Saturday 2 April 2016

Five of the Best: Carry On Double Acts

As in all great comedy, the Carry On films worked so well because the team of regular actors bonded as a group. The chemistry between the main team helped make the films the massive successes they were. So here, without further ado, are my top five favourite Carry On double acts.

Sidney James and Hattie Jacques, Carry On Cabby (1963)

Although I think Sid and Joan Sims were the best partnership in the Carry Ons, Sid and Hattie are irresistible together in Carry On Cabby. Cabby was very much the Kitchen Sink Carry On and the marriage troubles of Charlie and Peggy Hawkins is touching, funny and believable. I love Cabby - it's my favourite in the series - the storyline works well, the performances are great and it gives Hattie a chance to get her teeth into a real character miles away from the usual Matron persona. There is real affection between Charlie and Peggy and the viewer cares when they don't get along. Of course all is well in the end as the battling couple are reunited. Sid and Hattie are an absolute joy.


Kenneth Williams and Peter Butterworth, Carry On Don't Lose Your Head (1966)

Kenneth and Peter really make Don't Lose Your Head for me. As the fiendish Citizen Camembert and dopey Citizen Bidet, Williams and Butterworth are the comedy villains of the piece. They have terrific chemistry and bicker and moan through a series of hilarious set pieces, much like a Carry On version of Laurel and Hardy. Williams is the main star however as always, Peter Butterworth mutters and grimaces in the background with the usual showstopping, scene stealing aplomb. Peter was second in command to many actors in the Carry Ons - Harry H Corbett, Kenneth Connor, Jim Dale - but I think he works best here opposite Kenneth. It's a comedy partnership made in heaven.


Sidney James and Bernard Bresslaw, Carry On Camping (1968)

Sid James frequently played versions of his dodgy geezer Hancock persona in the Carry Ons. He was always on the make and we loved the cheeky chappy. This side of his character was best exploited when partnered with Bernard Bresslaw's slightly dim-witted, trusting personality. There is no better example of this than in the classic Carry On Camping. Sid is scheming away as usual, desperate to progress his relationship with prim and proper Joan. He ropes in Bernie in attempt to lure Joan and Anth (Dilys Laye) to a nudist campsite. Sid and Bernie are at the heart of the picture and they are brilliant together. Sid's all experience and confident, cocky self assurance while Bernard is full of childlike innocence and caution. It's a fantastic contrast and provides some great moments of comedy.  


Kenneth Williams and Hattie Jacques, Carry On Matron (1971)

Carry On Matron so the culmination of an on/off storyline that had run through several previous Carry Ons. Kenneth and Hattie's characters had romantic stories in Doctor, Camping and Loving before it was finally resolved in matrimony at the of this, the last medical Carry On. The pair camping around the maternity hospital with Charles Hawtrey throwing an unintentional spanner in the works is an absolute joy. Williams and Jacques had worked together regularly since the Hancock's Half Hour days back in the 1950s and it was clear they were not only close colleagues but close friends. I love Kenneth's Sir Bernard attempting to woo Hattie's Matron and his attempts to prove himself! It's classic Carry On comedy and captures two fantastic comedy actors at the top of their game.

Sidney James and Joan Sims, Carry On Abroad (1972)

Sid and Joan worked together frequently in the Carry Ons. After their comedy partnership gelled so well in Cowboy, the producers put them together again and again and it was always comedy gold. They were just so believable as boyfriend and girlfriend or husband and wife. I think my favourite of their pairings was that of pub landlord and landlady Vic and Cora Flange in Carry On Abroad. 


For a start they looked perfect behind that bar together. As always, their marriage is threatened by the arrival of a younger model -in this case Barbara Windsor - however their relationship survives and blossoms despite a dreadful package holiday. The sheer normality of Joan's character in particular makes this special. It's real and not over played. I love the shared laughter between the two, particularly at the end in the scene involving the "blooding window". It's so real it goes beyond performance. Classic stuff.

So those are some of my favourite Carry On double acts. Do you agree?

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  1. Spot on, again! Whenever Williams and Hawtrey team up it's a scream, particularly in Constable of course, and the torture scenes in Henry, but I particularly love the scene in Matron where they realise they're both Newts.

    Also: Frederick and Mildred Bumble, Orlando and Valeria Watt, Fancey & Strapp, Hengist & Horsa... Margaret Nolan!