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

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