Tuesday 8 March 2016

My Favourite Carry On Guest Stars


Over the years the Carry On films recruited quite a number of well known guest stars for the films. I think this was a good idea as it often helped to freshen up the regular cast and provide a different dynamic. Some new additions worked better than others but most added something new to the existing team.

This trend started with the original film, Carry On Sergeant in 1958. Bob Monkhouse guest starred, already a big name on the small screen. Although Bob may not have been a real team player, preferring to be out on his own, he turned in an effective performance in Sergeant. The following year Wilfrid Hyde-White filmed scenes as the guest star for Carry On Nurse. Playing a wily old colonel in a private room, Hyde-White was superb and worked well with the likes of Harry Locke and Joan Sims.

Over the course of the next twenty years, many other big names would join the team. These included Ted Ray in Teacher; Stanley Unwin in Regardless; Cecil Parker in Jack; Harry H Corbett in Screaming; Phil Silvers in Follow That Camel; Frankie Howerd in Doctor, Up The Jungle and the Carry On Christmas 1969 television special; Roy Castle in Up The Khyber; Wilfrid Brambell and Patricia Hayes in Again Doctor; Jimmy Logan in Girls and Elke Sommer in Behind.


So which worked and which didn't? Well before I list my top three, I must admit I don't like Phil Silvers turn as Sergeant Knocker in Follow That Camel. I believe the production company were under pressure from new distributors The Rank Organisation to open up the American market, hence an American guest star. I love Silvers in his television role as Bilko however he sticks out like a sore thumb in this very English comedy film. It just fails to gel. I also hate Jimmy Logan's turn as Cecil Gaybody in Girls. I don't like that film anyway, but Logan's cameo is just dreadful. Indeed Jimmy often said it was his most embarrassing job ever! He was so good as Bert Conway in Abroad, the previous film. i think the role of Gaybody was initially earmarked for Charles Hawtrey however with him out of the series, it must have been frantically recast. 

Now for my top three. In third place is the wonderful Ted Ray as William Wakefield in Carry On Teacher. Ted was a naturally funny man and he fitted in really well with the blossoming Carry On team. He was well cast as the kindly headmaster as Maudlin Street school and his scenes with Kenneth Connor, a regular colleague on radio, are just superb. Peter Rogers wanted Ted to become a regular in the team however as Ray was contracted to a rival company it didn't work out. While this is a shame, it did open up a place in the team for one Sidney James.


In second place is the sultry guest star of Carry On Behind, Elke Sommer. At first Sommer is an odd choice for this film however she had worked in similar comedies, such as the Percy series of films, produced by Peter Rogers' wife Betty Box. Elke was a big international star and commanded a huge salary for her appearance in Behind. I really do wonder what she made of the knock about comedy full of naughty British innuendos. Filming conditions must also have been rather uncomfortable for the big star. However her double act with Kenneth Williams' preening Professor Crump is comedy gold. Much is made of the continental misunderstandings and while it does dominate her role, it never gets stale. Elke really does give it her all and she is tremendous in the part of Anna Vooshka.

Finally, my favourite Carry On guest star - the wonderful Frankie Howerd. Despite the fact that Frankie turns up on set each time, barely pays attention to the character written for him and goes through his stand up routine, he delivers the goods each time. As charlatan faith healer Francis Bigger in Doctor and as Professor Inigo Tinkle in Jungle, he is outstanding. He works well with fellow cast members such as Kenneth Connor and Joan Sims. Indeed Howerd and Sims could not work together without bursting into fits of giggles. Perhaps Frankie was just too big a personality to become a series regular, but his two film roles and his appearance in the Christmas television special are just wonderful.


So which guest stars are your favourites? Do you agree with my choices?

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