Saturday 10 June 2017

Barbara Carries On ... As Goldie Locks (or is it Maud Boggins?)

Barbara Windsor will be celebrating her 80th birthday this August. In the run up to this milestone, I've decided to blog profiles of each of her nine famous Carry On roles. Much the same as I did with both Joan Sims and Hattie Jacques, these blogs will take each part in turn and provide my own personal take on them. 

Barbara, or Dame Babs as it is now, is a showbiz legend in the UK, with a career dating back to the 1950s. As the recent Babs drama on BBC1 revealed, things haven't always been easy for Windsor, but her hard work and determination have seen her bounce back time and time again. No matter what else she has done in her career, the Carry Ons will always dominate and from our point of view, as Carry On fans, rightly so! So let's continue today with Barbara's fourth role in the series, as Goldie Locks (real name Maud Boggins) in the 1969 film Carry On Again Doctor. 

Carry On Again Doctor was a quick follow up to capitalise on the roaring success of the 1967 medical film, Carry On Doctor. The film is loosely based on the original with more innuendo laden antics in the hospital wards featuring many of the same faces albeit in slightly different roles. While not a proper sequel, despite the same location of Maidenhead Town Hall being used for the hospital exterior, the whole film feels comfortably familiar if a little tired at times. Again Doctor, despite featuring a host of favourites in their prime, is by far my favourite Carry On. The film is mainly remembered as Jim Dale's last outing with the gang until Columbus in 1992. It also captured two classic images that will forever be linked with the series. One, of Dale careering around the hospital on an out of control trolley (fearless Jim doing his own stunts again) and the other of Barbara Windsor, resplendent in her outfit of three strategically placed hearts. 

Again Doctor is very much a film of two halves. The first sees the gang in full flight around the wards of Long Hampton Hospital. Dale is very much the star of the show, as the bumbling romantic hero once again gaining the affection of the patients and exasperating his superiors. Kenneth Williams plays a kindlier version of his Doctor persona, at least to begin with while Hattie Jacques returns once again as Matron. Charles Hawtrey has perhaps the most interesting character as a a rather snide, plotting Dr Stoppidge. He plays the role extremely well and marks a departure from the norm for Hawtrey. Joan Sims pops up for a supporting role as wealthy widow Ellen Moore, which despite Joan's sterling efforts remains one of her least interesting parts in the series. 

Again Doctor also welcomes Patsy Rowlands to the Carry Ons for her first of nine supporting roles. An invaluable and stand out member of the gang throughout many of the later films, Rowlands shines as Kenneth's put upon secretary. Peter Butterworth begins a trend of unfortunately brief yet still memorable cameos as a rather pained hospital visitor while the supporting cast boasts some familiar faces from earlier medical Carry Ons - Harry Locke, Valerie Van Ost, Gwendolyn Watts, Pat Coombs and Peter Gilmore all return and this is a nice point of continuity for long-time fans of the series.

The second half of the film sees Jim's disgraced Dr Nookey (yes, I know) sent off to a tropical island paradise which turns out to be a hell hole populated by wary natives and a lusty orderly played by none other than Mr Sidney James. As Gladstone Screwer, Sid has seen off previous doctors and enjoys a quiet existence with his wives (one for every week day). Jim soon takes to his bed with bottles of product placement whisky (thanks to Sidney!) and not even an early film appearance from Michael Caine's future wife Shakira can bring him round. However once he discovers a weight loss cure he returns to England to make his fortune, setting up a clinic with Sims and Jacques. This leads to a denouement of Williams and Hawtrey trying to steal the magic formula from Dale and of course all goes horribly wrong. This slightly over-tired plot does give us the delightful spectacle of Hawtrey in glorious under-cover drag as Lady Puddleton. You can tell Charles is having a whale of a time.

So what about Barbara's role in the film? Again Doctor pretty much sures up Barbara's role as the glamorous bubbly blonde of the Carry On outfit. Following on from her glorious return to the series in Doctor and Camping, Again Doctor sees much of Barbara's role focus on her considerable assets. She plays model-cum-actress Goldie Locks who first appears as a patient in casualty following an accident on set (advertising Bristol's Bouncing Baby Food). Barbara's first scene is iconic when she arrives in the hospital in her outfit of big red hearts. Apparently Barbara was very nervous about filming this scene and dieted like crazy, much to the dismay of director Gerald Thomas. Looking at it now, I'm not sure why Windsor was so nervous about this scene as several other scenes in the series and even in Again Doctor are much more risque.

Barbara's character is Jim's love interest and the pair work beautifully together as Jim hopelessly pursues her throughout the first section of the film. The scenes at the hospital dance are terrific fun with Eric Rogers on hand with his band playing tunes from some of Jim's earlier Carry On films, listen for classics from Cabby and Spying. Goldie is having none of it though and heads off before Dr Nookey disgraces himself once and for all. Babs then disappears from the film for the middle section while Dale and James share some great scenes at the medical mission. She returns for the final sequence at the slimming clinic and eventually agrees to marry Nookey. 

Yet again Barbara puts in a great performance but despite this the film pigeon holes her as a very specific kind of character. Unlike Joan Sims who played such a wide range of characters throughout her Carry On career, Barbara was pretty much always the Cockney blonde. Camping moved things on a pace thanks to the classic bra-pinging sequence and this was seen yet again in Again Doctor as the actress was asked to expose yet more flesh. There would be at least one flash in each of her remaining Carry On appearances. You can see how she would later struggle to escape her Carry On persona for other acting work.

Barbara would return to Pinewood for her fifth appearance in the films the following October, this time for her own personal favourite role, as Bettina in the twenty first film in the franchise, Carry On Henry. I'll leave you with a great photo taken on the press night of Jim Dale's triumphant 2015 one man show, Just Jim Dale. Such was the strength of that image from Again Doctor that Dale and Barbara recreated it at the Vaudeville Theatre!

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