Thursday 31 March 2016

Carry On, Henry

Carry On Henry is one of those films in the series that I always enjoy but hardly ever watch. As it was on ITV3 this Easter I thought I would give it another look and I really enjoyed it. I have always loved period costume Carry Ons and I think Henry is one of the best.

For a start they actually spent some money on this film! It was the twenty first film in the series and there was quite a fanfare in the media at the time. Therefore it was felt the film should look the part and it really does. As always though, the production company made use of costumes, props and sets from other, more richly furnished films - this time it was Richard Burton's Anne of a Thousand Days. This led to Carry On Henry having the alternative title "Anne of a Thousand Lays". Ahem.


Henry moves along at a spanking good pace. The story, such as a Carry On ever really had a plot, works well and the main team are all on good form. Henry boasts a fine array of regular cast members and they all play their roles to perfection. Leading the pack is of course Sid James. Sid plays the role of Henry VIII with lusty relish and I think it's right up there with his best performances in the likes of Cleo and Khyber. He is on terrific form and is actually very convincing as the marauding monarch. Yet again Joan Sims is on hand to play his nagging spouse. However this time Joan has a lot more to do that just shriek at Sid. First of all she looks fantastic in the period gowns and her French accent is terrific. She also embarks on a rather unlikely romance with Charles Hawtrey's Sir Roger!

Henry marks a glorious return to a major role for Charles after several all too brief Carry On cameos. He really makes the most of his part (!) in Henry and although the Sir Roger's retraction scenes may go on a bit too long, it's great to see more of Charles than in the likes of Jungle and Loving. Further outrageous camp is provided by the sublime Kenneth Williams, giving us his definitive Thomas Cromwell. Kenneth is on barnstorming form, charging about the palace, toadying to the King and plotting behind the scenes against him. Kenneth also makes a wonderful bickering double act with Terry Scott who plays Wolsey. The pair are almost Laurel and Hardy-esque as they squabble and misunderstand each other throughout the film. I'm not normally a fan of Scott but I think he is perfectly cast here.


Also popping up is Barbara Windsor, in what I understand to be her favourite role as Bettina. Barbara, as always, plays the object of Sid's lust and much of the film sees Sidney attempt to woo her whilst getting rid of Joan's Queen Marie, lover of the dreaded garlic. Barbara is great in Henry and as with Joan, looks at her best in those gorgeous period gowns. Barbara didn't appear in many costume Carry On capers which is a shame as she really does look the part. Finally, there is a brief supporting role for original Carry On player Kenneth Connor. Connor had returned to the Carry Ons after a five year hiatus the previous year and it's great to see him back with the gang, even if this role is rather small. 

Carry On Henry also boasts a superb supporting cast of familiar faces. There are a few stand out performances for me, none more so than a larger than usual role for the superb Peter Gilmore as Francis, King of France. Peter looks terrific in this film and forms a lovely double act with Sid. Sadly this would be his last appearance in the series until he returned almost twenty years later for the briefest of supporting roles in Columbus. Also in good form is Julian Holloway as Sid's second in command, Sir Thomas. Rather frustratingly Julian yet again has restricted screen time but proves a welcome addition to the cast. 

Another welcome returning face is the glamorous Margaret Nolan, playing the object of King Henry's affections in a rather bizarre twist on the traditional hunting scene! This marked Margaret's return to the series five years after her debut in Carry On Cowboy. She would go on to make several more appearances during the 1970s. Playing her father in that sequence is the wonderful character actor Derek Francis. He was always excellent value in a Carry On. 


So do I have any niggles about Carry On Henry? Of course I do. For a start there are two cast members who are woefully restricted to a mere cough and a spit and get off! At the very start of the film we see Patsy Rowlands playing Sid's unfortunate Queen, about to have it off, as it were. Apparently Patsy had quite a dramatic speech during this scene but it was eventually cut. What a shame! I never understood Patsy's billing in the Carry Ons as other films around this time gave her much more to get her teeth into - think of Miss Dempsey in Loving or Miss Withering in Convenience. Still it's great to have her involved. Peter Butterworth also appears as Bettina's father Charles. Again he is only in one scene and doesn't even get a credit for it. 

Apart from that I love the film. I think it is visually one of the best Carry Ons to watch, it looks rich and elegant and the cast are all on top form. What's not to love?

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

Carry On Faces of 1976

This is part of a new series of blogs on Carry On Blogging. I plan to blog each year of Carry On, featuring photos of the most prolific actors for each year. Hopefully it will provide an interesting overview of the changing face of Carry On during the series' original mammoth twenty year run. 

It will turn the spotlight on the familiar faces who endured over the decades as well as those artists who came and went along the way. We are continuing today with 1976. Only one film was produced this year, Carry On England. This continued a trend that would see only one film produced a year until the end of the original series in 1978.

Pictured above we have the most prolific actors to appear in 1976. They are as follows: Kenneth Connor as Captain S Melly; Windsor Davies as Sergeant Major Tiger Bloomer; Patrick Mower pictured above as Sergeant Len Able; Judy Geeson as Sergeant Tilly Willing; Jack Douglas as Bombardier Ready; Joan Sims pictured as Private Jennifer Ffoukes-Sharpe; Melvyn Hayes as Gunner Shorthouse; Peter Jones as the Brigadier and finally, Peter Butterworth as Major Carstairs.

Of those featured above, only Kenneth Connor was an original cast member from the very first film, Carry On Sergeant in 1958. Carry On England was a controversial film which ushered in a whole new cast and a whole new style to the series. It bombed at the box office. Only Connor, Sims, Butterworth and Douglas were familiar faces from previous Carry Ons, with Sims and Butterworth restricted to little more than cameos.

Windsor Davies returned to Carry On for a starring role following the success of his perfomance in the previous film, Carry On Behind. Amongst the new faces joining the team were familiar television performers Patrick Mower and Melyvn Hayes. Judy Geeson, the film star sister of Sally Geeson, also starred. None of these new names were particularly adept at Carry On humour and the film keenly missed absent stars such as Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques, Bernard Bresslaw and Sidney James. Sadly Sid had passed away just as pre-production on England had commenced.

Stay tuned for the Carry On Faces of 1978 coming up soon!

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

Wednesday 30 March 2016

A Year of Carrying On: My favourite Guest Blog

Over the past year I've been lucky enough to receive several really wonderful guest blog posts from fellow Carry On fans. As I celebrate the first year of Carry On Blogging, here is a re-post of one of my favourites:

In the latest of the guest blogs written for this site, Sarah has blogged about what some of our favourite Carry On actors got up to during the war. It's a fascinating read and I'm so grateful to Sarah for taking the time to research and write this great blog...

I am of the opinion that the post war period was the golden age of British cinema.  The Ealing comedies and the early Carry On films for example all showcase talent that I don’t think we will ever see the like of again. I can’t think of any modern day actors that can touch the on-screen charisma of our stars from the 1950s. The kind of film that is released today fades from memory overnight; whereas we will be watching ‘Carry on Nurse’ or ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt’ for decades to come.

I think that the reason for this lies in the Second World War. This conflict mixed up society and moved people around on an unprecedented scale.  Ordinary British workers came into contact with situations and colleagues that they would never have previously imagined.  It gave them the opportunity to discover and develop strengths and talents that lay dormant or were unappreciated. This is particularly relevant in the case of our actors and entertainers because of the huge need for their talents during wartime.

When war broke out on 3rd September 1939, cinemas and theatres were immediately closed down.   However, it was soon realised that entertainment was essential to morale. ENSA (Entertainment National Services Association) was already in the process of being set up.  This organisation comprised civilian entertainers who toured around various locations including army camps, factories and field hospitals. Later on, a service personnel version called Stars in Battledress would be formed. Think of any household name in the field of entertainment from the post war period, and the chances are that they did their bit for one of these organisations.  Established entertainers also continued to work in cinema and theatre, tirelessly keeping up the spirits of a bombed and worn out nation.

Wartime work such as this was by no means an easy task, and many worked in dangerous situations. During the Blitz, if an air raid siren sounded, the show went on for those that chose to not take shelter.  Actors, singers and dancers all performed near enemy lines and traversed the Middle East and North Africa to get to their audiences. There’s nothing like the sound of bullets and bombs in the near distance to focus the mind on the job in hand! I think that this combination of circumstances gave us the actors and scriptwriters that made British film great in the years afterwards, as that momentum continued.

The Carry On actors can be used as an example of how this worked, and I thought that it would be interesting to have a little look at the Carry On stars at war…what did they get up to?

The most fascinating of war time stories belongs to Peter Butterworth.  At the outbreak of war he joined the Royal Navy.  In 1940 he was captured in the Netherlands and then became a prisoner of war for the duration. He escaped from his first prison camp but was recaptured by a member of Hitler’s Youth movement. Peter was then sent to Stalag Luft III, where he met none other than Talbot Rothwell.  The pair formed an entertainment duo, which was deliberately rubbish.  The ensuing boos and catcalls as they performed effectively masked the sound of tunnels being dug by other potential escapees!

Kenneth Connor was another active serviceman. He was an infantry gunner, but he came from a family that liked to put on shows and he had acted from an early age.  His love of the stage led him to carry out some work for Stars in Battledress.  He was particularly noted for a role in Terence Rattigan’s play ‘Flare Path’.  As soon as he was demobbed he received an invitation to join the Bristol Old Vic.

Sid James served in the entertainment section of the South African army. Biographies describe in detail how he used this ideal opportunity to refine the comic persona that we all know and love. He also produced shows and auditioned participants.  It was his army gratuity that paid for his passage to Britain after the war ended.

Kenneth Williams was a little younger than those mentioned above, and didn’t receive his call up papers until 1944.  By the time he had completed his training the war in Europe was almost over.  He was posted to the Royal Engineers and arrived in India in April 1945. After a while, he secured a transfer to the Combined Services Entertainment (which had taken over from ENSA by then). This is where it all began for Kenneth, as he toured the Far East doing plays, revues and radio shows.  His diaries from this period mention several familiar names including Stanley Baxter (who would become a lifelong friend), John Schlesinger and Pete Postlethwaite. This shows how easy it was to become part of an “old boy’s network” and to make contacts that would prove useful in civilian life. The first entry in his book of post war letters was addressed to Val Gielgud at the BBC, describing his radio experiences and stating that he was “anxious to obtain work in the field of broadcasting.”

Away from the army, Joan Sims was too young to serve, being only nine years old at the outbreak of war. However, in her autobiography she describes her very first acting role as being a wounded casualty at the local St John Ambulance training sessions. Later on in the war, she would keep the spirits of Laindon up by performing in the local amateur drama club.  Hattie Jacques meanwhile was at the sharp end of medical matters, while working as a nurse during the Blitz. It is obvious to draw parallels with her status as Britain’s favourite matron – but I think that these experiences must have affected her profoundly. Hattie must have been witness to some truly awful sights.  I wonder how much these turned her into the apparently compassionate and caring lady that she is often described as – and informed her performances. Matron was never a one dimensional character no matter what the script presented to Hattie – she knew how to make her seem human.  She re-started her acting career in 1944 in revue, after leaving nursing and taking a job as a welder.

Only two of the actors most associated with Carry On were already established in the acting profession in the 1930s. Charles Hawtrey had worked in theatre and film since the 1920s.  He was a conscientious objector, but he continued to perform throughout the war.  Esma Cannon was in her forties and so would not have been required to take on war work, and she continued to tour the country in various plays.  Both probably got the opportunity to tackle a wider range of roles than they had done previously.

So, if it had not been for the war, Sid James might have stayed in South Africa, Kenneth Williams might never have developed his range of radio personas and Peter Butterworth might not have met Talbot Rothwell.  It doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?!

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Tuesday 29 March 2016

A Year of Carrying On: Whatever Happened to Esma Cannon?


As Carry On Blogging reaches its first anniversary, I wanted to look back and share the top three most popular blog posts I've written so far. So now for the most popular blog I've written so far. In this post I look back at the life and career of a real fans' favourite, the delightful Esma Cannon.

So many of the actors who appeared in the Carry On films are well known to us. Their lives have been well documented both on screen and off. While we always love hearing about them, sometimes it can feel a bit repetitive or that we are collectively raking over old coals.

I want to start an occasional series of blog posts looking at some of the lesser known actors who appeared in Carry On films. Sometimes we will know a fair amount about them but for whatever reason they have not garnered much publicity. Others will be a complete mystery. 

So far I've written about Carry On supporting actors Gail Grainger and Marianne Stone. Now I promise I will focus on some male actors in this series of blogs, but today I want to cover a diminutive actress who brought memorable comedic turns to four early Carry On films. Yes, you guessed it, Esma Cannon. 

As a child I loved the early black and white Carry On films. They had a charm and innocence that some of the later films in the series lacked. I always loved Esma Cannon's characters in these entries. She was one of those character actresses who cropped up in a myriad of British films and television and her run of Carry Ons marked her career peak but also her career swan song.

Esma Cannon first appearance in a Carry On film came with a delightful cameo as a deaf, dotty old lady in Constable at the tale end of the 1950s. On location in Ealing, Constable Kenneth Williams attempts to help her cross the road and ends up being whacked with Esma's big baguette! Obviously catching the eye of Rogers and Thomas, Cannon was back with a more substantial supporting turn in the next film Carry On Regardless. In Regardless she played Miss Cooling, assistant to Bert Handy, owner of The Helping Hands Agency. Sid James and Esma Cannon formed a delightful double act in this film with their scenes acting as bookends between the Carry On calamities of the likes of Kenneth Williams, Liz Fraser and Joan Sims. Cannon shares a memorable scene with Kenneth Connor which leads into his famous send up of The Thirty-nine Steps.

In early 1962 Esma Cannon reunited with a smaller cast for Carry On Cruising. This is probably her most effective and substantial contribution to the series. As Bridget Madderley she has a difficult task as most of her scenes are on her own with nobody to play off. It is a delightfully twittery performance, particularly the scene she shares with Dilys Laye where both characters proceed to get rather drunk, rather quickly! Cannon's timing and presence on screen are brilliant throughout.

Esma Cannon returned for one final Carry On film, Carry On Cabby, shot in the Spring of 1963. This is a different role to her previous contributions. She is much more worldly and streetwise as Flo Sims, a lady who helps Hattie Jacques' character Peggy Hawkins set up the wonderful Glam Cabs firm in direct competition with husband Charlie's Speedee Cabs. Esma plays this one very down to earth and straight forward but it is a terrific part for her. As usual there is a real twinkle in her eye throughout. The combined forces of Jacques, Cannon, Liz Fraser and Amanda Barrie bring Sid and the lads to their knees!

Sadly that was Esma's last appearance in a Carry On film and pretty much her last film role. She retired not long afterwards at a time when offers of work must have been pouring in. So what other film and television appearances is Esma Cannon well known for? On television her main role was as part of the runaway comedy success, The Rag Trade. She played Lil in that series opposite the likes of Sheila Hancock, Barbara Windsor, Peter Jones and Miriam Karlin, between 1961-1963.

Her career dates back to 1936. Over the next three decades she appeared in a wide variety of classic British films such as: Here Come the Huggetts (1948); Simon and Laura (1955); Further Up The Creek (1958); I'm All Right Jack (1959); Raising The Wind (1961); The Fast Lady (1962), On The Beat (1962) and Nurse On Wheels (1963). Most roles played to type but it brought her into contact with the likes of Joan Sims, Margaret Rutherford, Leslie Phillips, Stanley Baxter and Norman Wisdom. Not a bad run!

So what else do we know about Esma Cannon? Well, we know she was actually born in Australia in 1905. For whatever reason, she decided to travel to Britain in the early 1930s, slowly building up a list of acting credits and achieving notable success up until the early 1960s when she decided to leave the acting profession. And that's almost all we know about her.

Esma was most certainly married and apparently had children, or at least a son. In the audio commentary for Carry On Cruising, the late actress Dilys Laye recalled working with Esma Cannon with great warmth and affection. Apparently every year on their son's birthday Esma and her husband would give each other gifts too in celebration of all they had achieved together. Sadly, Esma Cannon passed away at the age of just 66 in 1972. This news was apparently not reported in the press as many of her colleagues were unaware of her passing until years later. At the time of her death, Esma was allegedly living in Camden, North London although records show she is buried in France. Again, we have no idea what was behind this.

I guess we will never know much more about this elusive yet wonderful comic actress. Who knows if any of her family are still alive today? While it is a shame we do not know more about Esma Cannon, at least we can still enjoy her wonderful acting talents not only in those early Carry Ons but also a wide variety of classic British films of the 40s, 50s and early 60s.

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A Year of Carrying On: Glenda's Guest Blog


As I celebrate my first anniversary at Carry On Blogging, my Coronation Street Blog colleague Glenda Young has contributed this lovely guest blog. Thanks Glenda! 
Where has the time gone? It’s been 12 whole months since Graeme started up his Carry On Blog and today I thought I’d write a few words by way of congratulations for all his hard work.
What I like most about this blog is the terrific insight that Graeme has bringing us the world of the Carry On films. The work on this blog is intelligent without being pretentious (if you know what I mean) and there’s a genuine love of the subject that comes through with every word. 

I also love the pictures that Graeme finds and posts to his @CarryOnJoan twitter account.  They’re pictures that without exception, always make me smile. But it’s more than that. The pictures take me back to my childhood, when I was watching the Carry On Films for the very first time. The memories the pictures evoke are very strong indeed.
Babs Windsor with her bra flying off in Carry on Camping? I was sitting on the sofa between my two brothers, giggling our heads off because it was so naughty and rude, while my parents sat at opposite ends of the living room, giggling too.  Odd Job in Carry On Screaming? I was terrified. I think I still am, but I no longer need to hide behind a cushion on the sofa.  Sid James and Joan Sims in Carry on at your Convenience? It took a few times of watching this one until I was old enough to understand the wonderful pathos and the love that could have been.

The blog posts here and the pictures that Graeme brings us via twitter daily are a treat. They are a spot of sunshine and fun in our social media lives.
Long may it continue!

Carry on, Graeme!
 Glenda Young
Editor of Coronation Street Blog

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

A Year of Carrying On: Where it all began

I published my first ever Carry On Blogging post a year ago today, 29 March 2015. I had no idea if it would take off but I thought I'd have a damn good go at it. A year on and I'm still loving every minute of it. So here are my first tentative steps into the world of blogging about the Carry On films...

I've been tweeting about the Carry On films for nearly a year now and while I've loved sharing photos, clips and opinions with all my lovely followers, I felt it was time to expand on 140 characters with some proper blogs. So here we go.

I have absolutely adored the Carry On films since I was a child. I clearly remember my first Carry On film experience. After digging about in a bargain bin in Woolworths (RIP) I came upon a video of Carry On Doctor. Encouraged by my mother, for she is to blame, I spent my hard earned pocket money on this comedy classic and the rest is history. 

As an eight year old child the innuendo mostly passed me by. What I loved as a kid was the pantomime quality the films had. Adults looking silly, doing stupid things but obviously having a great time. Men in drag, scary matrons, funny music and lots of people falling over. I still love all that today and yes, as a 32 year old, I do adore the odd ripe innuendo. As an adult, I've come to cherish the comedy actors who appeared in these films. They really were one offs, never to be repeated. Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas really did strike it lucky with their band of actors, chiefly Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques, Charles Hawtrey and my own personal favourite: the glorious Joan Sims. I'm pretty sure we'll never see their like again.

I soon became an avid collector of all the Carry On films. I set the video recorder late at night whenever one appeared and watched them religiously. I still do (ok, not the video recording bit). They represent a Britain that never really existed but sneakingly we'd all admit to wishing we could be a part of. It dealt in cliches and at times they were over the top and incredibly politically incorrect. They drifted in and out of fashion but will always be a part of our culture. They scream Britishness and they do make me proud.

I remember the moment I first saw a Carry On film on the big screen. In my teenage years I dragged a friend to a cinema in Glasgow which had organised a showing of six films back to back throughout one rainy Sunday. Apart from a quick trip out for fish and chips I think we managed through every single one. It was magic. A few years later, before the world of work came calling I made a joyful geeky pilgrimage around some of the locations used in the Carry Ons. We visited Pinewood Studios where of course all 31 films were made. We drove round Pinewood Green, featured in many of the films. We visited Maidenhead Town Hall (Doctor, Again Doctor, Behind); I had my picture taken outside the Wedded Bliss Agency in Windsor and the church used in Carry On Matron. It was anorak time and I adored it. I also took the opportunity to do some blue plaque spotting, tracking down Sid's in Ealing, Kenneth Williams' near Great Portland Street, Joan's in Kensington and Hattie Jacques' out at Earls Court.

So enough of my geeky recollections for now. What about this blog? Well I will use it to natter on about all things Carry On. The films themselves, the actors involved, my views, opinions and any interesting tit bits I can find. I'll also encourage feedback and comments from any fellow Carry On aficionados out there - so get in touch via Twitter or leave a comment here on the blog. 

So Carry On Tweeting, Carry On Following and Carry On Commenting! 

Follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan

Carry On Blogging's First Anniversary!


A year ago today I posted by first ever Carry On blog post. I had no idea what I was doing, where it was going or if anyone would actually read my scribblings. 365 days later and I'm still at it, as it were!

Over the past year I have written over 700 blogs and I didn't really think I had it in me. As of 29 March Carry On Blogging has had nearly 110,000 visits and I have over 4000 twitter followers. This project started off as a Twitter tribute site to my heroine, the wonderful Joan Sims. The Twitter page quickly mushroomed into a general Carry On fan page and I love finding and posting photos of some of my favourite British character comedy actors. From the response I have received, these actors are still incredibly popular.

I love being in contact with so many fellow Carry On fans on social media. So many of you have been really kind about my blogging efforts and it's much appreciated. Basically I'm just a massive fan of these comedy films, the actors who made them so special and their careers away from the series. I hope to continue blogging about them for the foreseeable future and I hope you continue to enjoy them!


I will be posting a selection of my favourite blogs from the past year over the next few days so stay tuned for those!

So Carry On!

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

Monday 28 March 2016

A Year of Carrying On: Whatever Happened to Gail Grainger?

As Carry On Blogging reaches its first anniversary, I wanted to look back and share the top three most popular blog posts I've written so far. In second place is this post, looking at the career of one-time Carry On actress Gail Grainger, who sadly seems to have vanished without trace...

So many of the actors who appeared in the Carry On films are well known to us. Their lives have been well documented both on screen and off. While we always love hearing about them, sometimes it can feel a bit repetitive or that we are collectively raking over old coals.

I want to start an occasional series of blog posts looking at some of the lesser known actors who appeared in Carry On films. Sometimes we will know a fair amount about them but for whatever reason they have not garnered much publicity. Others will be a complete mystery. 

I want to start off with one actress who is a legendary Carry On mystery and someone a lot of fans often ponder: Gail Grainger. 

Gail Grainger only appeared in one Carry On film, Carry On Abroad, which was made and released in 1972. Although only a supporting role, Miss Plunkett was quite a memorable one and a part that seemed to strike a chord with the audience. Gail played Moira Plunkett, assistant to Kenneth Williams, the WundaTours representative who accompanied a party of holidaymakers to the island of Elsbells for a long weekend they would never forget. During the course of the film, Miss Plunkett becomes romantically involved with Williams' character, Stuart Farquhar. "Miss Plunkett! You are squashing my itenary!" The old ones are the best.

I have no idea how Gail Grainger came to be cast in her solo Carry On appearance but I think she did a good job and wonder why she did not feature in any more films in the series. It feels like a role meant for Valerie Leon who perhaps was already committed to another project. Anyway, I liked Gail in the role. So what about other aspects of Miss Grainger's career?

Leslie Phillips' 2006 memoir references Gail Grainger several times. Not only did she appear in his short-lived BBC television series Casanova '73, she also joined the star in several theatrical tours, namely a stage version of The Avengers and a tour of the play The Man Most Likely To, both in the early 1970s. Infuriatingly, even though Leslie mentions Gail several times in his book, no further light is shed on her whereabouts or what she is up to today. 

Gail Grainger made several appearances on television and in film during the mid to late 1970s. She played George Carter's girlfriend in an episode of The Sweeney, played Leonard's estranged wife in an episode of Butterflies and turned up in the Diane Keen comedy series Rings On Their Fingers in 1980. However after 1980 she appears to have quit acting and retired from the spotlight. She has never made any appearances at Carry On functions or been interviewed about her time making Carry On Abroad. As she was born around 1950, we'd hope she would still be alive and well. 

The DVD audio commentary for Carry On Abroad was recorded in 2002 and featured Sally Geeson, Carol Hawkins, David Kernan and John Clive. During their lively conversation, Gail was mentioned with those taking part asking what might have happened to her. Sadly, nobody seems to know.

If anyone does know anything more about Gail Grainger, her career or what she might be up to these days, get in touch as I'd love to hear from you. 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan

Carry On Blogging on Facebook!

Did you know that Carry On Blogging was also on Facebook? Well it is and if you are too why not follow me there?

You will find the same pictures, comment and blog posts available on my Carry On Blogging Facebook page and it provides another great forum to interact with me and other Carry On fans. 

So why not boost my page on Facebook by following and liking some of my posts? It would be much appreciated. I look forward to seeing you there!

And in the meantime, do follow me on Twitter too - I love you comments, feedback and general Carry On banter, so keep it coming! Links to both Twitter and Facebook pages at the bottom of this blog! 

Carry On Following!

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

Carry On Guest Blogging!

Last year I wrote a guest blog for the wonderful History Usherette Blog which is run by @agathadascoyne . I wrote about the social history of the Carry Ons, comparing Carry On Cruising with Carry On Abroad, highlighting how Britain had changed over that ten year period. This experience got me thinking.

I have really enjoyed hearing from those of you who have submitted answers to my Carry On Fan of the Week blog series. I love interacting with fellow Carry On fans - if you want to take part in that, please do get in touch via I want to open this idea up further now, though. 

If there are any keen bloggers out there who would like to try their hand at writing a guest blog for Carry On Blogging, do get in touch. It can be about anything, as long as it has a Carry On connection. Perhaps you could write about how you first discovered the Carry Ons or who your favourite actor is and why? Anything really that takes your fancy. All you need to do is get writing and email the results to

Carry On Scribbling!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan

Sunday 27 March 2016

A Year of Carrying On: My Top Ten Carry On Films: Number 1!

As Carry On Blogging reaches its first anniversary, I wanted to look back and share the top three most popular blog posts I've written so far. In third place is this blog post, all about my favourite Carry On film ever, Carry On Cabby. Earlier last year I did a count down of my top ten Carry Ons and this one most definitely came out on top!

I've been attempting to figure out what my absolute favourite Carry On films of all time are and I've been publishing the results on this blog. It has been a hard task. Some choices have been relatively easy to make, others less so. It has been a struggle leaving some excellent films out! I think my top ten so far has shown a broad cross section of the films, spanning two decades and a whole lot of changes, both within the films themselves and in wider British culture.

Well here it is, the final post and time to reveal my favourite Carry On film of all time. There has been some stiff competition Matron! For me though, there has only ever been one main contender. Coming out on top is Carry On Cabby!

Cabby was one of the first Carry Ons I ever saw and certainly the first black and white entry I watched. As a child I loved the old cars, the slapstick and the big gangster car chase finale. In many ways it isn't really a typical Carry On film at all. It wasn't even planned as an official part of the series. Originally titled Call Me A Cab (which you can pick up on if you hum the theme music), it was meant just as another of the plethora of comedy films released from the Rogers and Thomas stable in the late 1950s and early 1960s. However the powers that be obviously realised they had something special and quickly released it as a fully fledged Carry On.

It is in many ways a "Kitchen Sink" Carry On, reflecting the trend for more honest depictions of the working classes and what life was really like in Britain. It was shot in black and white to give it grit and lead actors Sid James and Hattie Jacques portrayed a marriage on the rocks. It was believable, heartbreaking at times but always with lovely comedic moments running through the script.

And what a script. Cabby was the first film written for the series by the legendary writer Talbot Rothwell. It shows a definite shift away from the cosy 1950s Norman Hudis scripts. Although miles away from the innuendo-laden films that would follow later in the decade, it has a different pace, the performances are more subtle (sometimes) and everything feels more realistic. 

At the heart of Carry On Cabby is the marriage of Charlie and Peggy Hawkins, beautifully brought to life by Sid James and Hattie Jacques. James and Jacques were meant to work together as husband and wife on screen. It was just so right, believable and fabulously entertaining. Peggy is basically frustrated with her lot in life, realising she has much more to offer. Although there is a lot of love in their marriage, she feels neglected by Charlie who is a complete workaholic, not believing Peggy can amount to much other than having the dinner on the table for whenever he can find the time to eat it. So Peggy calls his bluff and sets out to prove otherwise. What follows is a glorious shift in the power game as Peggy sets up a rival cab company, Glam Cabs. Enlisting the help of Flo (Esma Cannon), she employs beautiful young lady drivers and sexy modern cabs to fight the blokes for every fare going. It is joyous, rip roaring stuff.

Sid James is on terrific form as Charlie. He is playing a softer version of his Hancock character. He's still hard drinking, hard working and macho but there are frailties there too. He can't cope without his wife by his side and it's both refreshing and painful to watch. Sid's best mate in the film is played by that reliable stalwart of the series, Kenneth Connor. While backing his friend to the hilt throughout, Connor also has relationship worries with the glamorous canteen manager Sally played by the lovely LIz Fraser. Fraser works really well with Jacques and Cannon as they close ranks on the men.

Charles Hawtrey has a wonderful role as Pint Pot, the hapless, accident prone new recruit who is forever breaking things, creating embarrassing situations with passengers and careering about on his scooter. Hawtrey excels in this part and together with James features in a lovely running gag with an expectant father (the first Carry On for Jim Dale) who's wife doesn't know whether she is coming or going! 

The film, without a doubt, belongs to Hattie Jacques. It is widely known as her favourite role in the series and you can see why. For once she is not the harridan. She is not the stern Matron. She is portraying a smart, sexy, sensitive, intelligent, multi-layered character. Most of all it gives Hattie something proper to act. For most of her long, successful career Jacques was pigeon-holed as the Matron or the funny fat lady. It must have been endlessly frustrating for someone so talented and with so much more to give. While Cabby might just be another Carry On film in the series for some, it at least allowed viewers to see a different side to Hattie and different aspects of her terrific acting talent.

There are also some lovely supporting turns. Milo O'Shea appears in his only Carry On as new taxi driver Len. Scottish actress Renee Houston has a cameo as the owner of the Cab Driver's Cafe Sid and the others are often seen in. Norman Chappell pops up throughout as the irritating shop steward. Bill Owen, in his last role in the series plays Smiley in a few opening scenes. Finally, we get an eye catching appearance from the future Cleo herself, the superb Amanda Barrie as Glam Cab driver Anthea. Barrie is wonderful every time she appears, from the initial Glam Cab drivers line up, her first meeting with Sid and Charles in the cafe to her scenes perched on the bonnet of her cab while an old man changes her tyre. Hilarious stuff.

In the end all is well. Jacques and Fraser are kidnapped by nasty Peter Gilmore and his band of crooks and it is up to Sid, Kenneth and Charles to track them down and rescue the damsels in distress. By the end of the film warring couples are reunited and Charlie and Peggy have some unexpected but lovely news too. Yes I know there are some obvious absentees - no Kenneth Williams or Joan Sims. While it might seem odd to have my favourite Carry On be a film without two of my favourite actors, Cabby just works so well that I don't really miss those that don't appear. 

The film leaves you with a warm, satisfied glow. Yes, I know life doesn't work out that way most of the time but the film has shown different layers to these characters. There are moments for belly laughs, moments of anger and tender moments too. While I love the slapstick, Kenneth Connor in drag and Charles Hawtrey camping about on his scooter, it is the honest portrayals by Sid and Hattie that make this film a bit special and different from any of the others in the wonderful Carry On series. It will always be my favourite. 

You can listen to Eric Rogers' wonderful music from Carry On Cabby here. It includes the glorious "Glam Cabs" theme!

And here is the original trailer for the film:

I hope you have enjoyed the countdown of my all time favourite Carry On films. I have loved writing about them all. 

Wagons roll!

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