Tuesday 19 July 2016

Was Carry On Loving a missed opportunity?

Having watched Carry On Loving recently for the first time in ages it seems like a film of two halves. On the one hand we have the older, regular Carry On faces doing what they always do and then we have several younger actors who are all practically newcomers to the series. Watching the film now, I wonder if Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas were using Loving to plan the next generation Carry On team.

This might be fanciful now and it didn't happen anyway but I love a good ponder. Carry On Loving is a prime example of 1970s Carry On. Talbot Rothwell is still firing on all cylinders with this tribute to the much earlier Carry On Regardless. The whole premise of an agency at the centre of all the random shenanigans is extremely reminiscent of the Helping Hands Agency in Regardless. The whole plot has simply been updated for the saucy seventies. Instead of our Carry On favourites carrying out some odd jobs, they are, ten years later, helping their hands to something quite different! The external scenes of the Wedded Bliss Agency are even filmed at the same location in Windsor used in Regardless.

Loving is very much an attempt to update the series for the contemporary audience. Times were a-changing and the need for fresh faces was obvious. After over a decade the original stars were approaching middle age. Peter Rogers obviously saw the need to attract a new audience to keep the brand going. The regular stars were all too important to replace though, so instead a sprinkling of new actors are brought in for slightly more modern subplots. 

So while we still have Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques and Joan Sims, we also have the likes of Richard O'Callaghan, Jacki Piper, Imogen Hassall and Julian Holloway. While Imogen and Jacki provide some youthful glamour, Holloway is definitely channelling a younger Sid and Richard is clearly taking on the gullible, bumbling Jim Dale part. Acting as a bridge between the generations is Terry Scott, who goes between both sets of stories.

While Sid and the gang would continue at the helm virtually until the end of the original series in the late 1970s, unfortunately these younger names all but vanished from the Carry On films. Richard O'Callaghan only appeared in one more Carry On, At Your Convenience, the following year. Jacki Piper was the only actor ever to sign a contract with Peter Rogers Productions. Jacki would appear in four films in the series but would sadly depart the team after Matron at the end of 1971. Imogen Hassall made her sole Carry On appearance in Loving and was somewhat inexplicably never asked back. I think she gives a tremendous, multi-facted performance in this film and proved herself adept at comedy. Such a shame. Julian was semi-regular face in eight of the films but also rather strangely never fully took over the Jim Dale mantle following the star's departure after Again Doctor in 1969. 

It is an interesting notion to consider that these younger actors could have formed a rebooted Carry On company later in the 1970s. Perhaps if this had happened, the Carry Ons would have continued unabated instead of letting the Confessions films run them out of town? Although these younger actors all demonstrated star quality, it's interesting that none of them became really big names. While Jacki continued to act on stage and television, she rarely appeared on the big screen again after her early success with the Carry Ons. Julian Holloway continues to act to this day, mainly based in Los Angeles and doing a lot of voice over work. He was a familiar guest star in nearly all the big British television series during the 1970s and 1980s. 

Sadly, Imogen failed to escape the "Countess of Cleavage" moniker she was given by the tabloid press in the 1970s and was mainly known for attending film premieres. As we know, she took her own life in November 1980. Richard O'Callaghan continues to pop up on television even now, but is mainly known for his stage performances. 2015 saw him appear in The Importance of Being Earnest in the West End with David Suchet. 

So what do you think of this idea? Would a more youthful Carry On team have seen the original series continue on and go from strength to strength?

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan


  1. Hmm, I think it's an interesting thought, but I think the original team would have been irreplaceable. I also think people enjoy the familiarity of the same faces, so while mixing in some new actors is good, I'm not sure fan would have accepted them taking over entirely.

    1. You're right that the main team were completely irreplaceable!

  2. The young Carry On stars headhunted in the early 70s were perfectly affable and watchable, but they did seem to lack the requisite charisma, eccentricity and readily identifiable character traits of the 'proper' team. I guess the nature of Loving called for some young, 'everyman' type characters that don't otherwise fit into the Carry On set-up. I'd like to have seen more Kenneth Cope though, I love his befuddled vulnerability in Matron and petty pomposity in Convenience.

    1. Thanks Chris, yes Kenneth Cope was excellent and should have done more