that Peter obviously grabbed with both hands. 

Unusually for a main team member, Peter also appeared in several uncredited cameos in the films. In 1969, after four years of main roles he played an unnamed hospital patient in the spot diagnosis scene with Peter Gilmore and Jim Dale. The following year he also appeared in both Carry Ons, but in cameos. 

In Carry On Loving he played the sinister client at the Wedded Bliss Agency with Sid James and in Henry he played the Earl of Bristol. Both were blink and you'll miss them appearances. I've never been sure why he appeared in such small, uncredited roles - perhaps he was so busy in other parts but still wanted to be a part of the fun at Pinewood? 

Whatever the reason, it was always wonderful to see Peter B as part of the Carry On team.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also on Facebook

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