Thursday 10 March 2016

From the Archive: Whatever Happened To ... The Saboteurs?

I really enjoyed writing this blog. Researching Carry On is never a chore for me and it was great to look back at the young cast of Carry On Teacher and see what has happened to them over the years. Not always a happy tale but hopefully interesting all the same...

I've been blogging about some of the less well known but nevertheless still significant actors involved in the Carry On films. When we think of Carry On actors we think of the likes of Kenneth Williams, Sid James or Barbara Windsor. However the films always boasted a wide range of top quality British supporting players who were instantly recognisable but often never got the recognition they deserved. 

So far I've written about Marianne Stone, Esma Cannon, Carol Hawkins, June Jago and Peter Gilmore. Today I'm following the same theme but approaching it in a slightly different way. Perhaps rather ambitiously I'm going to look at what happened to the young actors who made up the "saboteurs" in that classic early Carry On, Carry On Teacher.

The first film Rogers and Thomas made together was a Children's Film Foundation picture called Circus Friends, in 1956. The film makers quickly demonstrated their ability to coax great performances from young actors and this was evident again three years later when Teacher was released. Carry On Teacher was much more like an Ealing comedy or a St Trinian's film than a Carry On but I love it. It features a top notch cast of regular Carry On stars and a terrific guest star in Ted Ray. So what happened to the child actors who starred in this film?

Let's start with the chief saboteur - Richard O'Sullivan, who played Robin Stevens. Richard had the biggest child role in the film and it was the beginning of big things for the young actor. Richard would go on to become one of the ultimate 70s heartthrobs, starring in hit sitcoms Man About The House and Robin's Nest. Earlier in his career he appeared in two Cliff Richard films, The Young Ones and Wonderful Life and also had a role in the opulent epic Cleopatra opposite Elizabeth Taylor, in 1963. Richard more or less retired from public life in 1996 and although he contributed to a DVD commentary for Teacher in 2006, has sadly suffered from ill health in recent years.

Carol White had a supporting role as Sheila Dale in Carry On Teacher. Having previously appeared in Circus Friends for Rogers and Thomas, Carol would become famous for her starring role in the classic Wednesday Play, Cathy Come Home in 1966. The documentary style drama, written by Ken Loach and co-starring Ray Brooks, tackled the issue of homelessness and led to the creation of the charity Shelter. Despite being seen as one of the most promising actors of her generation, White spent her later years in Hollywood battling addiction problems. She died in Florida at the young age of 48 in 1991. As a footnote, Carol's real life sister Jane also had a small role in the film, playing Irene. 

The actor Larry Dann had a minor role as a school boy in the film. He would later return to the Carry Ons for three supporting roles in Behind, England and with his most substantial role in Emmannuelle. Larry went on to play Sergeant Peters in The Bill from 1984 for eight years and still acts in theatre productions today. Paul Cole, who played Atkins, was a prolific child actor, appearing in the likes of Please Turn Over, The Mouse On The Moon and Billy Bunter. He took part, along with Larry Dann and Richard O'Sullivan, in the DVD commentary for Teacher.

Roy Hines played Harry Bird in Teacher. Sadly Roy died at the age of 40 in 1982 having suffered from lung cancer. Roy was the brother of Emmerdale actor Frazer Hines. George Howell appeared as Billy Haig. Howell found success acting in Scottish television productions including Garnock Way, High Road and Strathblair. Diana Beevers played Penelope Lee. Diana continued to act, appearing in the likes of Father Dear Father, Within These Walls and Rumpole of the Bailey. Her last acting credit came in 1990. Finally, Jacqueline Lewis played Pat Gordon. Very little is known about the rest of Jacqueline's career with only three other uncredited performances to her name.

While the majority of these former child actors are still around, it's a shame there's so little information to be found on what they did next. I'd love to find out what paths their lives have taken since their Carry On experience. 

What you may not have realised is that several other well known actors appeared in Teacher in non-speaking extra roles as school children. First up is future Star Wars actor Jeremy Bulloch. Jeremy went on to appear as Boba Fett but has had a long and varied career ranging from the film Summer Holiday to television in the likes of Agony, Doctor Who and The Professionals. He's still acting today. Future Carry On actor Diane Langton also appeared as an extra. Diane would later appear in several episodes of Carry On Laughing in 1975 and Carry On England the following year. A star of many musical theatre productions, Diane continues to act today, currently a regular in Channel Four soap opera, Hollyoaks. 

Also appearing in Teacher are two future Please Sir! actors, Peter Cleall and David Barry. Peter is still around today but gave up acting to run a theatrical agency. Barry meanwhile is now a successful author. Finally, did you know that the very successful actress Francesca Annis made an early screen appearance in Carry On Teacher? Apparently so! I've never spotted her in the film but according to reliable sources she is in some of the crowd scenes. As she began her training at the Corona Academy it is likely she was involved as that's where the production team found most of their young actors for Teacher. 

So there you go, quite a mammoth blog post but I hope you enjoyed it!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan

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