Tuesday 28 March 2017

Hattie Carries On ... As Martha Hoggett


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 end our journey today with a look back at Hattie's last role in the series, as Martha Hoggett in the 1974 film Carry On Dick.


Carry On Dick has never been one of my favourites in the series. As a later effort though and one of the last historical films it works fairly well however compared to earlier entries like Don't Lose Your Head and Up The Khyber, Dick is very static and studio-based and some of the cast are starting to show their age. Despite this, the film captures the seedy atmosphere of the times very well and all the scenes set in the Old Cock Inn are brilliant to watch. Dick also provides fans with the last opportunity to see several favourites in a Carry On film. The cast is bursting with team members as all current actors in the gang appear. As well as Hattie, this film is also the farewell for both Sid James and Barbara Windsor. Sid and Barbara would appear in several episodes of the ATV Carry On Laughing series broadcast the follow year (even Hattie would make an appearance) however this would be the last original feature film for all three stalwarts. Also, prolific writer Talbot Rothwell retired from the films after Dick, his health having deteriorated further. Future films in the series would really suffer without his talents.
Carry On Dick tells the well-worn story of highway man Dick Turpin and who else could play Dick but Sidney James. The film follows his gang as they rob the rich and constantly evade capture by Captain Desmond Fancey and Sergeant Jock Strapp (Kenneth Williams and Jack Douglas). Sid's last role in the series is a great one. Dick Turpin is Sid at his twinkly, naughtiest best while the film also provides him with the dual role of the Rev Flasher (!) Dick's cover story as the sedate, understated local vicar. The rest of his gang comprise Peter Butterworth as Tom and Barbara Windsor as Harriet. Sid and Barbara have terrific chemistry throughout and go as near the knuckle as they could possibly go!


Dick is in many ways a sequel to the French Revolution romp, Don't Lose Your Head, almost eight years earlier. In that film Sid also had a dual role as both Sid Rodney Ffing and the Black Fingernail. It allows Sid the actor to really work and show some subtlety in performance (Yes that was possible even in a Carry On). It's a great role for him to go out on even though nobody knew it at the time. He was due to appear in Carry On Behind, however touring commitments in the theatre meant the role written for him eventually went to Windsor Davies. 

So what about Hattie's role as Martha Hoggett? Sadly Hattie does not fair nearly as well as Sid. Her role as Martha is pretty unforgettable compared to some of her earlier roles in the hospital Carry Ons. Hattie, much like Joan Sims, couldn't give a bad performance if she tried and it's very welcome to have her in the picture. However her appearances seem out of place with the rather raunchy, seventies humour of Carry On Dick. I've read that Peter Rogers wanted Jacques to appear in Dick so badly that he went against the Rank doctor's decision not to employ her due to insurance concerns around Hattie's health. She was that important and a vital part of the team. Everyone loved her.


Martha is the Rev. Flasher's wholesome, rather naive and prim housekeeper. She dotes on Sid's Flasher and quite clearly sees herself as his ideal wife. Flasher however is rather taken with Babs' Harriet! Hattie's role is quite small despite her star billing, she has very little to do throughout but the film always improves when she's on screen. She is quite clearly a bit older but still up for a bit of fun with the gang. Kenneth Williams recorded his joy at seeing her at Pinewood in his diaries, declaring how much he loved lunching with her in the studio restaurant. As ever Hattie was the placid peacemaker and mother to many of cast and crew.

Hattie returned to the Carry On team for one last role, that of Queen Elizabeth I in the Carry On Laughing episode, Orgy and Bess. Fittingly this part would bring Hattie back to work with two of her longest standing colleagues - Sid James and Kenneth Connor. Hattie's post-Carry On career pretty much revolved around working with Eric Sykes, both on their BBC television show Sykes, which continued until 1979 and in various Sykes stage and touring productions. Sadly Hattie's Carry On career came to an end after 14 films but so many of those roles were absolute corkers and she was such an integral part of the team, beloved by all. 


I hope you have enjoyed this gallop through Hattie's sublime Carry On contributions. Coming up next will be a blogging series covering all nine of Barbara Windsor's roles in the films, starting with the classic Carry On Spying.

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