Friday 27 January 2017

Hattie Carries On ... As Beattie Plummer


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 eleventh role in the series, as Beattie Plummer in the 1971 film Carry On At Your Convenience.

Although Carry On At Your Convenience is now seen as a classic Carry On, with stand out performances from a core team of favourite stars, an outrageous script jam-packed full of wonderful innuendo and a storyline that takes in natural Carry On territory of a toilet factory and a trip to Brighton, back in 1971 it was a very different tale. Convenience was the first film to bomb at the box office, with the working class audience less than impressed with the film's treatment of the trade unions. While Kenneth Cope and Bernard Bresslaw put in terrific performances as the union men who are permanently on strike, they are basically a pair of idiotic clowns. This was a rare miss-step on the part of Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas, who immediately attempted to regain popularity with their next entry, the classic Carry On Matron.

These days, Convenience is a fan favourite. The canteen scene at the beginning of the film is just one innuendo after the other with Joan Sims and Sid James having a whale of a time. The other highlight for me is the trip to Brighton which crams in so many wonderful British seaside moments. Chief amongst those is the brilliant fortune teller scene with Sid in drag. It's sublime. Sadly, Hattie's role in the film does not include the trip to Brighton as she is pretty much limited to the domestic scenes with on screen husband Sid. However the two form an irresistible double act yet again, delivering the goods as only they could. Hattie's character Beattie Plummer spends her entire day stuck indoors talking to her pet budgie. Husband Sid is understandably fed up with her slovenly ways until he cottons on to the fact that the budgie can predict the winners in every single horse race. 


This sets up a wonderful little subplot against the trouble at the works, as Sid milks the budgie's powers for all its worth, much to the frustration of Beattie and the vexation of his bookie, played by a returning Davy Kaye, last scene in Carry On Cowboy. As the Plummers go up in the world, we see Sid in a new car, Beattie in new frocks and even a loan to W.C Boggs to keep the factory going. These scenes between Sid and Hattie form a brilliant domestic sitcom strand for the film and cashes in on Sid's new family comedy success in the ITV series Bless This House. Hattie puts in a terrific performance, even producing a super little voice when she talks to her budgie, as so many of us do when we communicate with our pets!

Sid also spends the film chasing flirtatious next door neighbour Chloe Moore, played by Joan Sims. Sid and Joan share some wonderful moments in Convenience and this culminates in a beautifully poignant scene after the day trip to Brighton as they struggle with the idea of starting an affair. Poor Beattie appears none the wiser, however by the end of the film, having been released from the shackles of her domestic life, joins in with Renee Houston to end the strike once and for all. Beattie then takes a job at the factory, ending any chance of an assignation between Sid and Joan. The whole thing is carried off superbly by three of the most loyal and longstanding Carry On actors.


My only criticism of Hattie's role in the film is that she is restricted to a fairly small supporting role with limited screen time. It says a lot about the quality of the actress, her talent and her chemistry with Sid, that she achieves so much with so little time on screen. It makes a great change to see Hattie in a Carry On role that is a million miles away from her usual Matron persona. I just wish she'd had more involvement with other members of the cast

Having moved into a different type of role with Convenience, Hattie would be back in much more familiar territory with her next Carry On appearance, taking on the role of Matron for one last time in Carry On Matron. A blog on that role coming up next.

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