Sunday 10 September 2017

Carry On Faces in Different Places: Please Sir!

Here we go with a brand new series of blogs looking at some of the cream of British comedy film making from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Although this blog is all about the Carry Ons, believe it or not, there were some other joyous comedy films made away from Peter Rogers Productions. However, given the quality of the actors Peter employed to make his series, it's no wonder that most of them popped up elsewhere.

So far I've looked at the wonderful 1959 crime caper Too Many Crooks and the 1954 domestic comedy starring Dirk Bogarde, For Better For Worse 

Today we're moving away from the 1950s to cover another classic British comedy film, this time from 1971. The hit school-based sitcom Please Sir! had been running very successfully on the small screen since 1968. This being the era of the big screen spin off, it was only a matter of time before Please Sir! made its way to the cinema. 


Who's in it?

Please Sir! stars John Alderton as teacher Bernard Hedges and features a supporting cast of Noel Howlett, Joan Sanderson, Erik Chitty, Richard Davies, Peter Cleall and David Barry. 

Carry On Faces?

Deryck Guyler reprises his role as the janitor Potter. He appeared in a cameo role in Carry On Doctor as well as featured roles in Nurse On Wheels and The Big Job. Carol Hawkins grabs her first starring role in a film here as Sharon, going on to enliven Carry On Abroad, Behind and two episodes of Carry On Laughing. Patsy Rowlands, already part of the Carry On team by this stage, plays domestic science teacher Angela Cutforth. There are also cameos from Jack Smethurst (who played a recruit in Carry On Sergeant) and Brenda Cowling (Carry On Girls and Behind).


What's it about?

The film expands on the same themes from the television series. A bunch of overgrown, unruly inner city London school children battling through life with the help of their green around the gills teacher, Hedges. Bernard Hedges continues to battle against the strict authority of Miss Ewell (brilliantly played by the peerless Joan Sanderson). The film takes the established characters out of their usual classroom based surroundings at Fenn Street as the cast goes on an outward bound week where they clash with rival schools and cause all sorts of havoc. The outward bound location looks very much like Black Park, next to Pinewood Studios ;) The film also introduces Bernard's future wife Penny (Jill Kerman, who would go on to play Maggie, the florist who came between Ken and Mike in Coronation Street) while he bats off the advances of a very eager Miss Cutforth - Patsy Rowlands on terrific form. The film is harmless early 70s fluff, entirely good natured and suitable for all. 

Best Bit?

For me the highlight of the film is the unrequited love Patsy Rowlands' character has for Hedges. It runs throughout the film and it's deftly, affectionately played comedy brought to life by two great actors in Rowlands and Alderton. Sadly Patsy wasn't a regular in the television series as I'm sure she would have added a great deal! It's also good to see Patsy given more to do in a film - at the time her roles in the Carry Ons were very uneven and often reduced to a maddeningly small amount of screen time. In Please Sir!, Patsy is a joy.


Did you know?

Carol Hawkins replaced Penny Spencer who had played the character of Sharon in the original television series. After her breakthrough role in this film, Carol would play Sharon again in the Please Sir! spin off The Fenn Street Gang, which followed the antics of the Fenn Street pupils in the world after school. It ran until 1973.

Also, watch out for a very brief appearance from future EastEnders actor Todd Carty as a young school boy who has a bit of an accident in the assembly at the very start of the film!

The film also boasts a very catchy theme tune, very much of its time:


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