Wednesday 12 April 2017

Carrying On with The Sweeney!


I have long been a fan of the classic, gritty 1970s police drama The Sweeney. Starring John Thaw as Regan and Dennis Waterman as Carter, it was a rough and ready antidote to the likes of Dixon of Dock Green and portrayed modern policing on the seedy streets of London in a way that just had not been seen on television before. The performances from the leads are cracking throughout all four series and the plots, drama and action rarely pull any punches.

I love British television from this period as there really were so many fantastic character actors bobbing about from job to job. You would see the same faces across all manner of shows, particularly as the film industry slowed down and TV took its place. I also love seeing dirty old London at its very best. The Sweeney captured the capital in the mid 1970s – signs of the Second World War and post-war slum clearance are still evident while areas like Notting Hill had yet to become gentrified. It’s basically a fascinating time capsule and I absolutely adore it. And don’t even get me started on the fashions and the cars!

I thought I’d blog a quick run through of some of my favourite Carry On actors who popped up in The Sweeney over its four year run. I enjoy seeing actors we know for comedy roles appearing in something completely different. Most comic actors play it straight incredibly well and this series was no exception. Of course one of the most famous Carry On links to The Sweeney is John Thaw’s wife, the lovely Sheila Hancock. Senna Pod in Carry On Cleo was but a distant memory by this stage and although Sheila never appeared in The Sweeney, she was very much a part of Thaw’s life by this stage. 
Let’s start off with fan favourite Julian Holloway. The son of the late Stanley Holloway, Julian co-starred in eight Carry Ons between 1967 and 1976. He also popped up in the 1973 television Christmas special. Julian guest starred as John Smith, one of a gang of ruthless criminal brothers in the classic Sweeney episode “Big Spender” in 1975. Also in that episode was one-time Carry On actor Warren Mitchell, here playing William Wardle. Warren played Spencius in Carry On Cleo in 1964 but is best remembered as Johnny Speight’s creation Alf Garnett. 


The mysterious Carry On figure of Gail Grainger (Just what happened to her?) appeared in the 1976 episode “Sweet Smell of Succession” as Jill. She is well remembered for her one off appearance as Miss Plunkett in the wonderful Carry On Abroad. That same episode co-starred Willoughby Goddard as Daniel Kitter – Goddard had a small role as Large Man in the 1962 film Carry On Cruising. 

1975 saw two familiar faces team up for guest spots in The Sweeney. These two actors proved so popular in their roles as Australian armed robbers Colin McGruder and Ray Stackpole that they were brought back for a further adventure later the same year. Patrick Mower, who starred in Carry On England and George Layton, who had a cameo in Behind, played the pair in “Golden Fleece” and “Trojan Bus”.

Margaret Nolan, the star of six Carry On films, played Betty in an episode called “Thin Ice”, broadcast in 1975. That same episode co-starred Brian Wlide as Stanley Hedges. As well as his long stint in the comedy series Last of the Summer Wine, Brian had a cameo in Carry On Doctor and filmed a scene for Carry On Henry in 1970 which was subsequently cut from the final print.

The wonderful Bill Maynard, the star of five Carry Ons between 1970 and 1974 and many other delights of British comedy, played Detective Chief Inspector Stephen Quirk in the 1975 episode “Supersnout” – his character was Regan’s bombastic boss while Haskins was away. The 1976 episode “Down To You Brother” featured another familiar Carry On face in Derek Francis, known to Carry On fans for his cameos in the likes of Carry On Doctor, Camping and his standout appearance as the security guard in Carry On Matron. Derek played well to do criminal Raymond Meadows. That same episode also features the multi-talented Kenny Lynch playing Roland Holder. Lynch had a cameo as a bus conductor in Carry On Loving before returning to the series as the writer of the Carry On Emmannuelle theme tune “Love Crazy” in 1978.

The delightful Wanda Ventham, who’s list of credits includes small parts in Carry On Cleo, The Big Job and Carry On Up The Khyber, played Brenda in the 1975 series 1 episode “Abduction”.

In 1976 Patricia Franklin appeared in a support role as Mrs Perraut in the episode “Bad Apple”. Patricia made five Carry On appearances including classics such as Camping, Loving and Behind. Playing Mavis in the four series episode “Drag Act” was Vivienne Johnson, best known to Carry On fans for her role as Freda in Carry On England in 1976 and three parts in the 1975 ATV series Carry On Laughing.

Linda Hooks, who appeared in three Carry Ons – Dick, Behind and England – and two episodes of Carry On Laughing, played Ivy in the four series episode “Jack or Knave”. Co-star in all three of those Carry Ons, as well as many episodes of Carry On Laughing, familiar face David Lodge also appeared in The Sweeney. In 1975 he played Boxing Club owner Pop Garret in “Chalk and Cheese”. David also starred in Carry On Regardless and Carry On Girls. 


The well-known actress, comedienne and writer Maureen Lipman has had two roles in The Sweeney. Long before she signed up to appear in the 1992 revival Carry On Columbus, Maureen played Annie in the original pilot for The Sweeney, “Regan” broadcast as part of Armchair Cinema in 1974. Two years later she was back for a different part, as Mrs Smedley in “Selected Target”.

Everyone remembers the late actor John Clive, who cropped up in two Carry Ons – as the camp Robin in Carry On Abroad and two years later in 1974, in the cameo role of Isaac the Tailor in Carry On Dick. The following year he played journalist John Frewin in The Sweeney episode “Big Brother”.

Well known Australian actor Ed Devereaux guest starred in many classic British television series in the 1960s and 70s before returning home to work in Australia for much of the rest of his career. In 1975 he appeared in the second episode of the very first series of The Sweeney – “Jackpot” as Harry Biggleswade. Ed worked for Peter Rogers and Gerald Thomas on Carry On Nurse, Regardless, Cruising and Jack as well as the big screen version of Bless This House.


Finally before I go, quick mentions for two of my favourites on Twitter – both appeared in The Sweeney. First up is Judy Matheson who played Kibber’s Girlfriend in the 1976 episode “Selected Target” and also the lovely Judy Buxton who, long before playing opposite Dennis Waterman in the comedy series On The Up, played a Sales Girl in the 1978 Sweeney episode “Bait”.

So look out for some familiar Carry On comedy faces playing it straight the next time The Sweeney is shown on television. It’s surprising who you might spot!

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


  1. An intriguing and enjoyable insight into a classic British series: I'll watch it again with renewed interest.

    It's also interesting to see how many Sweeney actors made it across into Minder. I suppose once you were in Euston Films' good books, the work just kept on coming...

  2. Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it! I think Euston films used the same people again and again as they needed reliable actors who worked quickly. Some great people.