Wednesday 31 August 2016

An August Month for Carry On

What is it about the month of August when it comes to Carry On related birthdays? I hadn't really noticed until now but as I've been blogging either good wishes to Carry On actors who are still with us and celebrating or remembering those who are sadly not, it's made me realise that August is a really prolific month for Carry On birthday celebrations.

Let's look at the evidence:

 Jacki Piper, born 3 August 1946

Joan Hickson, born 5 August 1906

Barbara Windsor, born 6 August 1937

Liz Fraser, born 14 August 1930

Jim Dale, born 15 August 1935

Marianne Stone, born 23 August 1922

Imogen Hassall, born 25 August 1942

Peter Gilmore, born 25 August 1931

Pat Coombs, born 27 August 1926

Windsor Davies, born 28 August 1930

I think you'll agree that's quite a roll call of names! Can you think of any more that I've forgotten? If so get in touch! 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also Facebook

Monday 29 August 2016

Carry On Blogging Interview: Morris Bright (Part 2)


The hottest day of the year so far saw me travel up to Borehamwood in sunny Hertfordshire to meet Mr Morris Bright, Chairman of the legendary Elstree Film Studios. I have known of Morris for some time due to his involvement with all things Carry On for many years. Not only is Morris Chairman, he is also leader of Hertsmere Council, a member of BAFTA, a writer and a broadcaster. Above all else though, he is a fan of the greats of British comedy.
I was therefore thrilled that not only had he read my blog but also that he was happy to take part in an interview. It was an absolute joy to visit Elstree Studios and learn more about Morris’ work there, his views on the Carry On phenomenon and his memories of some of our favourite film comedy actors. I also got the chance to come face to face with a genuine, fabulous piece of Sid James memorabilia! 
In Part Two of my interview with Morris, I asked him about his memories of organising the 40th Anniversary tribute to the Carry Ons at Pinewood back in 1998 as well as his thoughts on the likes of Joan Sims, Peter Rogers, Patsy Rowlands and Dilys Laye…

What are your memories of the Carry On 40th anniversary celebrations at Pinewood?
It was a wonderful experience. There was so much hype and publicity around that time and the films had seen a huge resurgence. The media became really interested in the films, the stars and what we were doing at Pinewood. We were also really fortunate in that we persuaded all the surviving big names to attend the celebration event at Pinewood and appear in the accompanying ITV documentary. Everyone took part – Leslie Phillips, Barbara Windsor, Jim Dale, Joan Sims, June Whitfield. It was just a shame that many of the big names had already passed away. I got to know them all at around that time and when I got married at Pinewood Studios the likes of Jack Douglas, Leslie Phillips and Angela Douglas all came to my wedding – we could have arranged a signing session at the reception!
At around that time I accompanied Leslie and Angela to one of their first ever signing sessions at a convention in Birmingham. It was all very new to them but it was great fun. I remember all the ladies loved Leslie and one young woman in particular had lots of photos taken with him, getting him to say “Hello!” and “Ding Dong!” As she moved away all I can remember is Leslie, in his usual fruity tones saying “ That young woman touched my c**k!” 

I remember watching the documentary in 1998 and being thrilled to see Joan take part. She shunned a lot of publicity and didn’t really like talking about the films or her career.
Joan did have to be persuaded to take part and I had the honour of interviewing her for the film. She was a joy and it meant a lot to everyone that she played a part in the celebrations. 
My blog is a tribute to Joan Sims. What was she like to be around?
Joan Sims was undoubtedly the best actress in the Carry On films. She had so much talent but was always uncertain of herself and her ability as an actress. She was definitely an actor who could play comedy rather than a comedienne. She had her problems over the years but she always had the ability to light up a room and everyone was always so pleased to see her. On the films, she always loved Alan Hume, the cinematographer and lighting camera man because he took such care to make all the ladies look their best. 
I’ll always remember driving Joan and Norman and Rita Hudis to Betty Box’s funeral in 1999. We picked Joan up at Paddington Station and she desperately wanted to smoke but managed to resist the temptation while in the car. As we came out of the crematorium after the service, Joan suddenly asked “Is there somewhere I can smoke?!” which made everyone burst out laughing – and that was Joan, she was a naturally funny person. 

You knew Peter Rogers well. What was he like?
I was fortunate to get to know Peter Rogers towards the end of his life, from the mid-1990s pretty much up until his death. We both had offices at Pinewood. We gave him the nickname “Mr Carry On” and although he was very much a businessman and quite a formidable person – he didn’t suffer fools – he absolutely adored meeting fans of his films. I worked with him on many special Carry On events at Pinewood over the years and he loved it all. Some of the actors took issue with him because of the way they were treated or the lack of repeat fees but without Peter the Carry Ons may not have happened – he was the driving force and he has left a wonderful legacy. 
Despite issues around the salaries the actors received, Peter did leave money in his will to the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund when he died. I actually remember him calling me into his office to act as a signatory when he decided to make these changes to his will and he joked that he wasn’t leaving me anything! Peter was first and foremost a businessman – he didn’t really like actors or socialise with them. There were no photos of his actors or posters of his films in his office at Pinewood, just photos of his dogs!
Are there any elusive Carry On actors that you’d still like to meet?
I think I’ve been lucky to have met practically everyone connected with the Carry On films at one time or another. A great many of them have become friends over the years although sadly far too many are now no longer with us. As a genuine fan of the films, it’s been a joy to get to know so many of the actors and crew who made them.

Two of my favourite Carry On actors were Patsy Rowlands and Dilys Laye. Do you have fond memories of both actresses? 
Patsy Rowlands was a lovely lady and a very good actress. I was always surprised that she didn’t get bigger roles in the series. The larger parts she played (such as Miss Dempsey in Loving and Mildred Bumble in Girls) were played beautifully, but Peter Rogers had his set team and that was that. She was also a very talented stage actress and I remember seeing her in the West End revival of Oliver! in the 1990s with Jim Dale. I remember interviewing her down in Brighton as part of the 1998 What’s A Carry On? documentary for ITV.
Dilys Laye was another actress who deserved more recognition. She was a superb actor who had a gift for comedy. She was excellent as the femme fatale in Carry On Spying and worked in film, television and theatre for many years. I remember one of her later roles as Frankie Howerd’s mother in the BBC4 biopic. She had great depth as an actress and was universally loved. She also went to school for a while with my mother down in Bournemouth! Dilys was also a lifelong friend of Joan Sims and not just a showbiz friend, but a genuine friend. She kept her promise to come and speak at a Joan Sims tribute I organised at Pinewood in 2004 and there is a video of this online. 

You also know Valerie Leon well I think? She was kind enough to answer questions for a blog interview earlier this year.
I’ve known Valerie for over twenty years and she is such a lovely, kind lady. She came up to Elstree not long ago to do an interview with me for the Take Two series and she’s always a joy. She was really kind and helpful to me when I was starting out and I’ll always remember that. 
Who’s your favourite Carry On actor?
Without a doubt, Kenneth Williams! I met Kenneth back in 1985 after a recording of the BBC radio panel game Just A Minute. I had taken along a copy of his autobiography which had only been released the previous day. At the end of the show Kenneth announced that he wouldn’t be standing at the stage door afterwards to sign autographs, but anyone who wanted one could come up on the stage. Not only did he sign my book he also produced a copy of an earlier book, Acid Drops, from a pile under the table and signed one of those for me too. He was very pleasant and friendly to everyone that evening and it’s a wonderful memory. 

What’s your favourite Carry On film of all time?
This is a hard question to answer – it has changed over the years. I think probably due to the cleverness of the film, the quality of the pastiche and the bristling script it has to be Carry On Cleo. The cast are all on excellent form, particularly Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims and Charles Hawtrey. Interestingly Barbara Windsor didn’t get the part of Cleo because she was on Broadway at the time. It would have been a very different film if she had played the title role.  The film also looks wonderful thanks to the sets and costumes left over at Pinewood from the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor epic Cleopatra.
Before I left the Studios Morris insisted I took a seat at Sid’s piano to have my photo taken. It was quite a moment and one I will treasure. I cannot thank Morris enough for the opportunity to visit Elstree and share a fascinating conversation about so many of our comedy heroes. We are both massive fans of the Carry Ons and their stars and it was a joy to meet someone who knew so many of my own heroes. Thanks Morris! 

I hope you have enjoyed both parts of the interview. Carry On!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also Facebook

Carry On Blogging on Facebook!

Did you know that Carry On Blogging was also on Facebook? Well it is and if you are too why not follow me there?

You will find the same pictures, comment and blog posts available on my Carry On Blogging Facebook page and it provides another great forum to interact with me and other Carry On fans. 

So why not boost my page on Facebook by following and liking some of my posts? It would be much appreciated. I look forward to seeing you there!

And in the meantime, do follow me on Twitter too - I love you comments, feedback and general Carry On banter, so keep it coming! Links to both Twitter and Facebook pages at the bottom of this blog! 

Carry On Following!

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

Sunday 28 August 2016

Carry On Blogging Interview: Morris Bright (Part 1)


The hottest day of the year so far saw me travel up to Borehamwood in sunny Hertfordshire to meet Mr Morris Bright, Chairman of the legendary Elstree Film Studios. I have known of Morris for some time due to his involvement with all things Carry On for many years. Not only is Morris Chairman, he is also leader of Hertsmere Council, a member of BAFTA, a writer and a broadcaster. Above all else though, he is a fan of the greats of British comedy.
I was therefore thrilled that not only had he read my blog but also that he was happy to take part in an interview. It was an absolute joy to visit Elstree Studios and learn more about Morris’ work there, his views on the Carry On phenomenon and his memories of some of our favourite film comedy actors. I also got the chance to come face to face with a genuine, fabulous piece of Sid James memorabilia! 
In part one of my interview, I asked Morris about his role at Elstree Studios, how he became involved in the entertainment business and enjoy one or two stories about Jim Dale, Dirk Bogarde and Terry Scott….


What is it like to be Chairman of Elstree Studios and what does that role involve?
I am first and foremost a fan so it’s a real pleasure to be the Chairman of Elstree and I’m very fortunate to have the role. Elstree Studios is actually owned by the local council (Hertsmere) and it’s a real going concern and very successful, particularly in the last five years or so. A successful Elstree Studios is also very good for the local area. I am also leader of Hertsmere Council but I didn’t get the Chairman role just because I lead the council – it was really because it was felt by background in the entertainment business would help in the role. 
Elstree is a small studio with really only 12 people overseeing the running of the site. We provide facilities for a wide range of film and television productions and offer something really unique because we are a small studio and we really are like a family. I am very much of the belief that we should celebrate the rich history of Elstree and all it has achieved in the past while always looking forward towards the latest opportunities and developments. Nostalgia is very popular these days and we celebrate that with frequent events looking back at Elstree’s achievements however I also believe that as a business, Elstree Studios must always look to the future. 


What was it like to be involved with the 90th anniversary of Elstree Studios book?
It really came about because we realised there hadn’t been a book celebrating all that Elstree had achieved over the years. There is so much history in the place and it was very much about celebrating that but also celebrating more recent successes and the rejuvenation of the studios over the last few years. It was also about remembering how close the studios came to disappearing in the 1990s. I love the process of research a book like that and it’s the pictures that tell the story, they are the most important part of any of the books I’ve written. Having access to the archives at Elstree and Pinewood is like a dream come true for me, as a fan. I love discovering different parts of the archive and sharing these wonderful images. 
It’s such a shame that the off cuts from the Carry Ons were destroyed.
Yes I actually met the man who was responsible for destroying all the outtakes and footage that didn’t make the final cut. When the decision was taken it was genuinely believed there would be no interest in that stuff. The Carry Ons were out of fashion for a long time and nobody believed anyone would want to see the outtakes. I remember finding filling cabinets in the archive while researching for one of my books and these cabinets were stuck shut as nobody had touched them for decades. Extraordinary. We included some previously unseen footage in the What’s a Carry On? documentary of Phil Silvers being interviewed on the beach at Camber while they were making Follow That Camel. That footage was in a small, rusty old tin that I found on the floor in the corner of an archive room. It was amazing to be able to share it again after all those years. I also love the photos of Terry Scott and Charles Hawtrey larking about on the set of Up The Khyber and these were other photos that had long since disappeared into the depths of the archive. I enjoy sharing as many of them as possible on Twitter as everyone loves seeing them. 
What’s going on at Elstree at the moment?
There is lots going on at the moment. There is a brand new series for Netflix called The Crown, a biographical drama about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. We also have Big Brother being filmed here at the moment and preparations for the new series of Strictly Come Dancing for the BBC. 

You have been involved in organising many events at both Pinewood and Elstree over the years?
Yes, I remember one of the earliest events was back in the mid-1990s to celebrate the Doctor series of films and their producer, Betty Box. Lots of stars of the films were due to attend and Betty and her director Ralph Thomas were going to be there. I was told that Dirk Bogarde had agreed to come over (he lived in France at the time) for the event although as it transpired he didn’t know it was about the Doctor films – he hadn’t really talked about them since his last, Doctor in Distress in 1963. He was quite a formidable character and nobody knew how he would react. When he arrived he was an absolute gentleman and actually stayed for several hours. He seemed really pleased to be there and taking part. He was a hero of mine and I remember watching the footage of the event afterwards and I kept seeing someone lean into shot to take photos. It turned out to be Jim Dale who was a big fan of Bogarde. It struck me that it was ok for your heroes to have heroes too. It was great. 
I saw Jim perform his one man show in London last year and it was hard to believe he was nearly 80 at the time!
Jim celebrated his 81st birthday recently and he’s extraordinary. He has such energy, keeps himself in shape and just keeps going. He told me that the show (Just Jim Dale) was exhausting but the love of performing and the reaction from the audience kept him going for eight shows a week. I think many performers are like that though. I remember seeing one of those end of the pier summer revues back in the early 1990s and the stars were Terry Scott and Jacki Piper. Before the show I’d seen an elderly man struggling along the pier and I suddenly realised it was Terry! Terry suffered from various health problems towards the end of his life but carried on acting. He went on to give an energetic and thoroughly professional performance that afternoon and it was amazing how he managed to transform himself for the show. That reminds me of a story from when I attended Terry’s funeral in 1994…

Go on…
I remember being in the church and Terry’s wife and daughters were all in the front row with June Whitfield and her husband Tim sitting behind them. Despite the fact that the congregation were all peers or friends of Terry, lots of people actually came up to June to offer their condolences instead of or before going to Terry’s real wife! Extraordinary how powerful television can be as obviously many people really did think Terry and June were married in real life. 

I hope you have enjoyed the first part of my interview with Morris. Stay tuned for Part Two coming up tomorrow! 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also Facebook

Happy Birthday Windsor Davies!

Many happy returns to that terrific actor and star of two Carry On films, Mr Windsor Davies! Windsor turns the grand old age of 86 today and I'm sure you'll all join me in wishing him well.

Windsor Davies is best known for his long running role in the BBC sitcom It Ain't Half Hot Mum, which ran from 1974 until 1981. He also went on to appear in another well remembered comedy series, Never The Twain, alongside the late, great Sir Donald Sinden. As well as appearing in countless other films, Windsor is best known to us for appearing in two later Carry On films, Behind in 1975 and England the following year.

Sadly Windsor retired from acting some years ago. While we may miss his wonderful acting performances, I hope he is enjoying a relaxing and fulfilling retirement. As a personal aside, Windsor also shares a birthday with yours truly, although there may be a few years separating us...

Happy Birthday Windsor!

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also Facebook

Saturday 27 August 2016

Hattie Carries On ... As Matron!


Having covered every one of Joan Sims' 24 Carry On roles it now only seems fair that I turn the spotlight onto another great and loyal member of the team. Sticking with the wonderful women, I've decided to focus on all 14 of Hattie Jacques' Carry On appearances. Hattie's contribution to Carry On comedy was immense. Although appearing in far fewer films that Joan, Hattie created some iconic roles, none more so that the infamous Matron, a character which came to dominate her later career.

However there was far more to Jacques than that. She played Matron in all four of the medical films but there were ten other roles to enjoy too, from a budgie obsessed housewife to an angry, aggressive Spanish cook! So sit back and enjoy a run of blogs which looks at Hattie's Carry On contribution from the very first film in 1958 right through to her last supporting role in Carry On Dick 16 years later. So let's continue our journey today with a look back at Hattie's career-defining role as Matron in the second Carry On film, Carry On Nurse.

After the surprise success of Carry On Sergeant earlier in 1958, Peter Rogers seized on the opportunity of a follow up and set writer Norman Hudis the task of coming up with a medical comedy, tackling another great British institution - the National Health Service. Fortunately Norman's wife Rita was a nurse so he had plenty of real life experience to help make Nurse the biggest hit of the year and also a massive success in the United States. Rogers was clearly beginning to form a team for a series of films as Nurse sees the return of several key faces who not only contributed to Sergeant's success but would also go on to be series regulars for decades. As well as popular actors Shirley Eaton, Terence Longdon and Bill Owen, Nurse saw the return of Kenneths Williams and Connor, Charles Hawtrey and yes, Hattie Jacques. Other new faces included the important additions of Joan Sims and Leslie Phillips.

Hattie is back in a bigger role this time, clearly building on her success as Clark in Sergeant. Again in a medical-themed role, Nurse sees Hattie play the formidable Matron for the very first time. It's not as comedic a role as the Matrons that followed, indeed for the most part she plays it completely straight. She is extremely believable as the senior member of medical staff who strikes fear into the young nurses and demands respect from the male patients (Kenneth Williams being an exception!) Matron is blessed with some wonderful support from the likes of Joan Hickson, Shirley Eaton, Susan Stephen and Joan Sims. Jacques and Hickson make a wonderful double act as Matron and Sister and their scenes together as Matron goes round the ward are a joy. Hickson is superb as the cow-towing subservient who is quick to dump the load on her junior members of staff as soon as Matron's back is turned.


One of my favourite sequences involving Hattie sees a rather bombastic intellectual Kenneth Williams take on the formidable Matron and challenge her over one of her many bureaucratic hospital rules. The scene which sees Kenneth flout the rule not to lie on top of the bed clothes provides a masterful performance from both actors and there is a hint of real tension and animosity between the pair. There is a strong comic edge in both performances but it still, briefly, punches the film into a different direction. It showcases the skill of both Williams and Jacques and raises the film to a different level. It's also a very human scenario as once Jacques has to back down in the face of an unforgiving Williams, she immediately takes it out on her staff, with the list of jobs being past lower and lower down the chain of command. Great stuff, brilliantly played. 

As always there is a glimmer of humanity in Hattie's stern comedy characters and there is no better example of this than in the classic daffodil scene at the very end of the film. It has gone down in Carry On history as one of the funniest endings to any Carry On. At the time it was also quite a daring gag to pop in and although nothing is actually visible, guest actor Wilfred Hyde White was actually on the point of starting proceedings against Peter Rogers as he didn't like it one bit! Fortunately the scene stayed in the film and it provides us with a last image of Hattie's Matron, showing a brief glimpse of humanity and affectionate teasing as she begins to enjoy the joke. It's a great way to end the picture and shows just what an accomplished actor Jacques was. 

The legacy of Carry On Nurse cannot be underestimated. While Sergeant was the film that began all the fun, it was the huge success of Nurse which allowed a series to develop. It also created a long-lasting role that Hattie Jacques would capitalise on in further films, while also providing an image that would be hard for Hattie to shake off for the rest of her career. Did it limit her ability to take on different roles as an actress? Probably. Fans around the world still love both Hattie and her unforgettable Matron and as a legacy, surely that's not too bad.

Watch out for my next blog on Hattie's Carry On career. Next up is my take on Grace Short in the brilliant Carry On Teacher.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also Facebook

Friday 26 August 2016

Carrying On at the Camden Film Fair!


Lovely news on Twitter. The fantastic Angela Douglas will be appearing at the next Camden Film Fair, due to take place on Saturday, 3rd September in Camden Town, North London.

We know Angela best for her roles in Carry On Cowboy, Screaming, Follow That Camel and Up The Khyber - all absolute classics from the richest period in Carry On history. Angela has always been a real favourite of mine and she has also proven to be a very welcome and popular presence on Twitter! She even follows someone who tweets rubbish at @CarryOnJoan !

Angela has had a long and successful career as an actress and latterly as a writer, publishing a memoir of her life with the late actor Kenneth More. There are also rumours of a new book on the horizon... 

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to do an interview with Angela for this very blog. You can read that here


Also appearing at the Film Fair will be actress Georgina Moon, best remembered for her roles in Carry On Camping and Carry On Behind as well as television roles in Up Pompeii and UFO. 

The Camden Film Fair will be at The Electric Ballroom in Camden Town, next Saturday from 10am - 4pm. 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also Facebook

Liz Fraser In Conversation Cancelled

Sadly I've heard today that the Liz Fraser In Conversation event due to take place on Sunday at the Leicester Square Theatre Lounge has now been cancelled. The event, hosted by Robert Ross, was due to feature the Carry On legend discussing her career in films and television as well as the many famous actors she's known and worked with.

I'm very sad to hear the event has been cancelled as I was due to attend as a birthday treat! However hopefully it will be rescheduled - I will keep the blog updated if I hear anything. I don't know why the event has been pulled at short notice but I hope all is well with Liz.

A lifelong friend to the late, great Joan Sims, Liz is always good value, speaks her mind and doesn't suffer fools! I hope we do get the chance to attend in the not too distant future as I can't wait to hear what Liz has got to say about her life, her illustrious career and her wonderful co-stars and friends.


You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and also Facebook