Monday 6 June 2016

Whatever Happened To ... Valerie Van Ost?


This blog forms part of an occasional series which looks back at some of the wonderful supporting actors in the Carry On series and takes a look at their wider careers and lives away from the acting profession. Today I am going to write about an actress who provided eye-catching support to four classic 1960s Carry On films - Valerie Van Ost.

Valerie made her first appearance in the series in the 1963 film Carry On Cabby. Although a non-speaking role, she pops up throughout this film as one of the glamorous Glam Cab drivers. You can clearly see her during the scenes which see Sid James and his gang raid the Glam Cab yard only for the clever females to turn their hoses on the daft men! Valerie returned to the Carry On series three years later for a small speaking part in the wonderful costume epic Carry On Don't Lose Your Head. She can be seen exchanging a few lines with Charles Hawtrey's Duc de Pomfrit, although she seemed quite put out at the suggestion of his little nook!


The following year Valerie Van Ost grabbed her biggest and most memorable supporting role in a Carry On, with the part of Nurse Parkin in Carry On Doctor. Nurse Parkin appears in several key scenes on the ward and engages in typically fruity dialogue with the likes of Sid James, Charles Hawtrey and Frankie Howerd. Valerie is involved in one of the series' most knowing and celebrated injokes when she offers a daffodil to Frankie Howerd's Francis Bigger. This was, of course, a direct reference to the Wilfrid Hyde White climatic daffodil sequence at the end of Norman Hudis' classic medical comedy blueprint Carry On Nurse back in 1958.

Two years later Valerie was back for her final supporting role in the series and it was fitting that she came back for another medical Carry On - Again Doctor in 1969. In Again Doctor she plays the smaller role of Out Patients Sister and shares scenes with Jim Dale and guest star Patricia Hayes. Although a smaller role compared to Doctor, it is really satisfying to see familiar faces from the previous hospital comedy back for roles in the follow up. Sadly that was it for Valerie and she did not return to Pinewood for further adventures with the gang. So what else did she get up to in her career and what is she up to these days?


Valerie Van Ost was born in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire in July 1944. Valerie knew from an early age that she wanted to be in the entertainment industry. At school she was the youngest girl to be chosen to work as a dancer at the London Palladium. She began acting professionally in films and on television from the age of 18 in 1962 with her small part in Cabby coming the following year. Early roles in television included the likes of Mrs Thursday, Pardon The Expression and Dixon of Dock Green. In 1967 she played the guest role of Penny in an episode of the classic series The Avengers. It is believed she was considered for the main female role in the series before Diana Rigg was cast as Mrs Peel. 

In film, she took roles in classic British horrors such as Incense for the Damned in 1970 and The Satanic Rites of Dracula in 1973. Other films included Mister Ten Per Cent and School for Unclaimed Girls. Valerie's last credited screen roles came in 1976. She played the Main Mission Operative in the television movie Alien Attack and then joined up with her old Carry On co-star Sid James for the role of Calendar Girl in the Bless This House episode The Naked Paper-hanger! In 1982 Valerie gave up working as an actress and moved behind the camera. 

Her first job on the other side of the film camera was that of casting director, an important and powerful role. Valerie is credited as working as casting director on several productions during the early 1980s. These included the 1980 ITV comedy drama The Shillingbury Tales which starred Robin Nedwell, Diane Keen and Carry On alumni Jack Douglas. Valerie also worked on films such as the big screen version of George and Mildred in 1980, the Cannon and Ball film The Boys in Blue in 1982 and finally Haunters of the Deep in 1984.


By the early 1980s Valerie Van Ost had diversified once again. Together with her husband, Valerie set up her own casting agency, a business that is still in operation today as far as I am aware. It would be great to hear what Valerie is up to these days as well as finding out what she thought of her exploits with the Carry On team back in the 1960s. I don't know if she has ever attended a film convention or a Pinewood reunion, but it would be fantastic to hear from her.

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