Wednesday 26 April 2017

Jack Douglas - His Carry On Story


Jack Douglas was the only actor to appear in every Carry On film following his first appearance with the team. Coming to Carry On relatively late in the span of the series, Jack originally played brief cameos, gradually gaining bigger and bigger roles as he found favour with both Peter Rogers and the rest of the gang. 

I must confess that although I admire Jack's long career on stage and television, I never really got his "Alf" persona and didn't find it a good fit with the traditional brand of Carry On humour. In the end he rather uneasily filled the gap vacated by Jim Dale and Terry Scott, providing another male supporting actor to bolster the ranks as the team began to fragment in the 1970s. I think some of his appearances were more successful than others, however let's take a run through Jack's contribution to the Carry On films during the 1970s.


Jack first appeared with the Carry On team in the 1971 film Carry On Matron. Appearing early on in the film in a short, one scene cameo, Douglas had the eye catching role of a expectant father in the maternity hospital who makes a call to the Guinness Book of Records! Allegedly Jack wasn't paid for this cameo, however days later a Rolls Royce appeared outside his house with a crate of champagne from Peter Rogers. This successful cameo proved Jack's entry as a full time member of the Carry On gang. In the Spring of 1972 he was back at Pinewood for a slightly larger role in the classic Carry On Abroad. Again inhabiting the Alf role, complete with compulsory twitches and mayhem, Jack's appearances top and tail the film as a regular in Sid's public house. His scenes with Sid, Joan and Barbara Windsor are funny and both set the story up for the rest of the film and round things off nicely at the end.

With an appearance alongside the likes of Joan Sims, Hattie Jacques and Kenneth Connor in the 1972 Carry On Christmas television special (Carry On Stuffing) Jack definitely had his feet under the Carry On table. The following year saw Jack grab his biggest supporting role to date, as the accident prone William, an employee of Connie's rather drab seaside hotel in Carry On Girls. Jack shares some fruitful comedic scenes with Sid James and also the wonderful Joan Hickson. He would once again join the gang for the 1973 Christmas special on television, appearing in more material than the previous year. However most of his contributions revolved around the same Alf persona.

By now the Carry On team were only making one film a year. This meant Jack would appear in every original Carry On film in the series until the end of the run. In 1974's Carry On Dick, Jack worked well as sidekick to Kenneth Williams' Desmond Fancey. The pair shared some very funny scenes and Dick saw Jack gain his largest amount of screen time in a Carry On so far. He slotted in well amongst a cast of regular faces, many of which would be making their last appearance with this film. Following entries would sorely miss Hattie Jacques, Sid James and Barbara Windsor. Possibly Jack's most successful contribution came in 1975 with his role as Ernie Bragg in Carry On Behind. This modern reworking of Carry On Camping saw Douglas teamed with newcomer Windsor Davies, who was obviously cast in the role earmarked for the absent Sid James. Douglas and Windsor make a great double act, best of all in the scene where they attend to Kenneth Williams' Professor Crump following an accident with a bottle of tomato sauce!

1975 would be Jack's busiest year as part of the Carry On team as away from Pinewood he would also appear in the vast majority of the ATV Carry On Laughing television half hours. Although these episodes were less than successful overall, it did at least give Jack the chance of starring roles in smaller productions and also the opportunity to move away from Alf. Jack also starred in the Carry On London stage show at the Victoria Palace, having started the run in 1973, it came to an end in 1975. Sadly this year would see the beginning of the end for the Carry Ons. 1976 saw a major departure for the films, with Carry On England being a much more cynical film, with more near the knuckle scenes and a host of new, younger faces. The likes of Joan Sims and Peter Butterworth suffer badly from small, unfunny roles however Jack probably fares the best out of the recognisable regulars.


In 1978, Jack grabbed a major role in the last gasp of the original run, Carry On Emmannuelle. As the butler Lyons, Douglas finally moved away from the twitching Alf persona with a relatively straight role. Emmannuelle is pretty woeful though and is probably best forgotten. There would be no further Carrying On until Carry On Columbus sailed into view in 1992. However Jack Douglas was aboard for the adventure, alongside a host of new, alternative comedians. Sadly most of Jack's material was cut from the final print, a great shame given that so many of his old colleagues did not feature in the film.

Jack Douglas continued to be a loyal exponent of all things Carry On right up until his death in December 2008. He was a regular face at reunions and fan conventions, recording a number of DVD audio commentaries and being interviewed for many television and radio retrospectives. He was always an enthusiastic supporter of the films and the team and was always ready to reminisce. While I may not have been the biggest fan of some of his appearances in the film, Jack must be commended for his enthusiasm and loyalty when it came to keeping the Carry On story alive. 

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