Friday 13 May 2016

Joan carries on ... as Esme Crowfoot

This blog is part of a new regular series on Carry On Blogging. I'm going to attempt to blog about each of Joan Sims' wonderful roles in the Carry On films. Joan was the most prolific of all the actresses involved in the series, clocking up 24 films. Indeed, only Kenneth Williams made more Carry Ons. 

Today I am going to write about Joan's role as Esme Crowfoot in the 1970 film Carry On Loving. This film really brought the series into the sexy, saucy seventies and the franchise had never been quite so near the knuckle. Loving is a homage to the formula used by Norman Hudis in Carry On Regardless. Lots of misfits surrounding a central figure who runs an agency. Instead of Sid's Helping Hands in 1960 we get Sid and Hattie's Wedded Bliss Matrimonial Agency and Esme is not only one of the clients but also the object of Sid's lust!


Carry On Loving marked a real sea change for the film series. Not only did the content of the film reach new bawdy heights (or depths!) but the Loving also welcomed in several new, fresh young faces to balance out the established cast. While we still had Sid, Hattie, Joan, Charles and Kenneth doing it for the regulars, we also saw the likes of Jacki Piper, Julian Holloway, Imogen Hassall and Richard O'Callaghan join the fun and give the film a more youthful slant. Bridging the gap was occasional team member Terry Scott. I think it works really well as a bit of seventies froth and many of the team deliver excellent performances. 

Joan pops in and out of the action, but it is that sort of a film really. Each member of the team is involved in several lovely set pieces and Esme Crowfoot frequently finds herself embroiled in Sid's schemes. Sid and Joan have delicious chemistry as always and it's great to see Joan back as the object of affection instead of just another nagging wife. Throw in a wonderfully brutish cameo from Bernard Bresslaw as the wonderfully named Gripper Burke and you have the recipe for complete Carry On mayhem! 


Sid is in typical dodgy Hancock geezer mode and spends the film ducking and diving and leading Joan and Hattie a right merry dance. He looks fantastic in a range of rather trendy suits, always the snazzy dresser. Of course his luck runs out when Sophie (Hattie) leaves him for the snobbish marriage guidance counsellor Percival Snooper (Kenneth Williams). To win Sophie back, Sid brings in Esme to flash her cleavage at Percival and behave in a completely outrageous manner! These scenes are true farce played by a handful of highly experienced and top quality actors. Sims excels alongside Williams, Bresslaw, Jacques and the superb Patsy Rowlands as Miss Dempsey. My favourite scene in the film.

In the end, Sid marries Sophie and Gripper and Esme seem to stick together, although the climatic wedding breakfast scene provides yet more chaos. Gripper finally twigs that it's Sid who's been after Esme and all hell breaks loose, culminating in one of the best custard pie fights in cinema history! While it's all good fun for the audience, spare a thought for the poor old actors. Patsy Rowlands recalled many years later that the scene was shot over two days and when they returned for day two all the cream had gone off and the actors just had to get on with it! Poor Joan is in the thick of the action here but is ever the professional!


It might not be high art or even much of a test for the multi-talented Sims, but I'll always have a soft spot for both Carry On Loving and Esme Crowfoot. When you've got Sid and Joan together on screen, what's not to love?

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