Saturday 3 September 2016

Five of the Best: Dashing Carry On Leading Men


Carry On films are known for their female characters. The classic, sometimes stereotypical women such as the formidable Matron and the bubbly blonde. However there were also some very strong male characters in the films. The likes of Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey and Kenneth Connor were almost constants throughout the entire run of the films.

However were there many (or any) traditional male romantic heroes in these films as we've come to recognise them today? I would argue that there were and in this blog I'm going to pick out five of the very best.

Terence Longdon in Carry On Nurse (1959)

Nurse was only the second film in the franchise yet remains a classic amongst fans. At the centre of the film is the romance between the characters played by Shirley Eaton (Nurse Denton) and journalist patient Ted York (Terence Longdon). Terence is often the forgotten man of Carry On, however he was definitely the romantic lead of these early films. While there weren't many traditional Carry On laughs in this storyline, Terence added a backbone of (almost) serious dramatics to Nurse an continued a theme of a serious social commentary to many of writer Norman Hudis' early Carry On scripts. 


Leslie Phillips in Carry On Teacher (1959)

The wolfish Leslie Phillips took over where Terence left off. Leslie's Carry On characters were much more comedic than Terence's but he was most certainly leading man material, romancing the likes of Joan Sims, June Whitfield and Shirley Eaton. He was perhaps at his best for me in Carry On Teacher, sharing wonderful chemistry with Joan Sims' Miss Allcock and both infuriating and melting her heart in equal measure. Leslie has been forever linked with his slightly caddish Carry On persona which while being unfair just shows what a powerful characterisation that was.


Jim Dale in Carry On Doctor (1967)

Jim was without a doubt the most successful male juvenile lead in the Carry On series. His unique brand of dashing good looks, comedic physicality and excellent timing made him a star and so successful that he soon took his talents to the West End stage and beyond. He shined in each of his Carry On roles however for me, his role as Dr James Kilmore in Carry On Doctor is the best. He excels as the dashing young doctor who wins the heart of Anita Harris' Nurse Clark while falling foul of the hospital establishment. He is a favourite as far as the patients are concerned and their campaign to reinstate him in the hospital gives this film it's real heart.


Roy Castle in Carry On Up The Khyber (1968)

A brilliant entertainer, Roy Castle was also a popular choice for films and television in the 1960s and 70s. He took on the difficult challenge of coming into the Carry Ons to take a role very obviously written with the absent Jim Dale in mind. Roy takes the part of Captain Keene and really makes it his own. There are dashing romantics, a great chemistry with co-star and on screen love interest Angela Douglas and great comedy in his scenes with the likes of Terry Scott, Charles Hawtrey and Sid James. He also looks not too bad in his kilt. To replace someone as popular as Jim and carry it off is no mean feat. 


Kenneth Cope in Carry On Matron (1971)

The Carry Ons struggled to find a suitable replacement for Jim Dale following his departure in 1969. Various actors came along and had a crack at it but there wasn't one male star who played the romantic lead parts consistently throughout the 1970s. For me, Kenneth Cope comes closest to achieving this. His debut as union rep Vic Spanner in Convenience was hardly leading man potential however his follow up as Cyril Carter in Matron was much more like it. Kenneth spent most of this film in drag as a trainee nurse and despite this he still carries off the dashing romantics and is very believable with Barbara Windsor. Cope was a natural in the Carry Ons and it's just a shame he didn't continue in the series after this film.

So those are my top five. Do you agree and if not, what are yours?

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