Wednesday 20 July 2016

Joan Carries On ... As Daphne Barnes


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 one of Joan's later roles in the series. In 1975, after the departure of so many of the leading lights from the series (James, Jacques, Windsor and writer Talbot Rothwell) what was left of the gang reconvened for an update on the classic Carry On Camping. In Carry On Behind, several familiar looking characters went off for a summer holiday at a caravan park. As with Camping, Behind was filmed not in summer but in the early spring so the weather was less than pleasant for all involved - the mud and freezing temperatures clearly visible for most of the film!

Behind is a real hotchpotch of sitcom sequences with no real storyline to speak of - just a bunch of English eccentrics delighting in some increasingly filthy innuendos! Unlike some of the period costume Carry Ons, Behind, set in the grimy world of the mid-1970s really hasn't aged well but lovers of seventies kitch will adore it! I admit I have a real soft spot for this film and it's become something of a guilty pleasure. For me it  is the last proper Carry On ever made. It's certainly much more naughty than previous efforts with much more obvious sexual references and a fair sprinkling of nudity. The whole thing feels much more like a Confessions film, and you can tell Peter Rogers was trying to keep the Carry Ons up to speed with the latest developments at the box office. 


The film features a mix of old faces and newcomers and its really the cast which carries the film home. As well as regulars Kenneth Williams, Kenneth Connor, Jack Douglas, Bernard Bresslaw, Peter Butterworth, Joan Sims and Patsy Rowlands, I also really enjoy the performances from the likes of Windsor Davies, Carol Hawkins, Ian Lavender, Sherrie Hewson and of course, international guest star Elke Sommer. So what about Joan?

Joan plays Daphne Barnes, the middle-aged and shrewish mother to Patsy Rowlands' Linda and mother in law to long suffering Arthur Upmore (!) (Bernard Bresslaw). This is despite being barely a year older than Patsy and only four years older than Bernard! Despite these obvious shortcomings, the three Carry On veterans work well together as a unit and you could see sitcom potential in their scenes together. Sadly for Joan, her middle-aged nagging parts reached a new low in Behind. At only 44, she was far too young for these kind of parts. Although she never put in a bad performance in her entire career, I can't help but wish Joan had avoided these parts and pushed herself a little further. The knock about humour of the later Carry Ons did her no favours. Joan was an incredibly gifted comedienne and an actress of great range and her sidelining as a supporting cast member in these later films simply does her no justice and is a waste of her talents.


Despite these negative points, there are two sequences in Carry On Behind featuring Joan that I love. First of all, she gets to share some lovely comedic moments with randy Major, Kenneth Connor. Kenneth is sublime as the sexually frustrated little man and is desperate to lure Joan back to his caravan. The too old pros are timeless together and obviously loved working together. The main quality in Behind though are the scenes between Joan and Peter Butterworth. It turns out Peter's Henry is Joan's long lost husband. Working as an odd job man at the park, he has squirreled away a small fortune and is desperate to make it up to his long suffering wife. The scenes which see the couple reunite are almost too good for the rest of the film and really do bring a tear to the eye. They are on a par with the scenes Joan shared with Sid James in At Your Convenience. Once again Joan and Peter show just what accomplished actors they were. 

Carry On Behind may have been fairly rude and it may have focused on the baser elements of comedy, but it remains fairly innocent to viewers today. There is an affectionate innocence to it all and the happy endings all the characters are given is really satisfying. Joan's Daphne loses some of her shrill nagging persona as she and Henry decide to give it another try. It was the last proper role for Joan in the series and some might say she should have joined Bernard Bresslaw and quietly retired from the films. As it was, she continued out of loyalty but the next two (final) films in the series are probably best forgotten. Nevertheless, the next blog in this series will look at Joan's role in Carry On England.

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  1. Great blog. Came across it while rediscovering the Carry On's. They were always a staple of my 80's childhood what with being repeated on the telly so often.