Wednesday 6 July 2016

Carry On Blogging Interview: Stuart Ball

Earlier this week I caught up with Stuart Ball, the man behind the fantastic Sid James tribute blog Sid's Place. I asked Stuart why he is such a big fan of our Sidney and about some of his favourite Sid moments. So without further ado...

First of all, what made you set up your blog Sid's Place?

When the Sid's Place blog first started, it was about the Carry On films in general as I have always been a huge fan. However, after a while, I noticed that there weren't any websites around that were solely dedicated to Sid James. As Sid has long been a comedy hero of mine, it seemed like a good idea to focus the blog on him, so that I could pay a personal tribute to the great man. Sid's Place also has a dedicated Facebook page and I've just started a Twitter page too. I must admit that I haven't been able to update the blog as much as I would ideally like recently, as I have been busy writing a Carry On quiz book. However, the book is now complete so I should hopefully be free to write more posts for Sid's Place again now. 

You are obviously a massive fan of Sid James - what is it about him that makes him your favourite?

As a child, I think I was drawn to Sid because of his crinkly features! Even now, there's just something warm and comforting about that weathered face. Sid was such a talented actor of course, whether he was in a comic or a straight role. I can't think of another actor who looked as natural and relaxed on-screen as Sid. I have always admired his complete professionalism too. He regarded his acting work as simply a means to an end. To him, he was just going out to work to earn a living just like the normal man in the street and I think there is something honourable about that.  Above all else, he just seemed like a nice, genuine, down-to-earth bloke.


Which of Sid's 19 Carry On appearances was your favourite and why?

I think his performance as Henry VIII in Carry On Henry was, if you'll pardon the pun, the crowning achievement of his Carry On career. Never was there a role more suited to the King of Carry On than this one. He  managed to portray the natural power and dominant personality of the real-life Henry to perfection, whilst still being the cheeky Sid that we all know and love. His delivery and timing were also spot on as usual.

You recently interviewed Sid's son Steve -  what was that like?

That was such an enjoyable experience. As April this year marked the 40th anniversary of Sid's passing, I wanted to do something special for the Sid's Place blog. Steve first contacted me through Facebook about a year ago to thank me for the various tributes to his dad, which I thought was a lovely thing to do. That really meant a lot to me. A year later and I was absolutely thrilled when he agreed to do an interview for the Sid's Place blog. Originally, I planned to send him some questions via email but he suggested we had a video chat over Skype instead. He lives in Australia and has been a successful record producer for many years. When I interviewed him, he was actually in the recording studio. My initial nerves soon vanished as Steve is such an easy person to talk to, very friendly and open. We must have chatted for almost an hour. It was quite surreal at times as Steve bears an uncanny resemblance to his father, so it almost seemed as if I was talking to Sid himself!


Sid had many leading ladies in the Carry Ons - which one was your favourite and why?

I would have to say Joan Sims. Just as Sid was the King of Carry On, Joan was the Queen. They had such a natural chemistry on-screen, which probably came from their strong real-life friendship. There are so many memorable moments they shared together - Up the Khyber, Cowboy, Henry, At Your Convenience. I think my all-time favourite Carry On scene is the one from Abroad when Sid crashes through the glass of the hotel balcony door shouting "They put the bloody glass in!" and Joan just collapses in hysterics. It's just two real-life friends having a wonderful time together. 

Sid starred in several very popular sitcoms during his career. Which is your favourite?

That's a tough one! I enjoyed all of his sitcoms. Hancock's Half Hour is, of course, one of the all-time classic television sitcoms and Sid and Tony played off each other superbly. Citizen James, George and the Dragon and Bless This House were all wonderful too. If I were to pick just one though, I would probably go for Hancock's Half Hour, due to the quality of the writing, but it's a very close run thing between all of them!


Do you own any Sid memorabilia and if so what have you got?

I've got a couple of full size reproduction posters for Carry On Up the Khyber and Carry On Don't Lose Your Head and some autographs of Sid's co-stars but I haven't got any memorabilia relating specifically to Sid. I'm sure I'll change that in the future though! 

Have you met any of Sid's Carry On co-stars?

Over the years, I've been lucky enough to meet Leslie Phillips, Jack Douglas, Valerie Leon and Jacki Piper. It was wonderful meeting every one of them, but I was particularly thrilled to get to chat with such an icon of British film as Leslie Phillips. He is a lovely man, a real old-school gentleman who asked my permission before holding my wife's hand for a photo. A couple of years ago I also got to meet Robin Stewart who played Sid's son Mike in Bless This House. He talked very fondly about Sid. Robin was such a gregarious man and it was extremely sad when he passed away last year. 

Why do you think that out of all the Carry On actors, Sid remains the most identifiable to the public?

I think it's because he came across as just being a down-to-earth bloke with no pretensions or illusions of grandeur. Everyone could identify with Sid. While many women found him sexy, men saw Sid as someone they could enjoy a pint with down the pub. Another reason for the longevity of his popularity is the fact that most of the roles he played were simply exaggerated versions of himself, making it easier for the public to form a bond with him.

What do you think Sid would make of the continued success of the Carry Ons and his ongoing popularity today?

I think he would be proud that something he was such a big part of remained so popular. At the same time, he may possibly be a little bemused that he himself is still so beloved. After all, to Sid, he was simply an actor going out to work to provide for his family. 

Finally, of all the Carry On films, which do you think is the best?

That's the hardest question of all for a Carry On fan to answer! Obviously for me, it would have to be one with Sid in it! For the sheer quality of the script and the strength of performances, I would say Up the Khyber. For pure entertainment and the number of top stars in the cast, it would be Carry On Abroad. As far as my personal favourites go, along with the two I have just mentioned, I have a fondness for Henry, Cabby, Cleo and At Your Convenience. I never tire of watching those.


Thanks once again to Stuart for answering my questions. You can visit Stuart's blog here: Sid's Place 

And you can follow him on Twitter@sidjamesplace

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also on Facebook

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